Thursday, February 10, 2011

1-to-1 Laptops are Changing Instruction

What if you were going to see a motion picture in 1931, but your local theater was only showing silent movies because it had not yet figured out how to operate the sound features for the new talking movies? As a customer, would you accept that level of service?

Flash forward eighty years. Students are sitting in a classroom, listening to a lecture, and watching the teacher reveal his notes on an overhead projector. Should these students accept this level of customer service?

One-to-one laptop computing is changing modern classrooms for the better because teachers cannot continue to maintain traditional methodology when their students can do a better job of teaching themselves.

In my last blog I mentioned some research findings that suggest that laptops can improve student achievement. Still the research is spotty. Schools that want to improve standardized test results should not look to one-to-one computing as a solution. However, that does not mean laptop learning is not making a difference in classrooms. Other research is suggesting other benefits, and they include the following:
  • Bridging the digital divide between wealthier students with home computers and poorer students who cannot afford computers (Lemke & Martin, March 2004);
  • Higher student motivation and engagement (Gulek & Demirtas, January 2005);
  • Fewer behavior problems, and increased student attendance (Lemke & Martin, December 2003);
  • Better class participation, and greater homework completion (Silvernail & Lane, February 2004);
  • Computer trouble shooting skills for students (Fairman, 2004);
  • Better parent involvement, interaction, and attendance at school, and greater technology literacy among parents (Lemke & Martin, May 2004); and
  • Increased teacher recruitment, enthusiasm, and retention (Lemke & Martin, May 2004).
I have heard these findings confirmed by colleagues at schools that have implemented one-to-one laptop learning initiatives, and I have seen these borne out in my own school.

Moreover, one-to-one laptops are allowing students to learn and retain at higher levels. The difference laptops are making in learning can be explained using the Learning Pyramid from the National Training Laboratories in Bethel, Maine. The pyramid reveals how content retention is related to the methodology used by the teacher:

Average Retention Rates
  • 5%       Lecture
  • 10%     Reading
  • 20%    Audio-Visual
  • 30%    Demonstration
  • 50%    Group Discussion
  • 75%    Practice by Doing
  • 90%    Teaching Others
Laptop learning changes the classroom dynamic from more traditional passive learning, i.e., lecture, reading, and audio-visuals, to the active learning of practice by doing and teaching others.

And it really does not matter if the teachers fully understand this. The students will demand this, . . . as good customers should.

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