A Laptop for Every Child

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Laptop computers may make next year’s back-to-school trends list, as they continue popping up in more and more middle schools across the U.S.

According to USA Today, schools in Michigan, Maine and California have all incorporated personal computers into their day-to-day lesson plans.

Parents in Michigan's Walled Lake Consolidated School District, for example, have the option of purchasing a $784 laptop through the school. Their child is then enrolled in a special class where students learn math, English and history off of their own computers. Students whose parents don't opt into the program learn lessons off of the 7,000 district-leased laptops they share, which are rolled into and out of classrooms on carts, depending on what the lesson plan calls for.

The Department of Education in Maine, which is partnering with Apple (AAPL), hopes to equip every student in grades 7 through 12 with a laptop by 2013.

But don't worry, schools aren't trying to get to parents to splurge. They believe that these laptops will help your child to learn better, a sentiment echoed by several studies that suggest there are, in fact, educational benefits related to laptop use. The USA Today article cites two surveys conducted in 1999 and 2000 by researchers from Wayne State University and the University of Memphis, who found that both students and teachers credited their PCs with learning improvements.

Another 2004 study conducted by Maine Learning Technology Initiative found that laptops were perceived to benefit the majority of students with learning disabilities, health impairments and speech and language impairments, who were taught by special education teachers. Teachers felt that the laptops helped students focus, engage and work independently in the classroom. 

"By incorporating laptops into public school classrooms, teachers can enhance the curriculum, providing students with extensive research opportunities, access to up-to-date information, and many other learning benefits," Grace Chen of PublicSchoolReview.com explains in a blog post.

Of course, even those in favor of a laptop for every child know students can't learn relying on technology alone.

"There's this perception out there that laptops would improve student achievement," Mark Hess, a principal in Michigan's Walled Lake Consolidated School District, told USA Today. "It's just like a calculator. Giving a child a calculator does not necessarily raise their math score."

Laptops may be the next big thing. Wanna know what's hot right now? Check out this MainStreet article for seven hot back-to-school trends.

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