Freshman laptops: for better or for worse

Jessica Marshall, contributing writer

After introducing laptops to all freshmen for the 2012-20123 school year in an effort to improve academic achievement, the controversy of whether or not the devices have actually been a help to students, teachers, and parents alike is now being hotly debated.

For most, the inconvenience of the laptops is enough to want to return to the usage of textbooks for good, but some think differently. Teachers contend that the laptops have served to be a distraction from the learning environment. The majority of students asked say that the devices are extremely frustrating. However, not only freshmen feel this way. “The laptops provided to the freshman, in my opinion, are more of a problem than an aid to the classroom due to the unreliability of the technology,” remarks sophomore, Nicole Brozyna. On the other hand, some upperclassmen believe the laptops to be more efficient than not. “The laptops are a great idea,” says Nikki Bocanegra, a senior at JTHS. “They really are a whole different angle to class time.” This makes sense, especially because students are accustomed to using textbooks, so technology can add a whole new outlook to the learning process.

According to Diana Zilly, mother of a Joliet West freshman and a psychology professor, “The use of technology in the classroom is only useful if the student is motivated to use it as an effective learning tool.” When asked what the purpose of the devices were in her opinion she answered, “A laptop is only a tool for doing schoolwork and does not replace a student’s self-efficacy and self-determination toward the attainment of their goals.”

An opinion similar to this one is that of Mrs. Hensel, teacher at JTHS. “They are a good tool for research purposes,” she says, reflecting upon her experiences with the laptops. Most teachers have had to deal with the delay the devices cause, such as students needing to restart due to internet connectivity issues or taking a trip to the Student Help Desk. Luckily, though, the laptops have eliminated the need for most students to carry textbooks. “It’s just easier to carry them around,” admits Tori Aguilar, noting that the laptop weighs less than textbooks.

Most homework assignments are completed through the usage of the devices, though not necessarily a good thing. To freshman Sydney Czyzon, the laptops have been nothing but an inconvenience.  “I’m not as willing to do my homework,” she says, adding that, “homework that used to take 20 minutes now takes 40.” Many feel that relying on technology to complete tasks as simple as typing an essay can take extended amounts of time due to the imperfections of the laptops. A number of people have already received new laptops to replace their initial ones. Completing homework is difficult for students who do not have an internet connection at home. They cannot access the JTLearn page that is used in a majority of classes.

Although the freshmen laptops can be useful at times, the drawbacks and advantages of the devices show the viewpoints of students at JTHS. Technology has been proven to be unreliable time and time again, but this does not completely devalue the laptops. The convenience of not carrying textbooks and the ability to complete assignments online is supplanted by the technological glitches that distract both teacher and student. The laptop is only a tool for learning and cannot take the place of the actual responsibility of the student’s individual learning process.