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2004 Trading Roles: Teachers and Students Learn with Technology; Maine Learning Technology Initiative Research Report #3

Date: 2004
Author: Janet Fairman
Affiliation: Maine Education Policy Research Institute, and The University of Maine
Keywords: teacher attitudes, student attitudes, teaching, learning


The Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) is a state-wide program that provides wireless laptop computers to all seventh- and eighth-grade students and teachers. This paper describes the author's analysis of data from a state-wide evaluation conducted during the first year and a half of the program. The data include: 301 interviews with administrators, teachers, students, and parents from 23 schools across Maine; state-wide surveys of teachers, students, and technology coordinators; and 22 classroom observations from 7 schools.

Research questions:

* What role changes do teachers and students describe as resulting from laptop use in the classroom, and what benefits do they associate with these changes?

* How do teachers structure learning tasks differently as a result of laptop use?

* What broader shifts in pedagogy and instructional approach do teachers report?

Key Findings:

* Students' role as "teachers" of technology generally took two forms: students helping/teaching other students in the classroom or school, and students helping/teaching teachers or other adults in the classroom or school.

* Teachers from both pilot and non-pilot schools described how their role in the classroom had shifted as a result of laptop use. They characterized this shift as moving away from the role of "keeper of the knowledge" to one of "learner" within a "community of learners" in the classroom.

Perceived Benefits of Role Shifts and Instructional Changes:

Benefits for Students:

* Confidence, self esteem

* Increased interaction with adults

* Increased collaboration with peers

* Increased student impact on learning tasks

* Increased opportunities for individualized learning

Benefits for Teachers:

* Teachers' technology knowledge and skill

* Help with technology questions, problems

* Classroom management

Benefits for Classrooms and School Communities:

* As teachers became more aware of students' technology skills and involved students to a greater extent in helping and teaching others, students gained more respect from teachers and other staff members in the school. Greater respect for students' technology skills could translate to greater respect generally between teachers and students in the school, and more positive forms of interaction and collaboration.

* Students who traditionally held more marginal positions, socially or academically in the classroom or school, gained greater respect from their peers and a sense of equity. Teachers saw evidence that the laptops helped students to "build bridges" across the barriers of academic ability, disability, gender, social grouping, and grade level.

* In recasting their role as "learners" with students, teachers encouraged the development of "communities of learning" in the classroom, and a shared sense of excitement in the learning process. By showing students that it is natural not to know all things, to be curious, and to learn by exploring and sharing, teachers were modeling positive attitudes toward learning and a practical approach to the learning process.

* As teachers used the laptops as a vehicle for making broader changes in instructional practice, such as collaborative, interdisciplinary, and inquiry approaches to learning, they modeled new ways of thinking about teaching and learning for their peers. Although teaching remains highly idiosyncratic, the kinds of collaboration that teachers engaged in to incorporate technology into their practice could easily lead to school-wide changes in classroom practice.

Source Article: http://www.usm.maine.edu/cepare/pdf/mlti/MLTI%20Phase%20One%20Evaluation%20Report%203.pdf