Laptops: A Blessing or A Curse?

Allison Schwartz

One of the major changes that students encounter as they enter High School in our district, is that they receive a computer to use and take with them everywhere they go. Three months into this school year, I already see the impact these computers have on our school. Although I know it is an extreme privilege to be granted a personal computer, I find there are disadvantages as well. In fact, I would go as far as to say that to many students, computers are more distracting than they are helpful. In my experience I have encountered two major drawbacks to the one to one initiative: that students across Harriton struggle to concentrate on their work both in and out of class and that by relying solely on a computer’s hard drive, important documents can be lost as a result of purely random error. All in all, for me the positives out weigh the negatives, but students need to be thinking carefully when using their computers.

One of the driving forces behind my anxiety toward our school computers is how distracting they can be. Every time we are asked to pull out our computers, I find it extremely hard to concentrate on what is going on in the classroom. Instead, I find myself struggling not to check my email or play an online game. I am not the only one either. All around me, I see my classmates playing games online or IMing each other from across the room. The worst part is, that the teacher has no way of knowing what we are doing on the computer. He or she is forced to continue teaching without knowledge of what is really going on behind our gleaming white screens of mystique. Hopefully, students can find it within themselves to pay attention in class and not distract themselves.

Another drawback of our school computers is how unreliable technology can be. How awful would it be to fail an assignment not because you were apathetic, forgetful, or your work was subpar, but because you spent hours to complete the assignment only for your computer to spontaneously lose it?  Though technology is an extraordinary tool and can help us in a myriad of ways, it also can be very unpredictable. At any times, a computer could crash, shut down, or just simply not save a student’s work; therefore losing everything not backed up on the network. Although there are ways that some are safer about backing up work than others, computers add an extra responsibility to the already hectic lives of high school students, a responsibility that many may not be able to handle right now. I fear that most students forget to back up every single document saved, and a great deal of work could be lost. Additionally, most teachers will not take technical difficulties as an excuse for not having work complete. However, if it was the technology who failed and not the student, should they really be punished?

Though I believe that there are many problems associated with our school computers, they are extremely useful when used properly. We must remember that although we are very lucky to live in an area where such resources are abundant, not every student at Harriton has access to a computer at home, and even for those who do, many do not have access to a computer any time they need it. By giving a computer to every student in the High School, the district helps ensure that every student has an equal opportunity for learning. The computers provide the opportunity for every student to have access to an abundance of resources at their fingertips, and subsequently prepare students for life beyond High School, where most likely we will be using computers for everyday work. Without our laptops, students would have unequal opportunities to cultivate their knowledge.

Even though the school computers are hardly perfect, they are a great privilege and tool for students. As long as students try their best to pay attention in class and remember to back up their work, the computers at our school can be exceptionally helpful.