[Continued from 1:1 Laptops in Grades 4-12, Literature Review, Part 1]
It is clear that this is the proper direction for further research in the area of computer use in schools. One might begin by making a list of things we could not do before and so left as undeveloped skills or delayed for higher education. This is probably the most important implication of any of this body of research reviewed here. All three papers posit these as desirable outcomes of 1:1 laptop initiatives, but no paper reviewed here systematically analyzes these to a degree that a measurement may be established of some kind. Higgins et al. notes these skills are resistant to accurate measurement. Standardized test scores lend themselves well to statistical analysis.
Student engagement and motivation emerges as the second most studied theme in the literature. Attitude surveys supported the popularity of 1:1 laptops among students and teachers (Suhr et al., 2010, p. 8). However, there is no magic bullet. There is only moderate support for the idea that 1:1 laptops really increased engagement and motivation on a long-term basis (Sell et al., 2012, p.21). Once they cease to be new and become part of “work”, the novelty wears off. Laptops alone are not enough, though, and echoing conclusions of Weston and Bain regarding computers as cognitive tools, Sell et al. note that “student engagement is improved when 1:1 technology is supplemental to systematic improvements in the teaching and learning environment rather than as a stand-alone initiative” (2012, p.21).
Teaching practice and professional development is easily the third place in development in the literature. Skillful practitioners can bring the power of computing to the benefit of their charges. (Bebell & Kay, 2010, p. 48). Shapley et al. note that “[t]eacher “buy-in” for Technology Immersion is critically important because students’ school experiences with technology are largely dictated by their teachers” (2010, p.24). To integrate 1:1 laptop programs into the curriculum, teachers need to possess these skills such that they can model their use and impart them to their students. The usual staff development system in many schools consists of workshops provided at infrequent intervals through the year. Many have criticized this model and being inadequate to build the kind of skills that are earned through repetition, such as computer skills. The old workshop model is ineffective (Drayton et al., 2010, p.50). If schools are to make the investment in the equipment, they might better commit to adequate staff training as well. (Sell et al. , 2012, p. 34). Teachers have a great deal of autonomy and the unwilling can undermine district-wide initiatives with impunity. Beyond general hints at the importance of staff development on 1:1 laptop initiatives, none of these studies provide extensive suggestions for effective staff development, since their focus was student achievement. All of the studies make ample use of teacher surveys. Many examine what teachers are doing with laptops, though such analyses are somewhat superficial and limited to lists of software titles and their frequency of use.
Rigorous statistical methodology has not always been applied in these studies and Higgins et al. (2012) notes that is may not always be possible. Although a deep statistical analysis of these papers is outside of the scope of the current work (and, for that matter, the expertise of its author), it is noteworthy that only five of the eleven studies apply a measure of effect size in their calculations. Naturally, being a meta-analysis, the phrase “effect size” appears in Higgins et al. no fewer than 137 times. Most of the rest are silent on this. Effect size is an important statistical tool for estimating whether a treatment or intervention is likely caused by something we did or by some other variable. In social science, and in education in particular, this is absolutely important because of the near impossibility of creating true experimental conditions where all variables external to the study are truly controlled for. Without making effect size calculations, it is hard to point to a change in student standardized tests scores as being definitively due to 1:1 laptop distribution and not to some other factor. Bebell & Kay (2010) deal with this effectively, for example, by examining other factors such as prior performance on standardized tests and socio-economic status. That study was not able to identify 1:1 laptops as the sole causal factor in achievement scores. Prior test scores and socio-economic situation prevailed, as always, as the most highly predictive of student success. Bebell & Kay remark that test scores really only increased in English Language Arts as a result of 1:1 laptop programs (2010 p. 44). This is echoed in other studies (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005, p.21).
Most of these studies reviewed here are composed in an objective style with no particular bias. Some, like Gulek & Demirtas and Silvernail et al., come off with an enthusiasm for their results that may speak to bias. Some studies, like Bebell & Kay and Higgins et al., were contracted outside the school system to evaluate a 1:1 program. The meta-analyses are of particularly high quality in objectivity and scope.
By far the most interesting study was Weston & Bain. It stands out from the rest because it challenges some of the premises upon which the others are based. They set out to address criticisms of 1:1 laptop programs by bringing under scrutiny the very premises of objections. Weston & Bain call upon the reader to reconsider the very question and to regard computers as inseparable from the process rather than as something foreign. They hold up as model other professions which adopt technology and seamlessly integrate it into their work as a tool. They “raise questions about what classrooms and schools need to look and be like in order to realize the advantages of 1:1 computing” and present a “theoretical vision for self-organizing schools in which laptop computers or other such devices are essential tools” (2010 p. 1). They note that in schools where technology has become de rigueur part of the daily routine, “if asked about the value of using a laptop computer in school, each would struggle to see the relevance of such a question because computers have become integrated into what they do” and that “[w]hen technology enables, empowers, and accelerates a profession’s core transactions, the distinctions between computers and professional practice evaporate”. The laptops are cognitive tools. (2010, pp.10, 11, 13). This is the concept to watch in IT and education.
There is broad consensus that 1:1 laptop programs improve student writing measurably. There is also a long list of potential benefits that have yet to be measured. One good reason for 1:1 laptops in this digital age is that we are in the digital age. Students today will be interacting in the world using such devices. Their formation should reflect that. No study, after all, reports that 1:1 decreases student achievement in any area. In the areas of student engagement and motivation, the common sense prediction is borne out by the assessment: there is increased engagement when the laptops are new, giving way to normal levels once they become more commonplace. Regarding 1:1 laptops and teachers, studies show great diversity in teacher response based on many factors such as school culture, personal regard for information technology, and skill as a teacher. Laptops don’t make better teachers and skilled practitioners benefit most from the new cognitive tools. Studies concur that the independent nature of the teaching profession makes the classroom teacher an important part of and 1:1 initiative with the ability to make or break the program and that professional development of the traditional bi-annual workshop variety will not suffice. Digital devices are become increasingly ubiquitous in every aspect of life and this is promoted by their decreasing cost, miniaturization, and increasing usefulness. Who would not spend $250 to improve a student’s performance? The measurable increased achievement brought about in student writing is enough on its own to merit a 1:1 laptop program.Original Paper, 2016
Bebell, D., & Kay, R. (2010). One to One Computing: A Summary of the Quantitative Results from the Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative. The Journal of Technology, Learning and Assessment. Retrieved March 12, 2016, from http://ejournals.bc.edu/ojs/index.php/jtla/article/view/1607.
Drayton, B., Falk, J.K., Stroud, R., Hobbs, K., & Hammerman, J. (2010). After Installation: Ubiquitous Computing and High School Science in Three Experienced, High-Technology Schools. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 9(3). Retrieved March 12, 2016, from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ873677.pdf.
Gulek, J. C. & Demirtas, H. (2005). Learning with technology: The impact of laptop use on student achievement. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 3(2). Retrieved 13 March 2016 from http://ejournals.bc.edu/ojs/index.php/jtla/article/view/1655.
Higgins, S., Xiao, Z. and Katsipataki, M. (2012 Nov.). The Impact of Digital Technology on Learning: A Summary for the Education Endowment Foundation. Durham University. Retrieved 12 March 2016 from https://v1.educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/uploads/pdf/The_Impact_of_Digital_Technology_on_Learning_-_Executive_Summary_%282012%29.pdf.
Ingram, D., Willcutt, J., Jordan, K. (2008). Stillwater Area Public Schools Laptop Initiative Evaluation Report. Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement. University of MN. Retrieved 13 March 2016 from http://www.cehd.umn.edu/carei/publications/documents/StillwaterReportFINAL.pdf.
Lemke, C., Coughlin, E., & Reifsneider, D. (2009). Technology in schools: What the research says: An update. Culver City, CA: Commissioned by Cisco. Retrieved March 12, 2016, from https://www.cisco.com/web/IN/solutions/strategy/assets/pdf/tech_schools_09_research.pdf.
Sell, R., Cornelius-White, J., Chang, C., Mclean, A., and Roworth, W. (2012 April 30). A Meta-Synthesis of Research on 1:1 Technology Initiatives in K-12 Education. Ozarks Educational Research Initiative Institute for School Improvement Missouri State University. Retrieved 12 March 2016 from https://education.missouristate.edu/assets/clse/Final_Report_of_One-to-One_Meta-Synthesis__April_2012_.pdf.
Shapley, K.S., Sheehan, D., Maloney, C., & Caranikas-Walker, F. (2010). Evaluating the Implementation Fidelity of Technology Immersion and its Relationship with Student Achievement. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 9(4). Retrieved March 12, 2016, from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ873678.pdf.
Silvernail, D. and Gritter A. (2008). Maine's Middle School Laptop Program: Creating Better Writers. Maine Education Plicy Institute. University of Soutern Maine. Retrieved 17 March 2016 from http://maine.gov/mlti/resources/Impact_on_Student_Writing_Brief.pdf.
Suhr, K.A., Hernandez, D.A., Grimes, D., & Warschauer, M. (2010). Laptops and Fourth-Grade Literacy: Assisting the Jump over the Fourth-Grade Slump. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 9(5). Retrieved March 12, 2016, from https://ejournals.bc.edu/ojs/index.php/jtla/article/download/1610/1459.
Weston, M.E. & Bain, A. (2010). The End of Techno-Critique: The Naked Truth about 1:1 Laptop Initiatives and Educational Change. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 9(6). Retrieved March 12, 2016, from https://ejournals.bc.edu/ojs/index.php/jtla/article/download/1611/1458.