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2004 One-to-One Laptops in a High School Environment. Piscataquis Community High School Study

Date: February 2004
Author: Mitchell Research Institute
Affiliation: Senator George J. Mitchell Scholarship Research Institute
Keywords: Maine, high school, rigor, equity, personalization


The Mitchell Institute conducted this research project as part of a grant to Piscataquis Community High School (PCHS) by the Great Maine Schools Project with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This Final Report presents findings from surveys of PCHS students, faculty, and parents; interviews with students, faculty, and administrators; and a review of administrative data from the past three academic years. The study reflects the experience of those involved in the first two years of a one-to-one laptop computing program in a high school environment. The findings are valid for this high school, but cannot necessarily predict the results of a statewide effort.

PCHS is located in Guilford, in rural Piscataquis County, and currently enrolls 285 students in grades 9 through 12. In 2002, every student and teacher at PCHS received a laptop computer to use at home and at school, and the school was outfitted with wireless Internet access.

The school's curriculum is centered on heterogeneous grouping rather than academic tracking, and all students are expected to take a core college preparatory curriculum. This commitment to equity, rigor, and personalization of the curriculum was already in place at PCHS prior to the implementation of the laptop program.

Key Findings:

* Computer Skills and Access to Resources

Strong evidence is found that the PCHS laptop program has improved students' and teachers' computer skills and enhanced access to educational resources.

* Student Motivation and Interest

The findings strongly suggest that the laptop program has improved student motivation and interest in school.

* Quality of Work and Student Achievement

Most students and teachers believe that the laptop program has improved the quality of student work and has had a positive impact on student achievement. At the time of the report, data on test scores and student grades were not available to verify this.

* Interaction among Students and Faculty

The findings indicate that laptops have improved interaction among students and between students and faculty. This mirrors evidence from an evaluation of the statewide middle school laptop initiative, which found that laptops were promoting more student/teacher and student/student collaboration (Lane, 2003).

* Classroom Practices

While there do not appear to have been major shifts in classroom practices since PCHS began the laptop program, there are several indications that some changes have begun to occur.

* Equity

It was found that, while the laptop program has had positive impacts for all students, it has resulted in the greatest improvements for at-risk or low-achieving students. Asked how laptops have affected three groups of students 'traditional', 'at-risk or low-achieving', and 'high-achieving'-- teachers are most likely to indicate that laptops have helped those they consider to be at-risk or low-achieving to make the greatest number of improvements.

* Personalization

One of the potential benefits of one-to-one computing is expanding personalized learning opportunities for students. There are several indications from survey responses that the laptop program at PCHS has improved personalization.

* Rigor

Survey results indicate that the rigor of the curriculum is the area least likely to have been impacted by the laptop program to date. There is evidence, however, that the implementation of one-to-one computing has helped to prepare PCHS students for more rigorous, higher-level learning.

* Disadvantages of the Laptop Program

The survey results do not reveal any glaring disadvantages or complaints about the laptop program at PCHS. Analysis of open-ended survey responses from several PCHS teachers and parents, however, shows that the three most commonly cited disadvantages of the program are:

* potential for distraction in the classroom,

*non-educational and/or inappropriate laptop use by some students, and

* technology failure that interrupts planned class activities.

Source Article: http://www.mitchellinstitute.org/Gates/resources_reports.html