Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Laptops for All

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Laptops for All

Article excerpt

IN 2002, MAINE EMBARKED on a bold educational initiative intent on preparing its students for living and prospering in the 21st century. Since its launch, the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI; www.state.me.us/mlti) has provided all of the state's middle school students, and their teachers, with laptop computers. All Maine middle schools are equipped with wireless connectivity, allowing students and teachers to use their laptops during the school day in a variety of settings and contexts. Students can also take their laptops home for use during the evening, weekends, and school vacations.

In support of MLTI, school districts provide technical help to teachers and students, while a "teacher leader" at each middle school site helps teachers integrate the laptops into their curriculum and instruction.

Six years into its implementation, Maine's laptop program is demonstrating the benefits a 1-to-1 initiative can have on education. In a recent study from the Maine Education Policy Research Institute (http://efolio.umeedu.maine.edu/mepri), more than 80 percent of teachers say the laptops have made them better able to diversify and individualize their curriculum and instruction, and an equal percentage report that the laptops have helped them explore topics in greater depth with their students, and better assist students in meeting Maine's learning standards.

Teachers also say that the 1-to-1 program has improved how and what their students are learning, and the quality of the work they produce. They cite improvements in students' ability to integrate information from multiple sources, study real-life problems, and express ideas. On their end, students agree that the quality of their work has gotten better, which dovetails with their feelings that they better understand what they are learning. Compellingly, about three-quarters of Maine's middle school students report that they are more interested in school as a result of having their own laptops.

But the data that speaks most persuasively to the success of the initiative is beginning to surface, indicating that the 1-to-1 plan is having a positive impact on achievement. Eighth-grade writing scores on Maine's statewide assessment were compared before and after laptops were introduced into the schools. Scores improved approximately one-third of a standard deviation--meaning that the average student in 2005 scored better than roughly two-thirds of all students in the state before the adoption of the laptop initiative. …

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