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What cost free laptops?

Are laptops valuable for school, or do they just enable a 'big, happy gabfest'?
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Written by ZDNet Editors, Contributors on
With the rush for schools to ramp up their hig- tech offerings, some parents are finding that there is a downside to giving students their own laptops, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Some parents are finding that having 24/7 access to the Internet can help and also hinder one's education. One parent commented that her daughter received a free laptop through her school and the daughter spent class time sending instant messages to friends. "What she learned was how to play games and email her friends," said the girl's mother. "School was one big happy gabfest."

Some school laptop programs have been embroiled in controversy. A lawsuit was brought in Cobb County, Ga., when it became known that a special sales-tax would be needed to fund to the school's laptop program. The program was scrapped. Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue a school district in Fullerton, Calif., when they tried to pass along $1,485 cost per student onto parents.

Market studies have shown that constant computer access gives students a big academic boost and students who had computers at home fared better.

But the real costs of a school laptop program—from staff training to installing new wireless systems— are just becoming known. "As educational dollars have grown more scarce, those extra costs give pause to more people," said Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University.

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