While I am not a fan of just dropping computers into a school and expecting miracles I do believe that with the right training, preparation and supportive teachers and administration things can work out well.
Recently I heard from Robert Carlson at the Thomas Jefferson School, an independent day school in Joplin Missouri. They have a pretty impressive technology program that includes Tablet PCs.
All high school students are issued their own Tablet PC for full time use. Middle school students share Tablets at school during the course of the day. Elementary school students use Tablet PCs in specific classes with fifth graders getting extra time as they prepare for middle school.
The purpose of the Tablets is to be tools for learning “regular” subjects rather than to teach technology itself. That is how I really think things should be. Students learn a lot of technology on their own but at this school they are also taught the specific skills and tools to use with other subjects.
They use OneNote for note keeping. Personally I have been telling people for a while that if my son was a student today OneNote is the very first software I would install on his computer. Note taking is quite important and a tool like OneNote allows students to organize and search their notes easily. Between the search capability (even of hand written) notes and the natural style of folders and tabs I think OneNote is a pretty powerful tool for students.
Teachers all received training in the Tablets included “troubleshooting their tablets, student tablets, and student/faculty connections to the wireless projectors in each classroom.” I love the idea that they have wireless projectors in each classroom BTW. I can’t imagine teaching without a good projector these days. The ability to move around the room that a wireless connection allows gives even more flexibility.
And the teachers have support that includes documented processes for getting started each day and generally making the technology work. It seems like a good system from what I’ve heard so far.