Tuesday, November 1, 2011

1:1 Laptops are not about Increased Test Scores

"If we implement one-to-one computing, will our standardized test scores go up?" said many school board members when their respective schools were considering a laptop initiative for their students.

Unfortunately, the data is inconclusive. There are some studies that show gains, but some of these studies are minor or narrow. Meanwhile some other studies show no difference. The brightest hope for increased standardized test achievement is in student writing skills. Unfortunately, many writing assessments are subjective. And most national tests do not truly assess writing; it simply does not fit the bubble sheet answer format.

Our school is now in its second year of using one-to-one laptops in grades 4 through 12. I am convinced that laptops can grow standardized test scores. However, I do not believe this is the proper use for them. There are a number of quality software programs that provide students with extra practice that could increase their assessment scores. If a school was to use their laptops for intensive basic skills practice on a daily basis, I am of the opinion that test scores will improve significantly.

But there is a larger question: is this really the best use of expensive laptop computers? Can't the same aim be met if we simply immerse our students in reams of worksheets?

One-to-one laptops are about 21st Century Learning. We use them to promote research and critical thinking to increase higher order thinking skills among our students. We are trying to get our students collaborating with classmates and with students around the world. We want our students using creativity to solve problems. This is education that will prepare our students for the world ahead of them, and this is the way to use a valuable learning tool such as a laptop for each and every student.