Laptop Studies

Laptop Studies

Essentials on education data and research analysis from Edvantia

Surveys show that most teachers, students and parents positively perceive laptop initiatives, but few controlled studies have examined the relationship between various laptop programs and student achievement. As district officials weigh options for investing limited technology dollars, they may wish to consider what the research can (and can't) tell us.

According to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Technology in Education Consortium, more than 1 million U.S. students and teachers are using laptops through various programs. The consortium recently examined evaluation findings for five laptop programs. Four involved middle school students statewide programs in Michigan and Maine; a district-wide program in Beaufort County, S.C., and a school-wide program in Pleasanton, Calif. The Anytime Anywhere Learning Program involved 800 elementary, middle and high schools from across the nation.

Three of these evaluation studies matched laptop students with similar non-laptop peers, and on some measures, "the research showed a positive correlation between participation in laptop programs and increased academic achievement."

However, the consortium cautions that because participation in these programs was voluntary for students and some teachers, "there is no scientific way to determine if the laptop, teachers or participation in a new program accounted for the added value." In Maine, where participation is not voluntary, middle school students who used laptops for two years scored about the same on standardized tests as students in the past who hadn't use laptops (except in writing, where laptop users showed gains).

The largest district-funded laptop program in the United States was initiated in 2001 in Virginia's Henrico County, where some 26,000 wireless laptops have been distributed. The school board recently announced it has hired an independent researcher to help determine technology's effects in the classroom.

Researcher Saul Rockman comments, "We consistently find substantive impacts on teaching and learning ... yet we continue to have difficulty tying full-time access to computers to the outcomes of standardized tests." Findings so far:

Potential benefits Various nonrandomized studies have found increases in student motivation, engagement, organization, homework completion and collaborative learning. Teachers often report increases in the quality and quantity of student writing. Some studies show that low-income and minority students, in particular, may benefit.

Challenges Administrators considering laptop initiatives need to consider infrastructure, resource and security issues, but they must also consider readiness. According to John Ross, Edvantia's senior R&D specialist in technology, "Readiness involves not only teacher technology proficiency but also teachers' ability to use laptops so they are essential for the instruction and directly contribute to student achievement. So there's technology proficiency and instructional proficiency."

The One-to-One Computing Evaluation Consortium concludes that decision makers considering a laptop start-up must address five key issues: planning, training and professional development, hardware and software, managing change, and program monitoring and evaluation.

Edvantia

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References

Bebell, D. (2005). Technology promoting student excellence: An investigation of the first year of 1:1 computing in New Hampshire middle schools. Boston: Technology and Assessment Study Collaborative. Available: www.bc.edu/research/intasc/PDF/NH1to1_2004.pdf

Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology. (2006). Reading list [Web page including references identified by the Center in the process of researching critical questions in educational technology]. Available: http://caret.iste.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=readinglist&studyid=137

Edvantia. (2005). Principal Connections Online. Additional information available at www.edvantia.org.

Gulek, J. C., & Demirtas, H. (2005). Learning with technology: The impact of laptop use of student achievement. The Journal of Technology, Learning and Assessment, 3(2). Available from www.jtla.org. For direct access, go to http://webdev.shorelineschools.org/instruction/tech/pdf/jtla(1-1impact).pdf

Harris, W., & Smith, L. (2004). Laptop use by seventh grade students with disabilities: Perceptions of special education teachers. Available: http://mainegov-images.informe.org/mlte/articles/research/MLTI_SpecEd2004.pdf

Hendricks, P. (2005). Laptop initiatives:How are they working? Chapter 15 of The Technology Coordinator's Handbook. Mid-Atlantic Regional Technology in Education Consortium (MAR*TEC). Philadelphia: Author. Available at www.temple.edu/martec/networks/laptop.html

Johnstone, B. (2003). Never mind the laptops: Kids, computers, and the transformation of learning. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse Inc.

Rockman Et Al. (2000). A more complex picture: Lapto use and the impact in the context of changing home and school access. Available: http://edtech.strongnet.org/research3report.PDF

Silvernail, D., & Lane, D. (2004). The impact of Maine's one-to-one laptop program on middle school teachers and students. Phase one summary evidence research report #1. Available: http://mainegov-images.informe.org/mlte/articles/research/MLTIPhaseOneEvaluationReport2004.pdf

Stevenson, K. (1999). Evaluation report Year 3 middle school laptop program. Available: http://www.beaufort.k12.sc.us/district/evalreport3.htm

Urban-Lurain, M., & Zhao, Y. (2004). Freedom to learn evaluation report: 2003 project implementation. Available: www.hflcsd.org/ftlsummary.pdf

U.S. Department of Education. (2005). National education technology plan. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available online: www.nationaledtechplan.org/default.asp

Zucker, A. (2005). Starting school laptop programs: Lessons learned (policy brief). Boston: One-to-one computing evaluation consortium. Available: http://ubiqcomputing.org/Lessons_Learned_Brief.pdf

Zucker, A. (2005). A study of one-on-one computer use in mathematics and science instruction at the secondary level in Henrico county public schools. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. Available: http://ubiqcomputing.org/FinalReport.pdf


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