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					One-to- One Computing Using Laptops
        Student Achievement

              Don Dunphy
             70 Ohio Loop
            Stephenville, NL
                A2N 2V2

               July, 2004


Integrating technology into the regular curriculum continues to be a major focus

in the K-12 educational setting. Studies clearly show that utilizing the computer to

help meet curriculum outcomes can have a positive impact on student learning

and even boost student achievement. In the past decade one-to-one computing

projects (laptop projects) have been established in thousands of schools around

the world. The impact of such projects is still being evaluated. Research done on

projects in Maine, South Carolina, Tennessee, and others certainly point to

laptop learning having made a positive impact in the areas of student motivation

and student achievement. The area of writing seems to be one of the most

promising areas for one-to-one computing initiatives. More long term research is

needed in the area especially with respect to how laptop use affects student

attitudes and perceptions and how this in turn may affect student achievement.

                            TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction / Rationale ……………………………………………………….. 3

Literature review of technology and student achievement …………….   7

Brief History of One-to-One Computing …………………………………… 10

Review of Laptop Projects

      Anytime, Anywhere Learning (The Rockman Study) ……………. 12

      Beaufort South Carolina ………………………………………………. 15

      Walled Lake Consolidated Schools …………………………………. 16

      Peace River North, B.C. ……………………………………………….. 18

      Henrico County, South Carolina ……………………………………. 21

      The Maine Learning Technology Initiative …………………………23

      LITE, Port aux Basques, Newfoundland …………………………….26

Conclusions ……………………………………………………………………. 27

References ……………………………………………………………………… 31


Definition: For the purpose of this paper the term technology is used to refer to

computers unless otherwise specified.

During the past decade educators have been witness to a tremendous infusion of

technology into learning spaces. A recent SchoolNet survey revealed that the

average ratio of computers to students in Canadian schools is now 1:5. (Plante

and Beattie, 2004). Most schools are now wired to accommodate local area

networks. Some schools are installing wireless solutions. Digital cameras and

multimedia projectors are becoming common place and almost all schools now

have reasonable access to the Internet.

A few decades ago the emphasis seemed to be on teaching how to use the

technology and skill development. More recently the thrust has changed to

technology integration. Educators have been expected to integrate technology

into their classrooms in a seamless manner to help meet curriculum objectives

and enhance learning. This is no easy task and one that has not been without

criticism. Not all schools of thought believe that technology has been utilized for

the betterment of learning. As many have pointed out, loading up a classroom

with computers does not ensure effective use of the tools, and therefore may not

translate into education benefits. ( Cavanaugh, 2001; McKenzie, 1997; Grant)

Change never comes easy, and in the field of K-12 education change seems to

occur slower than in many other areas. Change for the improvement of any

system should be regarded as a step in the right direction. Ideally in education

change should improve the quality and equality of learning, as stated by Farrell

(2001), “Change in education systems is always in pursuit of one or more of the

following goals: Improvement of access to educational opportunities,

enhancement of quality in terms of both standards achieved and the learning

process, and improvement of efficiencies such as increased productivity, greater

return on invested capital and cost reduction or containment.” Integrating

technology into the regular classroom certainly represents a major change for

many educators. Many authors suggest that integration leads to or even

necessitates a change in teaching style where the teacher takes on more of a

role of a facilitator. (for example: McKenzie, Myles).

One of the reasons that technology use in schools has been closely scrutinized is

due to the prohibitive cost involved. Many school districts have allocated

considerable resources towards ensuring that schools are fully wired to

accommodate local area networks or that the entire district can operate on a

wide area network. The acquisition of computers for classrooms, resource

centers, technology labs, teachers and school administrators continues to

consume large portions of school and district budgets. This area has been

described as a black hole by many with its ability to use up lean education

budgets. In the United States k-12 schools have tripled their spending on

technology from “$2.1 billion in 1991-1992 to a projected $6.2 billion in 1999-

2000.” (Sivin-Kachala and Bialo, 2000).

Stakeholders have raised questions related to the effectiveness of this

technology integration thrust especially in light of the considerable associated

cost. Parents, teachers, school administrators, school board personnel and

others want to know that the technology is having a significant, positive impact on

student learning. Computers can be a black hole for scarce education dollars

and stakeholders want to know that money for education is being spent in the

best possible way.

Stakeholders are demanding accountability in education. An increased reliance

on CRTs and standardized testing is evidence of this. Parents want to ensure

that their children are receiving the best education possible. School board

officials and Department of Education personnel strive to ensure that programs

are well designed and that educators receive adequate training and support to

implement these programs. When new programs are implemented stakeholders

want to know that these programs will improve education.

The area of technology is of particular interest to most stakeholders in education.

Most parents want to ensure that their children have access to computers and

acquire the skills needed to participate fully in an ever increasing technological

world. Educators want to ensure that technology is used wisely and effectively to

positively affect student achievement. Other educators are reluctant to change

and cling to their didactic approach.

Still, change is occurring. It may happen slowly in the field of education, but it

does occur. A relatively recent trend has been to provide fulltime, one-to-one

computing access for students. In this scenario students have a computer to use

not only for the entire school day, but often at home as well. This concept has

often been referred to as anytime, anywhere earning and is generally achieved

through the use of laptop computers often equipped with wireless technology to

allow connection to the school and district networks and the Internet without

plugging in. Students are able to use the laptops throughout the day as needed

for writing, research, preparing presentations, manipulating data, viewing

simulations, and so on. Since the earliest laptop project in Australia in 1989 there

have been hundreds of other such projects in Canada, the United States, and

many other countries (Belanger, 2000). Surely if computers can be used to

positively affect student achievement, then situations where one-to-one

computing is utilized should obviously support this result. If the cost of technology

with desktop computers has been considered prohibitive, then this trend is even

more so. If laptop projects are to become common place then it will be necessary

to demonstrate that there is a clear learning advantage to students.

The purpose of this research paper is to review the literature reporting on some

laptop projects in an attempt to answer the question: What impact does one-to-

one computing using laptop computers in the K-12 sector have on student

achievement? Other questions to be addressed which arise from this question


      How is student motivation affected by laptop use?

      How is student efficacy affected by laptop use?

      What are the student characteristics which relate to one-to-one laptop

       computer use and achievement?

           Technology and Its Effects on Student Achievement

Studies on the effects of technology on student learning are numerous. Before

reviewing the effects of one-to-one laptop learning on student achievement there

may be some merit in reviewing some of the literature on the effects of

computers in general on student achievement. This area of research is immense

and this coverage is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather a sampling or

indicator of work in this area.

Sivin-Kachala and Bialo report numerous positive effects of technology on

student achievement. Their report was commissioned by the Software &

Information Industry Association (SIIA) and it summarizes educational technology

research from the late 1980s through 2000. Sivin-Kachala and Bialo began with

3500 research publications and narrowed it down to 311. Of these, 135 were

published in professional journals and 56 were doctoral dissertations. (Sivin-

Kachala and Bialo, 2000). The highlights of two sections of their report are worth

mentioning here: 1.) Effects of technology on student achievement and

2.) Effects of technology on student self-concept and attitude about learning.

They report that research on the effects of technology on student achievement


   1.) Large-scale, statewide implementations of educational technology (in

        West Virginia and Idaho) have been correlated to gains in standardized

        test scores.

   2.) Studies in reading and language arts indicates that technology provides a

        learning advantage

   3.) In mathematics students participating in technology-supported learning

        experiences have “demonstrated superior conceptual understanding of

        targeted math topics compared to students receiving traditional


   4.) Producing multimedia presentations on social studies topics results in a

        learning advantage.

   5.) Technology has helped kindergarten students improve conceptual

        knowledge, reading vocabulary, reading comprehension, and creativity.

   6.) Special needs students have realized significant positive effects on

        achievement through computer use.

With respect to student self-concept and attitude about learning they report

research that shows that “Educational technology has been found to have

positive effects on student attitudes toward learning and on student self-concept.

Students felt more successful in school, were more motivated to learn and had

increased self-confidence and self-esteem when using computer-based

instruction.” (Sivin-Kachala and Bialo, 2000).

In a report titled The Future of Children sponsored by the David and Lucille

Packard Foundation the results of 21 research projects which point to positive

effects of technology on various aspects of student achievement. (The Future of

Children, 2000.).

Several recent studies present meta-analyses of the effects of technology-based

instruction in comparison with other instructional treatments (usually traditional

methods). Meta-analysis is a method of assessing the effects of technology-

based instruction across many different studies, using a common measurement

scale, called effect size (ES). ES can be interpreted as "the proportion of the

experimental scores that are greater than the average score in the control

group." An ES of 0.30 means that "62 [percent] of the experimental group scored

higher than the average student in the [control] group." An ES of 0.70 means that

75 percent of the experimental group scored higher than the average student in

the control group. An ES of 1.00 means that 84 percent of the experimental

group scored higher than the average student in the control group (Ryan, 1991).

NCREL presents an interesting report by Waxman titled: A Meta-Analysis of the

Effectiveness of Teaching and Learning With Technology on Student Outcomes.

This meta-analysis put together the results from 42 studies The results

indicate that teaching and learning with technology has a small, positive,

significant effect on student outcomes when compared to traditional instruction.

The mean of the study-weighted effect sizes averaging across all outcomes was

.410 (p < .001), with a 95-percent confidence interval(CI) of .175 to .644.

(Waxman et. al, 2003). Waxman states: “The result from the present study

indicate that the overall effects are nearly twice as large as other recent meta-

analyses conducted in the area of instructional technology. This finding suggests

that the overall effects of technology on student outcomes may be greater than

previously thought.” (Waxman et. al, 2003).

There are many other reports and studies available which indicate that

technology can have a significant positive effect on student achievement ( for

example: The STAR Report, 2001; Cox et. al, 2003; Noeth, R. and Volkov, B.,


      A Brief History of One-to-One Computing Efforts in K-12 Schools

One-to-one computing is by no means a new idea in the K-12 environment. The

term “ubiquitous computing” is an earlier term used by Marc Weiser which can be

considered synonymous with one-to-one computing (Weiser, 1991).

One of the earliest projects ubiquitous computing projects in the K-12 setting

was sponsored by Macintosh in 1985. It was known as the Apple Classroom of

Tomorrow or ACOT. The project was designed as a research opportunity to

explore learning when computers are made available to all students and

teachers. (Keefe and Zucker, 2003).

Research on ACOT classrooms has found that students:

       behavior and attendance improved

      experienced improved attitude towards themselves and towards learning

      wrote more, more effectively and with greater fluidity

      became independent learners and self-starters

      worked well collaboratively (Apple Computer Inc., no date)

Another such project is the Bubby Project in Indiana. Beginning in 1988, this

project provided computers to all fourth grade students in participating

classrooms. Today the project is called Buddy2. More than 30,000 students have

been involved with this project since its inception. The Buddy Project website

( ) describes two research projects which

will be completed in 2004. Both projects are investigating the improvement in

writing skills of the participating students.

One-to-one computing initiatives using laptops in the K-12 setting seem to have

their origin in Australia (Industry Canada, 1999). There, many independent

schools began requiring students to obtain laptop computers for school as early

as 1989. Today there are hundreds of laptop projects in Canada, the U.S., the

U.K. and many other countries. No doubt that as the cost of portable computers

continue to fall we will see more of these projects.

Handheld computers such as the Palm Pilot PDA are also being used in k-12

schools today. Keefe and Zucker report that the Centre for Innovative Learning

Technologies (CILT), and the Center for Highly Interactive Computers in

Education (HICE) at the University of Michigan are currently using Palm and

compatible devices in K-12 learning environments, including mathematics and

science education. (Keefe and Zucker, 2003)

                          Anytime, Anywhere Learning

In 1996 Microsoft Corporation and Toshiba America Information Systems

sponsored a laptop project in the United states. The project has become known

as Anytime, Anywhere Learning. Initially the project was piloted in 52 schools

and since has expanded to include more than 800 schools and 125,000 students.

(Microsoft Corporation, 2000). The project has each student and teacher in

participating schools receive laptop computers with Microsoft Office Suite.

An independent research group (Rockman Et Al) was contracted to conduct

research on the laptop program. Rockman Et Al collected data for the first three

years of the project. Reports from each year are available at the Microsoft or

Rockman websites. A number of data collection methods were used including:

      teacher and student surveys

      shadow studies and interviews with 7th and 10th grade students and

       teachers (included a comparison group on Non-laptop students).

      Problem-solving tasks were given to 23 small groups of Laptop students

       and 6 groups of Non-Laptop students. (Rockman et. al., 1998).

      Writing assignments

      Comparison of standardized test scores

Year one data collection focused on implementation issues, laptop use, attitudes

and so on. In year two Rockman begins to focus on the impact of the laptops on

learning. Results from year two research include:

          1. laptop students participated in group work more than twice as often

             as non-laptop students

          2. ¾ of teachers reported increase in project-based instruction.

          3. Laptop students write more and their writing is of higher quality than

             that of non-laptop students.

          4. Teachers reported that laptops increased access to information and

             improved research and analysis skills.

           5. Laptop students prepare more presentations than non-laptop

              students. (Rockman et. al., 1998).

In year 3, research focused on the impacts on teaching and learning within Laptop

classrooms, and especially the ways in which laptops might be supporting a more

constructivist pedagogy. They also tried to assess how standardized test scores

were affected because of the laptop program. Below are some of the significant

results from year 3 research.

A writing activity was administered at 3 sites where there were both laptop and

non-laptop students. A total of 217 students participated. A blind assessment of the

writing was performed by another research team. A four-point rubric was used

which considered the areas: Content, Organization, Language/Voice/Style, and

Mechanics. Two researchers evaluated each paper and where differences

occurred the papers were re-evaluated. The results show that for two of the

schools the laptop students outperformed the non-laptop students in all four areas

and the results were statistically significant. In the other school non-laptop students

scored better than laptop studies in the areas of content and organization, but the

differences were not statistically significant.

Rockman reports that using standardized tests to compare student achievement

between the two groups was a very difficult task. The report includes several

pages describing the difficulties encountered in obtaining data or in obtaining

reliable data. The data from the test score comparison indicates that there is a

slight difference in favor of the Laptop students but this finding is only

occasionally statistically significant. Rockman presents an interesting

interpretation for this portion of the research. He says “While students may end

up being more productive, more effective writers, more able to handle complex,

real-world projects, or better able to master skills that will do them well in college

and on the jobs they will hold, these attributes do not appear on the standardized

assessment measures used here. This does not mean that the Laptop Program

did not impact academic achievement, just that we were unable to identify

outcomes during this study given the measures applied in the participating

schools.” (Rockman et. al., 2000).

                        Beaufort County, South Carolina

In 1996 The Beaufort County School district initiated a one-to-one computing

project by distributing laptops to all grade 6 students in the district’s 3 middle

schools. The following 2 school years (1997-98 and 1998-99) the new grade 6

classes were also included in the project so that after 3 years all grade 6, 7, and

8 students in the district were participating in the project. (Stevenson, November,

1999). The goals for the project included:

   1. to expand and enhance student learning opportunities

   2. to improve student achievement, creativity, and motivation

   3. to further integrate advanced computer technology into classroom

       instruction and learning at home

   4. to better prepare students for a lifetime of success in a technology-rich

       world (Stevenson, March, 1999).

The District began its own evaluation of the project. Here the focus will be on two

aspects of the results from year 3 of the study: student and teacher perception on

the impact of learning and achievement test analysis.

A survey to determine the attitudes and perceptions of students and teachers

was completed. One of the most interesting student beliefs to come from this was

that neither students nor teachers believed that the laptops played a big role in

academic success at the middle school level. However, many thought the laptop

experience would impact positively on high school grades. (Stevenson,

November,1999). Another interesting finding was that: 3rd year students were

less likely to feel that the laptops brought fun and excitement to learning.

However, a majority of 1st and 2nd year laptop users did feel that the laptops

made learning more enjoyable. This result is particularly interesting and may

relate to a novelty effect mentioned elsewhere in this paper. Finally, a majority of

teachers, regardless of years with the laptop project, rated the overall impact of

the laptop program on learning as positive.

The standardized test used to determine student achievement was a nationally

standardized achievement test known as MAT7. Some interesting results occur.

Firstly, when all laptop students (grade7, 8, and 9) are compared to non-laptop

students there is no significant difference (average laptop student score - 47.2,

average non-laptop student score – 47.1) (Stevenson, November, 1999).

However, if only grade 8 students are considered (these students having taken

part in three years of the laptop program) then a significant difference is noticed.

Here we see the average grade 8 laptop student score to be 52.1 as compared

to 45.8 for non-laptop grade 8 students. (Stevenson, November, 1999). This

result is obviously significant and might suggest that it takes a few years of laptop

use before an impact on student achievement is noticed.

                       Walled Lake Consolidated Schools

In Walled Lake Consolidated Schools in Tennessee a study was conducted to

determine the effectiveness of providing 5th and 6th grade students with laptop

computers (Lowther, Ross, and Morrison, 2001). While this study addressed

three research questions, of significance here was the third question: Do

students achieve differently in a laptop classroom?

Here a sample of 32 laptop students and 32 non-laptop students were randomly

selected to complete a writing test. Evaluators used the district’s 4 point rubric to

assess the writing in areas of ideas and content, organization, idea, style, and

conventions. This resulted in 4 scores per student.

Analysis of the results show that in all cases the laptop group out-performed the

control group. Lowther et. al. report:

       “Mean performance scores for laptop and control students were analyzed

       via a one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) with the four

       dimension scores serving as the dependant variables. The MANOVA

       yielded a significant program effect (p=.048), therefore univariate analysis

       of variance (ANOVA) was performed separately on each dimension. All

       four tests were highly significant and indicative of higher performance by

       laptop than control students. Effect sizes ranged from +0.61 to +0.78,

       suggesting moderately strong and educationally important effects.”

       (Lowther, Ross, and Morrison, 2001)

                 Wireless Writing Project – Peace River North

The Peace River North School district in British Columbia initiated what was

refrrede to as a wireless writing project in February, 2002. This project was

planned as a classroom-based program of technology integration with the aim to

improve student achievement in grade 6 and 7. The project had a special focus

on written expression. (Jeroski).

The project was designed from an action research approach. The district

systematically collected data on student achievement, attitudes, and behaviors,

and used the interpretation of this data to help them make decisions about how

the project proceeds. (Jeroski).

The specific research question being asked was: “What effect does classroom

and home use of wireless technology have on student writing achievement at

grades 6 and 7?” (Jeroski).

In Peace River North it was noted that many students were not achieving “the

level of writing proficiency needed for success in an information age”. (Jeroski).

Jeroski points to research that suggests that writing deficits become entrenched

in upper elementary. She also points to research by Baker and Kinzer and Harris

and Kingston which indicates that technology can improve student writing skills. It

is for these reasons that the grade 6 and 7 students were targeting for the pilot


During phase I of the project which began in January 2002 two classes received

iBooks laptops. In September of 2003 an additional 3 classes received laptops.

Students were assigned a laptop with a wireless network card for their sole use

and could use it at school as well as at home.

Data was collected in several ways. Of most interest for the purpose of this

paper was the pretest / posttest method. Students were asked to produce

impromptu samples in September 2002 and again in May of 2003. These

samples were evaluated based on the BC Performance Standards for Writing

(Ministry of Education). This standard provides a provincial reference for writing

at each grade level. Four levels of performance are identified at each grade level:

      Not yet meeting expectations

      Meeting expectations at a minimal to moderate level

      Fully meeting expectations

      Exceeding expectations

Results from the pretest / posttest method show significant improvement in

student writing. In September of 2002, 70% of the students who wrote the

pretest met or exceeded the provincial standard. In May of 2003, 92% of those

writing the posttest met or exceeded the provincial standard. This improvement

of 22% is quite impressive. Also of significance was the fact that in September no

students produced writing that exceeded the provincial standard, but in June

18% of the students achieved this level. (Jeroski, 2003). Another report on this

project indicates that the improvement in writing skills is actually higher than first

reported at 30%. (Alphonso, C., 2004).

Jeroski reports that on average the students involved in the wireless writing

project improved .75 points on the 4 point scale used in the BC Performance

Standard. She says that “it is more typical for a student to change .5 points”.

The confidence limits for this portion of the research is estimated to be 95%. For

the 92% figure this means that 19 times 20 the result would be accurate within


For the evaluation of the pretest and posttest writing samples consistency in

grading was achieved by having two teachers grade each sample. If the two

grades were more than 1 level apart a project leader reread the paper and

adjudicated the score. In 80% of the cases the two teachers awarded the exact

same score. In 19% of cases the difference was 1 level. Only 1% of the cases

resulted in greater than 1 level difference.

                        The Henrico County Experience

In Henrico County, Virginia the district made an arrangement with Apple

computers to put wireless iBook laptops in the hands of all 25,000 students from

grade 6 to grade 12. (Edwards, 2003).

The district based their decision to implement this project on three main goals:

      To improve teaching, learning and student achievement

      To improve methodology by using an engaged instructional practice

      To address a significant digital divide in the school system (40% of the

       students did not have access to technology at home). (Edwards, 2003).

For this project the district formed e-learning writing teams. These teams were

made up of district curriculum specialists, teachers, and technology

teacher/trainers. Their task was to create units which matched the Virginia

Standards of Learning and included digital content and activities. (Edwards,


As with the Peace River Project, much of the information gathered during the first

year of the project was qualitative in the form of anecdotal reports and focus

groups where discussions centered on things like attitude and motivation.

Edwards reports that “The most telling data, however, have been on the States

Standards of Learning tests.” Here in 11 core curricular tests the following

results were achieved:

            Students improved on 9, remained level on one, and lost 2 points on


            In courses where laptops were used the most (3 history subjects,

             reading, and writing) the greatest 1 year gains were realized.

            World History saw a 14 point increase and U.S. history a 20 point


Another significant statistic after 1 year of the laptop program was the 1.52%

dropout rate which is the lowest in Henrico’s history. (Edwards, 2003).

               The Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI)

In Maine the MLTI began with a vision of former Governor Angus King to provide

all middle school students in the state with laptop computers. The project began

with 9 pilot schools being selected in the spring of 2002. For the 2002-2003

school year all grade 7 students (approximately 17,000) and their teachers were

issued wireless laptop computers. In September 2003 all 8th graders in the State

received laptops bringing the total to 34,000 students and over 3000 teachers.

(Silvernail and Lane, 2004). In September of 2004 the program will be expanded

to include all of the 119 high schools in the state. (ATEC News, 2004).

The Maine Education Policy Research Institute (MEPRI), a non-partisan research

institute, was contracted by the State Department of Education to conduct

research on Phase 1 of the project. As a result of MLTI, MEPRI expected to see

changes 3 main areas:

      Teachers and Teaching

      Students and Learning

      School and Community

This paper will examine results obtained from the second category only. Some

core questions that the researchers wished to address related to Students and

Learning included:

      What is the impact on students’ skills in acquiring and constructing new


      What is the impact on student achievement?

      What is the impact on Maine’s digital divide?

The evaluation team used a variety of data collection tools including: online and

paper surveys, site visits, observation, and document analysis. (Silvernail and

Lane, 2004).

Some of the highlights collected from year 1 data include:

      Over 75% of students claim that their laptops help them to be better


      70% of students indicated that they do more work when they use their

       laptops and that their work is of better quality because of laptop use..

      .Over 70% report that they prefer to use their laptops for work.

      2 out of 3 students state that the laptops help improve their understanding

       of what they are learning.

      4 out of 5 teachers feel that students are more engaged in learning and

       produce better quality work.

      2 out of 3 of teachers believe that with the laptops students are more,

       organized, they do more work, and that their understanding improves.

      A survey of special education teachers indicated that overwhelmingly

       teachers felt that laptops improved all aspects of classroom performance

       for this group of students.

      A survey of principals showed that 30-40% of principals believe that the

       laptop program had a positive impact on student attendance and behavior

       and 70% felt that student motivation and learning were positively

       impacted. (Silvernail and Lane, 2004).

Included in the report are numerous statements made by both students and

teachers on the impact of laptops. Other studies have already pointed out how

the writing process can be positively impacted; this teacher statement reiterates

the same: “Use of the laptops to enhance writing skills for kids has been a great

asset for me. Student ability to draft, revise and edit written work has been

greatly expanded with this program. Students can now access information for

use in written work much more easily than before.” The following student

statement reinforces the suggestion of increased motivation and engagement.

“Well, I think that it makes them [classes] a lot more interesting because before

hand we had to use mostly outdated textbooks and so the laptops are a lot more

up-to-date and actually it does help you motivate, motivates us a little bit because

it’s a lot more interactive”. (Silvernail and Lane, 2004).

Eight schools submitted data which tracked attendance and student achievement

as determined by grade point average and / or honor roll status. Of these 5

schools reported a decrease in absenteeism and 3 schools reported

improvements in student achievement. The report does not mention what

happens to absenteeism and achievement rates in the other cases. Clearly,

tracking data from a larger sample of schools would be desirable here.

           Learning in Technological Environments (LITE) Project

In the fall of 2002 Cormack Trail School Board in Stephenville, Newfoundland

initiated a pilot project in laptop learning known as Learning in Technological

Environments (LITE). A site was selected and the District began training staff on

the utilization of laptop computers in the classroom. In September of the following

year a class of 26 grade 8 students at that school received wireless laptop

computers for use in the their classes. After one year all indications point to this

project representing a tremendous success.

A survey of student attitudes and perceptions was completed near the end of the

school year. Below are selected questions and corresponding answers from the

unpublished survey results. Students were asked to respond to statements or

questions by selecting from the following choices: strongly disagree, disagree,

strongly agree, agree, or not sure.

1.) Having a laptop makes learning more enjoyable. 60 % - strongly agreed,

36% - agreed and 4% - unsure.

2.) Using Laptops improves learning. 4% - disagree, 46% - strongly agree, 46% -

agree, 4% - unsure.

3.) Using laptops increases my understanding of what I'm supposed to be

learning. 4% - disagree, 15% - strongly agree, 58% - agree, 23% - unsure.

4.) Having a laptop has improved my ability to learn things on my own. 19% -

strongly agree, 73% - agree , 8% - unsure.

                             Other Laptop Projects

Besides the projects discussed above there are many other such laptop projects

ongoing or in the works in Canada, the United States, and elsewhere. Recently

plans were announced by Premier Bernard Lord of New Brunswick to begin a

pilot laptop project in that Province. Year one will see 4 schools selected and

laptops provided to the grade 7 classes. Year two the same students will

continue with the project in grade 8 and the new grade 7 classes will also

participate in the project. Research will be conducted on the project by the

University of New Brunswick. (Communications New Brunswick, 2004).

The state of New Hampshire plans to initiate a laptop program which will see

about 600 New Hampshire pupils and 40 teachers will get computers. Texas is

planning one of the largest laptop projects ever. As compact technology such as

laptops becomes more affordable no doubt the number of such projects will

continue to increase.


From the literature review and case studies presented in this paper it seems

apparent that one-to-one computing can have a positive impact on student

achievement. Some areas seem to have more potential than others. The area of

writing seems to be one such area where such an initiative can be successful.

Laptop studies are still relatively few and more importantly most seem to cover

only a one or two year period. What is needed is sustained research over a

longer period of time to see if the effects are lasting or simply due to a

Hawthorne effect. For example, referring to the large improvement reported in

writing skills at Peace River North, George Buck, an education professor at the

University of Alberta, was a bit skeptical of the findings stating: "It's not entirely

clear to me if what they're gathering is a novelty effect . . . where people's

performance increases when they know they're being studied or whether it's

really as remarkable as they say.” (Alphonso, C., 2004).

Many projects have targeted intermediate grade students. The idea that student

self concept becomes entrenched at this age is an interesting one. If one-to-one

laptop computing can help bolster student achievement and self concept at this

crucial stage (as Jeroski suggests) then such programs may have a long term

effect on student development and warrant much more attention and research.

Student motivation has been mentioned in almost every laptop study reviewed.

Again it would be interesting to study this aspect after several years of laptop

use. Will the novelty wear off or will the high levels of engagement in learning by

laptop students continue over time? The answer to this question probably lies as

much with the teacher as it does the technology. Exemplary teachers will find

ways of keeping students level of motivation and engagement up with or without

technology. Fisher and Stolarchuck, doing research on the impact of laptop

learning, have provided evidence that student perception of their classroom

environment can play an important role in affecting student achievement. (Fisher

and Stolarchuck). This represents another laptop subtopic worthy of further


This brings us to one of the key areas in implementing a successful laptop

program - teacher training. If laptops are to be utilized in a manner which impact

student achievement in a positive manner then the teacher is key and

professional development is essential. We should look closely at projects where

improvements in student achievement have been realized and scrutinize what

sorts of things teachers have students do in the classroom. We should also

consider what training is provided by the school or the district and the types of

supports that are put in place to support the program.

Rockman and others have noted problems with evaluating laptop projects with

respect to current student achievement standards (Rockman; The STAR Report).

The standardized tests used to determine student achievement often measure

outcomes which do not match many of the suggested benefits of technology use

nor do the measure the full range of 21st century skills that will be necessary for

students to thrive in the future (The STAR Report). When considering student

achievement it seems reasonable to ask questions about what laptops do for the

learning process in the way of helping to create independent, lifelong learners.

As already mentioned, one of the big problems with technology is its cost. In this

light, sustainability of laptop projects is a huge concern. In Michigan many school

districts are saying “they can't afford the state's plan to put laptop computers in

the backpacks of all 6th graders”. (Trotter, Andrew, 2004). At Cormack Trail

School Board maintenance of the laptops has become an issue. The head of

computer services there reports that the amount of maintenance required for

LITE student’s laptops is 4 to 5 times that required for LITE teacher laptops and

other units in the District (personal communication). The cost involved has been

considerable. If stakeholders are not assured that the benefits of laptop learning

far outweigh the prohibitive cost incurred then projects such as those described

in this paper will quickly see their demise and make way for the next trend .


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