Put the Textbooks Away: Preparation and Support for a Middle School One-to-One Laptop Initiative

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This study, conducted in the Southwestern United States, investigated teacher and student uses of tablet laptop computers in a one-to-one initiative involving fifth grade through eighth grade students and their teachers. The campus initiative led to higher than expected technology integration and student- teacher and student-student collaborations. Teacher interviews under scored that the accessibility of the technology allowed for remarkable moments of teaching. Longitudinal data in the coming years can determine the long-term success of the program, but findings strongly support the effectiveness of a one-to-one laptop/tablet initiative in a middle school.

INTRODUCTION

The small size and lowered cost of laptops, along with the availability of wireless internet capabilities, have increased the feasibility of school initiatives that provide laptop computers to students at a one-to-one ratio. Currently there are over 1,000 laptop initiatives in the United States alone (Johnstone, 2003). This study examined a one-to-one initiative at the campus level in a private school in the Southwest United States.

Previous research has shown that teachers' beliefs about instruction and learning affect levels of adoption (Collins, 1991; Cuban, 1986, 2001; Dwyer, Ringstaff, & Sandholtz, 1991), but those studies were inconclusive about how these processes happen and what the feelings of the teachers are during transition. Interpretive studies, such as one conducted by Burns and Po I ma ? (2006), have reported that the transitions for teachers integrating computers into their instructional methods happened more smoothly and much more quickly than might be expected.

The pace of technological change and the place that computer tools now hold in society make methodological change volatile (Burns & Pol man, 2006). Previous research from the 1980s and 1990s may not be reliable in the 21st Century as computer use has become an integral part of daily life. In addition, an increasing number of private and public schools are placing wireless laptop/tablet computers in the hands of students and teachers (Hill & Reeves, 2004; Rockman, 2003). The speed of this change has often been a cause of great concern.

This study investigated the effects of a one-to-one laptop initiative on teaching and learning in grades 5 through 8. Data collected from teacher interviews, classroom observations, and student surveys were analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Over the past decade, the United States has experienced a steady increase in interest and investment in computer technology at the national, state, and local levels in education, perhaps partly in response to the NCLB goal "to improve academic achievement through the use of technology in elementary and secondary schools" (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). The National Technology Standards (NETS), published by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE, 2007), have the similar objective of developing students' "technological competence, the ability to understand and operate technological equipment to increase productivity, enhance communication and collaboration within and outside the classroom; conduct creative research, and devise strategies for problem-solving and decision-making" (Barron et al., 2003; Fletcher, 2004; ISTE, 2007).

Barron et al.( 2003) identified commonalities in the goals of the initiatives at the K-1 2 level that included (: (a) providing all students with portable laptop/notebook computers loaded with productivity software, (b) student access to wireless internet in the school, and (c) use of the laptops to complete academic tasks. Many of the advantages that were anticipated for classrooms that provided wireless technology and one or more computers for teachers and students have been realized. These include portability, flexibility, ease of use, expandability, and replication of both paper notebook and desktop computer functionality (Am i ri an, 2004; Charp, 2002; Ito, 2003). …