EDITORIAL: School-issued laptops need wise guidance

March 12, 2017 GMT

Laptops are hardly rare in the Kountze school district, but next year you won’t be able to get away from them. Kountze has become one of the few districts in the region to plan on supplying all of its 1,100 students with personal laptop computers.

The laptops will be loaded with digital editions of textbooks, and students can take tests on them. A shift like this holds much promise, but it still must be thought out before it is rolled out. Fortunately the district seems to have undertaken some good planning.

Teachers will have enough spares in case a device is broken or forgotten. All the laptops will have various filters to prevent access to the darker corners of the Internet. Educators will get the laptops in April so they can go over them and be ready for the next school year.

That’s encouraging, but other questions will arise:

-- What happens if a student completes an assignment on his laptop but says he can’t access it the next day in class? Does he get an F or an extension?

-- Are the internet filters solid or can they be bypassed by tech-savvy youngsters?

-- If students need access to the Internet for research, do they use other computers or should they get a temporary pass on their personal laptops?

-- Most students will adapt well to the laptops. What about the few who don’t, possibly those who are younger or have difficult home lives?

A key question will be accountability. Many parents will expect better grades from their children simply because they have exchanged “old-fashioned” books for modern technology. Will grades improve - along with attendance? Will discipline decline?

None of these issues are overwhelming, but they will come up. Teachers and parents must be ready for the journey. Kountze’s experience can help other local school districts make a transition that is probably inevitable for every K-12 student in the region.