As published by the ACSD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)
February 2011 | Volume 68 | Number 5
Teaching Screenagers Pages 78-79
A recent survey of 364 leaders of large districts with one-to-one initiatives found that 33 percent believed the laptops were having a significant effect on student achievement, and another 45 percent believed they were having a moderate effect (Greaves & Hayes, 2008). Of course, such self-reporting is prone to subjectivity. What does more objective research say about one-to-one initiatives?
The Encouraging News
More engaged learners. A four-year study of 5,000 middle school students in Texas found that those engaged in laptop immersion programs were less likely to have disciplinary problems (but slightly more likely to be absent from school) than students in schools without laptops (Shapley et al., 2009).
Better technology skills. The Texas study also found that the technology skills of students in the laptop programs improved significantly— so much so that after three years, low-income students in the laptop schools displayed the same levels of technology proficiency as wealthier students in the control schools (Shapley et al., 2009).
Cost efficiencies. Proponents of one-to-one programs also assert that such programs create savings in other areas, including reduced costs for textbooks, paper, assessments, and paperwork, as well as a reduction in disciplinary actions (Greaves, Hayes, Wilson, Gielniak, & Peterson, 2010).
The Discouraging News
Overall, however, most large-scale evaluations have found mixed or no results for one-to-one initiatives. After five years of implementation of the largest one-to-one initiative in the United States, Maine’s statewide program, evaluations found little effect on student achievement—with one exception, writing, where scores edged up 3.44 points (in a range of 80 points) in five years (Silvernail & Gritter, 2007). The evaluators speculated that the reason other subjects have not shown measurable improvement could be that the state assessment does not measure the 21st century technology skills that laptop initiatives promote.
An evaluation of Michigan’s one-to-one laptop program found similarly mixed results. It examined eight matched pairs of schools and found higher achievement in four laptop schools, lower achievement in three, and no difference in the final pair (Lowther, Strahl, Inan, & Bates, 2007).
The study of Texas middle school students referenced earlier found slightly higher student growth in mathematics, but no higher growth in reading for students in laptop programs (Shapley et al., 2009). And unlike in Maine, writing scores were actually lower (although not significantly so) for students in the laptop group; the researchers reasoned that students may have grown so accustomed to writing with computers that they had trouble adjusting to the pencil-and-paper format of the state test.
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