The millennial generation is often associated with being the generation that grew up with the internet, social media, and cell phones. As for myself, I went to the first fully-implemented laptop high school in the U.S. So naturally, I have a lot of experience with using technology in high school and college settings. I think many adults would be surprised by walking into a college classroom and seeing all the students’ heads buried in their laptops. But that’s been the best way for me to do schoolwork for the past six years, and I would never go back to doing it any other way. My hope is for more schools to make the switch to using laptops and other digital technology to prepare their students for the modern work environment.
My first few experiences working with classroom technology came from my middle school’s technology lab, as I’m sure many others my age have experienced. At the time I didn’t know anything about using computers, and most of what I learned was how to type and the basics of creating documents. I still vividly remember using those bulky Macintosh computers, and their excruciating spinning beach balls of loading pain. I think if I was a middle school teacher at that time, my biggest fear would be a computer lab classroom of 11-year-old all having the spinning beach balls at the same time.
The biggest takeaway from my first few experiences with working with computers was that I always enjoyed typing my assignments instead of handwriting them because I have the curse of poor lefty handwriting. My elementary school teachers would routinely send my assignments back when they couldn’t read my work. Fortunately, when I got to high school I would never have that issue again. I think it’s imperative for students to learn to type and create word documents as early as elementary school, so they will be able to type beautiful essays in middle and high school. I feel like in your early education, handwriting is focused on way too much. Nowadays the only handwriting I’ll do is the occasional sticky note, or for a signature.
As a freshman in high school, I remember being super excited to bring my laptop home after my first day of school. I was simultaneously disappointed to find most of my favorite sites blocked. Around my sophomore year, the school unblocked many of the fun sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for after school use. For me getting used to these restrictions in high school prepared me for being unrestricted in college. In college, most professors do not care about your technology use, so you’ll often see plenty of college students either on their phones or looking at non-school distractions on their laptops. I’m very fortunate that I got accustomed to using my laptop the right way in high school.
Laptop use was vital in my high school, but I think my teachers did a good job in preventing eyes from being constantly glued to a screen. Some teachers would not allow the laptops to be present during lectures and activities, and others didn’t use them during class at all. My English teachers taught us how to use Google Docs, where kids can share and edit each other’s work. Of course, the chat function would usually have to be disabled during class, but after school, it was extremely helpful for group projects since it eliminated the chance of a group member not doing work when their classmates would bombard them with messages. Each teacher had their own blogs containing their lesson plans each week and all of their assignments, so even if laptops were not allowed in class, all of the assignments would be available after school. My school also used PowerSchool for students and teachers to have instant online access to grades, and Turnitin for submitting assignments online to help teachers check if students are cheating or plagiarizing.
Going through high school this way prepared me for college, and even my internship, immensely. I fully believe that if high schoolers do not have the experience doing classwork on a computer or laptop, that they will definitely struggle in college and the workplace. I know that there are still many schools that cannot afford to give their students this kind of access, especially personal laptops. However, when I see that schools are still paying for overpriced textbooks instead of using that money for giving students access to technology, then I think that’s a major disservice. The world is changing rapidly and I hope more educators will make the digital switch to help their students keep up with the modern world.