In the spring of 2008, IT staff conducted a survey of students, teachers, and parents to better understand opinion about the effectiveness and impacts of the 1:1 student laptop program. The survey format followed a similar study of 2003, so that the school could compare the results over this five-year span. The school has published a 20-page report detailing findings of the study.
Laptop use in English and computer science classes is nearly ubiquitous. Among other subjects, students use laptop computers more often in history and modern languages classes and less often in math and art classes.
Laptop computing has increased student access to computers at home. Parents felt more strongly about this effect in 2008 than in 2003.
The survey found a small impact of the laptop program on teaching methods and curriculum. Respondents felt that the laptop program had significantly improved writing skills, improved collaboration, and increased communication overall.
Teachers feel that girls are more willing to use computers and demonstrate stronger computers skills as a result of the laptop program.
The survey suggests that the laptop program support the ability of students to learn in a way that matches their learning style.
Students and parents feel that laptop computers help students keep their academic lives more organized. Teachers feel the same way about their use of laptop computers.
Respondents expressed concern about a decrease in face-to-face communication as a result of the laptop program.
Students found great value in the ability of social network sites to overcome separation from their friends by distance or time.
During laptop maintenance this year, we saw an unusually high frequency of physical damage and virus infections to student laptops. We run a 1:1 student laptop program in the high school in which families own the computers and we provide the annual maintenance and ongoing support.
How does one cultivate a culture of care for one’s possessions, especially computers? This assembly presentation was a simple attempt to remind people to be mindful of these fragile devices. At times, I have opened up a computer to show the components all crammed in there together with a minimum of protection. We can also remind people of the cost of repair and replacement.
The following slide show includes the visuals that I used for the presentation, but you will have to imagine the spoken portion or fill it in yourself!
Larry Cuban of the Stanford School of Education has published a short article titled 1:1 Laptops Transforming Classrooms: Yeah, Sure. In it, he repeats his argument from Oversold and Underused that classroom computing initiatives have not significantly transformed American classrooms.
In higher education, where students willingly choose to attend (in K-12 they are compelled by law to go to school), where students have already achieved 1:1 computing capacity, teachers and students mainly use these powerful machines to reinforce existing ways of teaching and learning.
I have no doubt about this. But I also recall from personal conversation with Larry that his argument says more about the profession of teaching in general than it does about laptop computers in particular. In his Stanford course The History of School Reform, Larry Cuban and David Tyack repeatedly drove the point home that American schooling has been incredibly resistant to change for at least a century. Different school reforms — bigger, smaller, more vocational, single-sex, magnet, gifted and talented — have hardly changed the typical American school.
What does Cuban’s perspective on schooling and technology imply for those of us working in one school? First, let us remember that Cuban recognizes the transformation of other activities by technology — communication and research especially. You could attempt to justify a computing initiative purely on these grounds. Next, let us ground technology initiatives within the space of other changes in schools. Just as a school might consider adopting a block schedule, starting school later in the day, or eliminating AP classes, school leaders should carefully consider the match between technology innovations and pedagogical theory, the time and energy required for teachers to change practice, and the amount of social capital one possesses within a group of professionals to make such a change.
Cuban estimates that only five percent of teachers considerably change their practice in the presence of new technologies. If we want to better that mark, then let us keep our heads screwed on straight when pushing for new technologies.