Magic Laptops for Moravian

Moravian College, a 1,500-student school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, affiliated with an obscure fifteenth-century protestant movement, is conducting an interesting new experiment.

According to a piece at Inside Higher Ed:

Moravian is halfway into a transformation that college officials say will “level the playing field” technologically, putting laptops and tablets in the hands of all students and connecting them to a wireless network capable of speeds most of them will never need. At the same time, faculty members are exploring how the multimillion-dollar investments in hardware fit into the college’s centuries-long history as a seminary and liberal arts institution.

[Moravian President Bryon] Grigsby said the initiatives are meant both as an equalizer and to further the college’s mission. First-generation students make up nearly one-quarter of Moravian’s undergraduate enrollment. Supplying them with laptops and tablets means all students have an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the technology they will be using daily in their careers, he said.

MagicLaptop

This is not a straight-up terrible idea. There’s some reason to think a little bit of new technology might open up students to new ideas.

“Technology is just like any of the other liberal arts skills that we want to provide our students,” Grigsby said in the article.

By fall 2017, the device program will cover all of Moravian’s roughly 1,730 undergraduates, and the network may reach its target speed of one gigabit per second.

But let’s keep this in perspective. We know how this works. Colleges with problems cannot innovative their way to success.

We need to be wary of the dreaded Hoboken, New Jersey, story. This was the school district that provided electronic devices to all students and then had to throw them all out because of “skyrocketing costs” and “the whole town… jamming the high school’s wireless network.”

It’s also unclear if this is a reform that will really help students in any meaningful way. Providing the community with Internet speeds of one gigabit per second mostly means students they’re just going to be frustrated when they graduate and get real jobs with normal Internet speeds.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer