1 1 Writing a Review of Literature Patricia J. Holman Walden University Dr. Kiela Bonelli Introduction to Educational Research (EDUC 6653G 4) April 5, 2010
2 2 Writing a Review of Literature School systems around the world are attempting to find the best way to integrate technology into the educational setting for student success. Knowing the expense, time, and effort required to implement new technology, school districts need to make wise decisions as to what is truly in the best interests of the students. Several schools have placed laptop computers in every student s hands with high expectations for growth and success. Educators need to know the effectiveness of implementing a 1:1 laptop computer program on student achievement in the core subjects of literacy and mathematics at various grade levels before committing to such a vast undertaking. Because changes in student achievement are influenced by so many variables, it is difficult to observe a direct link between a 1:1 laptop program and student growth as measured by achievement tests (Weiss & Education Commission of the States [ECS], 2006), however, past studies have identified several positive indicators other than student achievement, which suggest the value of implementing such a program in schools. One study which focused on such non-testable aspects was conducted in Henrico County Public Schools in Virginia where a large scale implementation of 1:1 laptop computers occurred by placing computers in the hands of 25,000 teachers and students in grades six through twelve (Weiss & ECS, 2006). The study which took place between the years 2001 and 2004 was focused in the areas of math and science. Researchers attempted to discover how the computers were being used by teachers and students, what resources were needed to support laptop use, what factors hindered long-term laptop use, what kind of training was needed to prepare teachers, and how to improve teaching and learning in this environment (Weiss & ECS, 2006). The methodology used to collect data was a mixed-method design including classroom observations, interviews, surveys, and analysis of related documents (Weiss & ECS, 2006).
3 3 The study found that computers were being used by both students and teachers in a variety of ways across the curriculum to enhance learning, instruction, and efficiency (Weiss & ECS, 2006). Students, teachers, and families all felt the program was beneficial to students not only at school but also at home. Some of the many benefits included greater access for students to resources, increased student motivation and engagement, better student organization, improved communication between home and school, and increased teacher collaboration and efficiency (Weiss & ECS, 2006). Several factors were identified which supported laptop use such as an abundance of teacher training and a high level of on-site technical support. Several problem factors were also identified such as the frequent need of computer repairs, limited battery life, and the additional time needed for teachers to learn new methods of teaching using the laptops (Weiss & ECS, 2006). Overall, the study concluded the vast implementation of the laptop computers at this school district was successful in regard to teaching and learning. Students were being prepared for life outside of school, which is dominated by the world of technology (Weiss & ECS, 2006). Researchers also indicated there is much more to learn about the management of such a large scale implementation and the effect such a program has on student achievement (Weiss & ECS, 2006). A similar study that focused on ten schools in California and Maine from 2004 to 2006 was looking for indicators that pointed to success in using 1:1 laptop computer programs in the chosen schools. Students participating in the study ranged from grades three through twelve (Warschauer, 2005). A mixed-methodology approach was again used by conducting surveys, interviews, classroom observations, and collecting test data (Warschauer, 2005). After studying test scores for two years, researchers found no increase in test scores to link to the use of the 1:1 laptop program. An impact in student achievement would take several years to produce and at
4 4 the time of the study, the use of laptops was too new to be able to indicate a difference in test scores. Researchers also concluded the type of student learning that laptops enhance cannot always be measured by traditional testing methods (Warschauer, 2005). In contrast, the study provided evidence of several positive influences of the laptop program. Students were more engaged in the learning process; students were diving deeper into research; the use of technology quickly became the norm as part of instruction, and teachers observed an increase in the amount and quality of student writing (Warschauer, 2005). Researchers concluded there were several indicators of successful implementation of such a program in the schools they studied. Successful schools maintained their educational program as a priority and the technology program secondary (Warschauer, 2005). The importance of keeping high academic expectations kept students focused and on task. Providing teachers the time to collaborate made an impact on the success of the program (Warschauer, 2005). The study also found the importance of substantial preparation before beginning the program and the need for evaluation throughout the program to make improvements (Warschauer, 2005). As noted by the previous study (Weiss & ECS, 2006), researchers concluded the 1:1 laptop computer program can be a valuable tool in preparing students for their future in a world in which technology will play a dominate role. Another study which focused on how 1:1 laptop usage versus shared laptop usage influences teaching and learning was conducted in Massachusetts during the school year with fourth and fifth grade students (Russell, Bebell, & Higgins, 2004). Two classes at each level had implemented a 1:1 laptop program with the remaining five classes sharing carts of laptops. A mixed-methodology research design was used by conducting surveys, interviews, classroom observations, and analyses of student drawings (Russell et al., 2004). Researchers
5 5 found a remarkable increase in the use of technology across the curriculum in the 1:1 classes compared to the classes which shared computers (Russell et al.). Student motivation and engagement was at a higher level and students used their computers as their primary writing tool. Teachers reported the students were writing more and of higher quality in the 1:1 laptop classrooms (Russell et al.). The teaching styles differed significantly between the two environments. In the 1:1 laptop classrooms, more individualized instruction was implemented whereas in the shared classrooms most instruction was conducted in large-group fashion. Researchers observed the frequency of peer-conferencing taking place twice as often in the 1:1 classes (Russell et al.). Another finding of the study was the at-home use of the laptops for academic purposes was significantly higher in the 1:1 laptop classrooms (Russell et al.). The study concluded that having a 1:1 ratio of laptop computers greatly increased the use of technology at school and at home for academic purposes, significantly influenced teaching and learning styles in a more individual and collaborative method compared to mostly whole group instruction, and dramatically increased the use of technology as a primary writing tool (Russell et al.). The next study reviewed included the impact of 1:1 computers on two academic areas of writing and problem-solving as well as non-academic areas such teaching and learning behaviors. The study was conducted with fifth, sixth, and seventh grade students and teachers in seven schools (Lowther, Ross, & Morrison, 2003). Researchers compared the findings between matching 1:1 laptop classrooms to control group classes of having 5+ computers per class (Lowther et al., 2003). The focus of the study was to find the difference, if any, in teaching and student behavior between the two groups and if students achieved differently in the 1:1 laptop classrooms (Lowther et al.). A mixed-methodology design was used consisting of classroom
6 6 observations, surveys, focus groups, interviews, and data from a writing assessment (Lowther et al.). The study concluded in the 1:1 laptop classrooms there were significant increases in more student-centered and meaningful instructional strategies over the control groups. The students in the 1:1 laptop classes exhibited more and advanced use of technology in their learning and an increase interest in learning (Lowther et al.). The scores on the writing and problem-solving assessments both revealed a significant advantage of the 1:1 laptop classes over the control group classes (Lowther et al.). Although some difficulties surfaced such as the transporting of computers, the frequency of repairs, and the need for more teacher-training, overall the authors found positive outcomes of the implementation of a 1:1 laptop program (Lowther et al.). However, they also conveyed the need for continued research in several areas such as its impact on student achievement and guaranteeing all students access (Lowther et al.). The remaining three studies reviewed attempted to focus more on student achievement than the previous reviewed studies. A study was conducted to evaluate the first statewide 1:1 laptop program implemented by Maine at the seventh and eighth grade levels beginning in In an attempt to make a radical improvement in their education system the state teamed up with Apple and devised Maine s Learning Technology Initiative (Muir, Knezek, & Christensen, 2004). By the fall of 2002, 17,800 students and teachers in 239 schools were supplied with laptop computers. Teachers were provided with training and full technical support (Muir et al., 2004). The study was looking for how 1:1 laptops influenced a variety of aspects of learning such as: student engagement, attendance, use of technology, behavior, achievement in math, science, social studies, and visual and performing arts, and teaching styles (Muir et al.). A mixed-methodology approach was used conducting surveys, interviews, classroom observations, and analyzing test scores (Muir et al.). The research concluded that the 1:1 laptop program had
7 7 several positive effects on the education of Maine s middle school students. Overall, student engagement and attendance increased whereas the number of behavior referrals decreased (Muir et al.). Teachers felt the laptop initiative overall had a positive effect on their teaching and students appeared to be working harder and had more interest in school (Muir et al.). When looking at the Maine Educational Assessment, students scores in math, science, and visual and performing arts were significantly higher in 2003 than in The author also noted that significant changes in achievement scores often take several years to be observed, so the above data should be taken as a premature finding, but yet, a positive one (Muir et al.). A study conducted at four schools in the Jefferson County Public School System focused on several academic as well as non-academic factors. Researchers evaluated a 1:1 laptop program implemented during the school years. Two middle schools and two high schools were involved in the study (Shrout, Caudill, & Munoz, 2008). Researchers were curious how 1:1 laptop programs influenced student achievement, attendance, graduation and drop-out rates, and technology scores. The study also focused on the perceptions of students, teachers, and parents as well as the level of professional development needed to ensure program success (Shrout et al., 2008). Again, a mixed-methodology research design was used combining surveys, analysis of reports, classroom observations, and test score data (Shrout et al.). Initially, the research indicated the level of student engagement increased in reading, writing, homework, and research. During the first year of implementation, the number of student suspensions decreased by 18% (Shrout et al.). At the end of the fourth year of implementation, test scores on two different criterion and norm-referenced tests showed overall gains in student achievement and technology skills (Shrout et al.). Teacher surveys indicated their overall perceptions of the program were positive concerning the impact on learning and the use of technology. Students
8 8 surveys indicated most agreed the use of the 1:1 laptop program had improved their technology skills and use of the Internet in conducting research (Shrout et al.). Overall, researchers felt the 1:1 laptop program had a positive effect on student achievement in academic and non-academic areas (Shrout et al.). The final study reviewed was the most thorough study attempting to gather data on the effects of implementing a 1:1 laptop program on student achievement as well as teaching and learning patterns in three diverse schools in California. During the 2004 to 2006 school years, 1:1 laptop programs were implemented across a low socio-economic seventh grade student population, a medium socio-economic population of gifted third through sixth grade students, and a high socio-economic third through seventh grade population (Grimes & Warschauer, 2008). Researchers were inquiring how such a program would change teaching and learning patterns, impact test scores, and how teachers and students would perceive the 1:1 laptop program (Grimes & Warschauer, 2008). Similar to all the studies reviewed, a mixedmethodology research design was used combining data obtained through surveys, observations, interviews, documents, records, and test scores (Grimes & Warschauer, 2008). Researchers concluded the 1:1 laptop program improved students performance in the areas of writing, information literacy, multimedia skills, and student self-sufficiency (Grimes & Warschauer, 2008). Students test scores in language arts and math actually fell behind nonlaptop students the first year of implementation, however solid growth was observed in the second year of implementation (Grimes & Warschauer, 2008). Improvement was evident in technology skills studied throughout all three schools. Most teachers and students both agreed the program had a positive influence on teaching and learning. However, researchers expressed caution when examining test scores in this context. Like previous studies (Warschauer, 2005;
9 9 Lowther et al., 2003), the research team discussed the difficulty in linking the use of 1:1 laptops to standardized test scores. Too many variables influence student achievement and many positive effects of laptop use are not easily measured using the standardized test format (Grimes & Warschauer, 2008). Although all of these studies concentrated on the impact of 1:1 laptop programs on education, they all approached the big picture in different ways. Several of the studies consisted of focusing on two or three specific grade levels whereas some took a much wider spectrum encompassing as many as ten. It is difficult to compare findings of such a vast difference in students ages and maturity levels in using laptop computers as a learning tool. It was interesting that all studies reviewed used the mixed-methodology research design. This method seems to be the best way to ensure a balanced collection of information to provide a more complete picture of the impact of this program (McMillan & Schumacher, 2008). Several similarities existed in the focus questions of each study, but there were also some differences. All studies included student, teacher, and parent perceptions of the programs which is important since implementing this major of a program involves the support of all parties. Most studies aimed at discovering how implementing 1:1 laptops influenced teaching and learning. Only a few of the studies attempted to link test scores to the implementation of the 1:1 laptop program with varying degrees of success and with reservations. The comparison of results proved to be difficult with several programs. Some studies used control groups to compare results and some did not. If parents had to fund part or all of the cost of the laptops, those students whose parents could afford it or who were interested enough to seek financial help could provide a bias sample of students (Russell et al., 2004). Random sampling was just not possible in several cases which could indicate skewed results. Another
10 10 weakness found in one study was where the principal chose which teachers would be observed and which students and parents would be interviewed (Weiss & ECS, 2006). Again, this could skew the results in favor of what the principal wanted the outcome to be. One study used trained graduate students who were unaware of the purpose of the study in their class observations and scoring of assessments (Lowther et al., 2003). These blind reviews would help to ensure the validity and impartialness of the results. Overall, the results of the studies were very similar in finding 1:1 laptop programs have many positive impacts on learning and teaching. Although questions were answered within each study, more questions were raised which need continued research. Differences and difficulties in assessing the impact on student achievement still remain and need further study. In conducting this review of literature, I found many interesting results which would be helpful in answering some of the questions about implementing a 1:1 laptop program. This vast undertaking can be done and is being achieved around the world with success. My question of the effect of such a program on student achievement in literacy and math was not directly answered. I was disappointed at the lack of research results linking the use of laptops to student achievement in core subjects. This review has caused me to rethink my initial research question. Because of the many variables which influence student achievement, I am not sure if it is truly possible or necessary to search for a correlation between 1:1 laptop use and test scores. So many more strengths other than increased test scores came out of the research that I had not anticipated; I may need to change my focus from test scores to overall benefits to teaching and learning. Education is such a complex issue; it is so difficult to pinpoint exactly what influences student achievement. Our goal as educators should be to focus on preparing our students to live and work successfully in the future that awaits them. I cannot imagine a learning environment
11 11 which does not include as much technology as possible to meet this task. Yet a common thread amongst most of the studies related the number of laptops was not the crucial issue; it is how the laptops are used that truly makes a difference in learning. This points me in another direction; how much and what kind of professional development needs to be provided to teachers to ensure the most effective and meaningful use of technology in the implementation of a 1:1 laptop program?
12 12 References Grimes, D., & Warschauer, M. (2008). Learning with laptops: A multi-method case study. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 38(3), doi: /ec.38.3.d. Lowther, D., Ross, S., & Morrison, G. (2003). When each one has one: The influences on teaching strategies and student achievement of using laptops in the classroom. Educational Technology Research and Development, 51(3), Retrieved from ERIC database. McMillan, J. H., & Schumacher, S. (2008). Research in education: Evidence-based inquiry (Laureate custom edition). Boston: Pearson. Muir, M., Knezek, G., & Christensen, R. (2004). The power of one to one. Learning & Leading with Technology, 32(3), Retrieved from Education Research Complete database. Russell, M., Bebell, D., & Higgins, J. (2004). Laptop learning: A comparison of teaching and learning in upper elementary classrooms equipped with shared carts of laptops and permanent 1:1 laptops. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 30(4), Retrieved from ERIC database. Shrout, S., Caudill, P., & Munoz, M. A. (2008, September 22). Computer laptops assisting in student success Project 1 st class: Year 4 formative and summative evaluation. Project 1 st Class. Retrieved March 26, 2010, from Warschauer, M. (2005). Going one-to-one. Educational Leadership, 63(4), Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.
13 13 Weiss, S., & Education Commission of the States. (2006). The progress of education reform, 2006: Technology in education. Volume 6, Number 6. Education Commission of the States, Retrieved from ERIC database.