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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 adequate funding is necessary. The computers themselves are very expensive, but are only part of the cost of a good program. A school must ensure that a sufficient network exists to support the laptops. A network does not only provide Internet access, but the ability to share information within a class that promotes a sense of collaboration. This backbone must also be scaled to provide features like printing, and security. The advent of wireless technologies has made this process much less complicated, than when early 1 to 1 initiatives required wired network access in order to participate fully in the collaborative nature of anytime, anywhere computing. Proper funding also ensures that initiatives are properly staffed. Staffing is particularly important, as there is a need to reinforce to teachers that they are there to direct the learning process in the classroom. Staff is required to support the initiative in both integration concepts for the classroom, and technical support out of the classroom. If the proper staffing is not in place to support an initiative, a teacher is removed from their role directing learning and into an unfamiliar role repairing computers and networks. This can lead to teachers losing trust in the equipment and pedagogical objectives not being attained. Teachers are often behind students in terms of comfort level with a computer, and it is important to ensure that proper staffing is in place to ensure that teachers can focus on improving their comfort level with the equipment and the resources it provides (, 2006).

Funding converges into the second factor, professional support. Professional support entails giving the teacher the resources necessary to effectively integrate the laptops into regular classroom instruction. While financial support is critical to professional support, it is not the only part that makes a complete professional support program. At the core of professional support is effective professional development. A good professional development program should begin with introducing basic computer skills to teachers and evolve into collaborative, content-based meetings that allow the computer to become an effective tool to further classroom instruction (Arsenault, 2005). Professional support also requires identifying a support structure within school buildings and districts where teachers can find the help they need. This allows teachers to find support "just in time", which helps teachers take risks and try new classroom strategies. Professional support acts as a form of collegiality within a building and acts to better define best practices, as well as what mistakes to avoid (Arsenault, 2005). This spirit of openness seeks to bridge the knowledge gap between teachers and better focus efforts on the development of strong curricular practices.

Technical support is the third factor for success. Technical



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