Most teachers look at laptops in the classroom as a distraction. The kids are on Facebook during math lecture. Instead of writing an English paper they are writing emails. This is not the fault of the laptop or the internet; it is problem with student management, classroom design and teaching methodologies. The student management aspect is a major can of worms so I am going to bypass that for now.
Look at the typical high school classroom physical setting. The teacher has a board at the front of the classroom and the students are in desks facing the board. Since the teacher wants the students to have good notes the teacher spends a lot of time at the front of the room writing on that board. The board may be a fancy Smart board but it is still positioned in the same place boards have been for hundreds of years. Math classes are famous for this arrangement. If students are using laptops all the teacher sees are laptop lids. Not the best view. Now give the teacher a device like an eInstruction InterwriteMobi pad. The Mobi is wirelessly connected to a computer which is projecting to a screen (again to the front of the room, but hey, it has to go somewhere). The teacher now has a portable slate which allows them to write from any position in the room. Presently there is a math teacher in my school who uses a Mobi to teach from the back of the room. He said it took some time to get used to a different style of presentation but the result was worth the time. From the back of the room there is no issue with the teacher knowing who is doing what on their laptop.
This portable slate idea can be carried another step. The Mobi/PC connection will allow up to 9 pads to operate simultaneously. Now the kids can interact with the board without having to go to the front of the room (not always a good moment for most of them). If a kid has a comment or suggestion, hand them a pad. I sound like a salesman for eInstruction.
An alternative is if every kid had their own tablet laptop with the right software then they would have the ability to each project to the projector, receive files from the teacher (assignments, etc.), be able to take written notes, get someone else’s written notes (this has issues good and bad) and other things I cannot imagine. There is software that allows the teacher to control this environment with classroom management software (CMS) (Smart Sync is one I know of). With this software the teacher can control what the student sees on their tablet, and the teacher can see what the student is looking at. The teacher that has the Mac lab (the same teacher mentioned above) says the iPad will do the same thing as the tablet PC and the CMS. I hate to say it but here it is – there is an app for that.
My classroom of the future has every student with a laptop like device with broad access to the internet and with the ability to share files digitally and by projecting on the wall. Instead of the teacher giving the student a list of questions (as in a math class) to solve, give then one problem and tell them to find 5 more like it with solutions then make five of their own to share. There would be more in the way of collaborative assignments/projects through something like OneNote. Projects would not require face-to-face meetings; kids could actually be in different classes and be on the same project team.
I like the 1-1 student/laptop idea. In the job market and in life today this is the way it is. We should be training our students for the future and having a laptop/tablet/pad at hand at all times is the future. There are just so many issues in a school environment to overcome that the “Poof, let it be!” approach is not going to work.