Laptop Program Q&A

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All students in the Upper School (grades 9 - 12) are required to have laptop computers. If you have questions about the program, they may be answered in the following Q&A.

Why did Catlin Gabel implement the laptop program?

Laptops enhance our existing teaching pedagogy in a student-centered, collaborative model. Laptops allow each student to have his or her academic life reside in one place. Students have computer access in every classroom, between classes, and at home, to the software and platforms we use in each discipline. In addition, the laptops are connected wirelessly to Catlin Gabel's Local Area Network for email, document backup, and access to the Internet for research purposes. Laptops level the playing field for all students, whether they live in high-tech households with multiple computers or households with little or no computer equipment.

Are teachers supportive of the laptop program?

The Upper School faculty developed the case for laptops in 2002. A committee of teachers from across disciplines looked at curriculum, analyzed student needs and current computer access limitations, and discussed possible options. Each department produced an estimate of how laptops belonging to students would affect their discipline. Every Upper School teacher has a laptop.

What kind of research was done?

The technology staff researched infrastructure needs and looked at the options different systems could provide. The business office studied financing and lease options. Teachers, the information technology team, and the business office gathered information from existing laptop schools. The IT team attended conferences of laptop schools and teachers made site visits to laptop schools, further reinforcing our enthusiasm for laptops.

What was the process for making this decision?

The finance committee, composed of parents and faculty-staff, examined the fiscal implications of laptops and generated many questions. Faced with a shortage of computers in the Upper School, the finance committee looked at adding desktop computers, but crowding and the need for students to use computers outside of class were obstacles to that solution. The finance committee endorsed the laptop program once they were satisfied that every student would be able to afford a laptop through financial aid and financing options.

Is the laptop program a philosophical shift in educational practice at Catlin Gabel?

No. Catlin Gabel is committed to progressive education where technology is integrated into classes. We honor the powerful ideals of progressive education by continuing to progress. The laptops enhance our teaching pedagogy, in a student-centered, collaborative model.

How will the laptops benefit my child’s intellectual growth?

Laptops are more than mobile word processors. Students have access in every classroom, between classes, and at home to the software and platforms we use in art, science, language, English, and technology classes. Students may continue working at their own pace on projects they begin in class, which further internalizes their learning. Teachers assign homework confident that each student has access to the software and hardware needed to complete assignments. Students using Geometer's Sketchpad in math, Vernier Software including Logger Pro software in science, or Photoshop in art have access to this software both inside and outside the classroom. Laptops allow each student to have his or her academic life reside in one place.

Aren’t laptops extravagant?

Laptops level the playing field for all students, whether they live in high-tech households with multiple computers or households with little or no computer equipment. Hundreds of schools all over the world, both independent and public, require students to have laptops. Schools in Australia led the way ten years ago. The Clovis School District in California is entirely laptop. Closer to home, Oregon Episcopal School, Annie Wright School, Lakeside School, and Seattle Academy of Arts and Science are among our fellow PNAIS schools that have laptop programs.

What if my family can’t afford the laptop?

Financial aid and a payment plan are available.

How much more will software cost?

The school provides the specific software each student needs for the courses in which he or she is enrolled. There is a $110 laptop fee charged per year for Catlin provided software which includes Sophos Anti-Virus, Geometer's Sketchpad, Inspiration, Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite, Logger Pro and Fathom among others. Microsoft Office is required and costs approximately $85. Some specialty software will be provided using CGS licenses; some software will be required to be purchased. Software requirements vary from class to class--please check with the bookstore for more information.

Will freshmen get four years of use out of their laptops?

Though there will always be new and improved products, freshmen will be able to use their laptops for all four years of high school.

Won’t laptops be subject to theft?

Laptops should not be left unattended. Students should store their computers in their lockers when they are not in use. We offer accidental damage and theft protection through Student Insurance Partners ( Cost is $240 for four years which covers claims of up to $1600 per claim with a $100 deductible per claim.

Won’t laptops be a distraction in class?

Students are expected to stay on task in their classes. Just as passing notes and playing electronic games during class are not tolerated, laptop misuse is prohibited. Each teacher clarifies when and for what purpose the machines are to be used. Given our small class sizes, the close relationships between students and teachers, and the level of responsibility Catlin Gabel students demonstrate, we experience little misuse of laptops.