Table of Contents

    Cover Theme
  • "The Laptops Are Coming! The Laptops Are Coming!"

    By Sarah Heller McFarlane Things to think about before the laptops arrive in your classroom.
  • Free A Time to End the Silences

    By the Editors of Rethinking Schools

    "When texts don't talk about racism, when standards don't mention racism, when teachers don't teach about racism, they automatically eliminate any discussion of anti-racism."
  • Prophet Motives

    An excerpt from Keeping the Promise?: The Debate Over Charter Schools

    By Leigh Dingerson "Any discussion of charter schools must ask not only whether charters promote a worthwhile vision of public education, but also whether they are faithful to their own promises."
  • Fault Lines in Merit Pay

    By Sam Coleman "Far from addressing the systemic, institutionalized problems in New York City's public schools, the city's test-based pay program attempts to provide a 'silver bullet' solution by relying on crass material incentives."
  • City Teaching; Beyond the Stereotypes

    By Gregory Michie "For city teachers, it's also about functioning within—and challenging—a system that in many ways works to undercut and even thwart your best efforts."
  • Rethinking MySpace

    By Antero Garcia "As an educator constantly searching for ways to use popular culture in my classroom, I decided to make MySpace part of my teaching repertoire."
  • Childhood Is Dying

    By Dahr Jamail, Ahmed Ali "Iraq's children have been more gravely affected by the U.S. occupation than any other segment of the population."
  • Empire or Humanity

    By Howard Zinn "The American Empire has always been a bipartisan project—Democrats and Republicans have taken turns extending it, extolling it, justifying it."
  • Introduction

  • Putting a Human Face on the Immigration Debate

    By Steven Picht-Trujillo, Paola Ledezma "For those of us working with immigrant populations, we have in our students living examples that we can use to bring the immigration issue to the forefront and teach all of our students."
  • An Open Letter to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund from the Association of Raza Educators

    The Association of Raza Educators implores you: open your scholarships to all students of Hispanic descent regardless of citizenship.
  • Everything Flowers

    By Lisa Espinosa "I noted the biased curriculum... the absence of lessons on the Chicano movement or other aspects of my history and culture, the various attempts to make me less Mexican and more white."
  • Pump Up the Blowouts

    By Gilda L. Ochoa "This year is the 40th anniversary of the Chicana/o School Blowouts, and I wonder how schools, communities, and the media will mark this important movement."
  • Free Review: Our Dignity Can Defeat Anyone

    By Julie Treick O'Neill By Julie Treick O'Neill A review of the film Maquilapolis [City of Factories]
  • Departments Free
  • Resources

  • Letters to the Editors

  • Short Stuff
  • Kids in the Middle

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"The Laptops Are Coming! The Laptops Are Coming!"

"The Laptops Are Coming! The Laptops Are Coming!"

I work in an "exurb," a quickly changing suburb in the first ring around Seattle, Wash. Our community represents a cross section of languages, cultures, and socioeconomic classes. Over 20 percent of our students are eligible for free and reduced lunch; 2005, the last year that official statistics were released, 18 percent of students listed themselves as Asian, 7 percent as black, 6 percent as Hispanic, 66 percent as white, and 1.4 percent as American Indian/Alaskan Native. As an indication of how quickly our district is changing, in a fall 2006 survey, only 52 percent of students at my high school identified themselves as being European American. As of spring 2007, there were more than 68 languages represented in our English Language Learner (ELL) program.

When my district announced that all secondary students would get laptops to use all the time, all year, due to the passage of a $149.5 million technology levy, I was excited and nervous. While no home internet connection was provided, students could check out a phone-jack dial-up modem. My district was to join a growing trend in education, seeking to "prepare students for the 21st century" and address the digital divide through universal computer access. According to a New York Times story in May 2007, ". . . a study of the nation's 2,500 largest school districts last year . . . found that a quarter of the 1,000 respondents already had one-to-one computing, and fully half expected to by 2011."

When I realized that all of my students were getting laptops, I thought, "Fabulous! I can do amazing things with this." I already had a website. But with the laptops, I could see more ways to incorporate technology into class projects: engage students with more music and visual literacy; "drop" a 1920s and '30s art history PowerPoint onto my server, and every student could access, open, and analyze it; extend class discussions online, allowing quieter, contemplative students to have a voice. The possibilities were endless.

When I considered the coming of the computers, I thought what a difference the laptop-for-every-student program would have made for my former student Mark, a master poet, rapper, deep thinker, and highly ethical young man who moved to our district with few traditional academic skills. He, like many of our students, spent considerable energy and time simply gaining access to technology so that he could then begin the assigned work.

In the past year, I have seen the question of access all but resolved. My student Eduardo, a recent immigrant from Mexico, did not have a computer at home and had virtually no prior computer skills. He now navigates research sites within the University of Washington's Digital Learning Commons, creates PowerPoint presentations, turns in assignments electronically, organizes a central storehouse for his electronic files (and iTunes, of course), and creates numerous other tech-based products (like a MySpace page). Such universal access and technology skill-building has felt like a success of the laptop program, and that is what many of us have spent years fighting for.

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