The Keys to a Successful Implementation of a 1 to 1 Laptop Program in K-12 Education

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For the past ten years a debate about the merits of using computers, specifically laptops, has been waging on the capability to improve a student's ability to learn. This has been particularly significant in the past five years for two reasons, the introduction of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, and the dramatic price drops on the equipment itself. No Child Left Behind seeks to improve school and student quality, partly through the use technology (, 2002). The decrease in price of computer equipment made it feasible for even the smallest and poorest schools to connect their students to the Internet. Out of this grew the concept of one to one computing as a realistic option for schools looking to educate their students in the 21st century. Studies show that school attendance rises, and students are more motivated, but there is little data to show meaningful improvement academically for students participating in 1 to 1 computing programs. These initiatives are being hampered by the lack of a uniform "roadmap" to implementation. Proper implementation is the key to seeing technology drive whole school improvement. I have determined there are five factors that result in success of a 1 to 1 program. These factors are Financial Support, Professional Support, Administrative Support, Technical Support, and Vision. It is my argument that all five of the factors must be in place in order for a 1 to 1 program to succeed.

Critics of 1 to 1 learning, point to two main factors that support their assertion that laptops do not belong in classrooms, the lack of data supporting an improvement in student achievement, and the cost. Many also see laptops as expensive toys that do nothing, but distract students from the task at hand. Some of these students have complained of headaches, sore eyes and wrist pain (Craig, 2002). The lack of data supporting the benefit of technology in the classroom continues to be an issue. In 2001, Angrist and Lavy found that the use of computers in Israeli schools showed there to be no correlation between computer-based education and test scores (Craig, 2002). There are several studies that correlate the same conclusion, that computers do not improve test scores. It is important to note that because of the presence of NCLB, that the ubiquitous use of computers in the classroom is the improvement of learning and thus the rising of test scores. However, most of the research done into the effectiveness of laptops in the classroom is not conclusive. Much of the research is neither very current, nor placed under a control (Lowther, Ross, & Morrison, 2003, p. 26). As 1 to 1 programs become more common in public schools, the research into their effectiveness will become more refined. eSchool News recently surveyed more than 2,500 school systems in the U.S. with at least 4,000 students, more than 23 percent said they are implementing 1-to-1 (Hayes, 2006). This is compared to a similar survey conducted during the 2003 – 2004 school year that found just 4 percent were investigating a form of 1 to 1 computing (Hayes, 2006). As this trend rises, it should provide further data and better methods to implement 1 to 1 programs successfully. In my opening paragraph, I indicate that part of the reason 1 to 1 programs are becoming more prevalent in public schools is because of the dramatic drop in price of laptops over the past five years. 1 to 1 programs that began during the 1990's were exclusively in post-secondary institutions and private schools. A standard laptop for educational use in 1998 could retail for over $3,000, but in 2003 a laptop for use in education could be found for $1,000. Obviously there is still a cost, but it is moving in a positive direction that promotes equitable access to technology.

Financial support is the factor that takes a 1 to 1 initiative from the drawing board and into the classroom. 1 to 1 programs seek to achieve the altruistic goal of better educating students, but...
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