Laptops for students will improve learning [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]
(New Straits Time (Malaysia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) WHEN Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin visited the Daphne High School in Mobile, Alabama last month, he observed the students' learning style and was pleasantly surprised that they were using laptops and had excluded textbooks.
Muhyiddin, who is Education Minister, said this was an innovative education process that Malaysian schools could emulate given that Internet and broadband facilities have been extensively installed in schools.
The ministry, he added, was considering providing laptops instead of textbooks to all students.
Responding to this, a New Straits Times reader, Lee Cheng Poh from Penang, said it was better for the ministry to instead look into problems faced by teachers -- the lack of teaching equipment as well as old equipment used in schools.
Lee cited laptops and LCD projectors used since 2003 when the Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English was introduced, and outdated overhead projectors.
While I believe that no national school in the country should be lacking in up-to-date facilities in this day and age when the government is making big investments in education, this issue should not be used to derail any effort in improving the learning process in this digital environment because this is the direction the rest of the world is taking. We cannot be left behind.
In fact, using laptops in school is no longer an innovation. They have long been used in schools across the globe.
In most cases, the affordability and potential use of computing devices has enhanced learning in diverse ways -- such as allowing students to access learning material relevant to their level of knowledge and understanding, at their own pace with little supervision, offering children in disadvantaged communities previously unable to afford computing devices a chance to develop their computer skills.
In Malaysia, the e-book project was first launched in Terengganu in 2008 under a lot of excitement as well as scepticism.
Nearly five years on, research shows that the project in which some 25,000 laptops were distributed to standard five pupils, has been quite a success with some hitches and some room for improvement and adjustments.
It has been described as a "laudable attempt to make education free for all and to eliminate illiteracy". In 2009, Terengganu became the first state to have provided e-books to its primary schools in the whole of Southeast Asia.
The benefits certainly outweigh the argument against the use of laptops in place of textbooks in schools -- primary or secondary -- because, for one thing, these kids were all born in the new age of technology and they take to electronics like a duck to water.
Since the Terengganu project, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka has developed digital textbooks for this project.
Laptops are lighter than textbooks, for sure. Besides, they are competitively priced. Also when our students use laptops, they will no longer be carrying their heavy knapsacks on their backs -- something we have been despairing over for decades.
Undoubtedly too, it will reduce the huge costs in printing textbooks which, of course, would drive book printers to despair. But that is another issue.
When I posted this issue on Facebook, a friend remarked that it is a foregone conclusion that electronic-schooling/learning is the eventual direction all knowledge-sharing is going to take. If nothing else, environmental concerns - tree-preservation in particular -- are going to make book printing obsolete.
"All knowledge sharing of the future, which includes how we educate our young/not so young/forever learning, is going to be virtual. As computer folks might say, "it is written in the clouds".
The concerns will be that a project to provide all students in the country with laptops is mammoth and needs detailed implementation because Malaysians have seen how badly run some big projects have been, despite their noble intentions.
Certainly a careful and comprehensive study of the school environment in each state, the education process and system has to be carried out if the government plans to make this happen.
One concern by a parent was the safety element of kids carrying laptops in their schoolbags.
"When it becomes a norm that kids use laptops, would they not be susceptible to criminals like snatch thieves as some university students are known to have been victims " asked Nina Mazlan from Petaling Jaya.
Like I said, a wonderful progressive idea that embraces the future but that needs a detailed study.
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