21st century vision of laptops and literacy

Christine Oldfield's epistle on why computers are bad for education was funny, articulate and kind of accurate, but missed the point (TESS, August 23).

Technology is not an educational end but a tool to an end. Without quality teaching of the entire curriculum by professionals, technology is useless in an education context. But well used, it really helps to achieve the educational standards we all aspire to.

Instead of textbooks that go out of date, are stolen, left in chip shops, covered in Irn Bru etc, we have constant access to the ever-growing information on the web. We have the potential of doing geography lessons by video conference to a rainforest, physics by talking with astronauts, English by having all of Shakespeare's work on one CD, plus thousands of other plays and performances to read and watch. Wireless laptops mean teaching can happen in any classroom, in small groups, in different spaces - educational needs defining space use, not the other way round.

By providing every child with such devices, we challenge the growing technology gap between rich and poor, ensuring that all children have an equal start. Wherever children end up, they will need to be confident using technology.

Making children's progress accessible to parents by secure web link improves the ability of parents to become more engaged in their child's education and their willingness to keep close tabs on what happens to the laptop.

Finally, issues around language and literacy and technology are very real. But let's not lose a vision for the 21st century because we come up against a problem that we can't see an immediate answer to. Let's start searching for solutions instead. We never know what we might learn if we take a risk or two in seeing the world in a new way.

Ewan Aitken Executive Member for Education Edinburgh City Council

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