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The Importance of One-to-One Computing for New Brunswick Public

Schools

by

Shane M. Sturgeon
56 Llangollen Road
Moncton NB Canada
E1E 3W5
shane.sturgeon@nbed.nb.ca

Submitted to:
Dr. K. Stevens

In partial fulfillment for:

ED 6590
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John’s, Newfoundland

July 31, 2007


Shane M. Sturgeon The Importance of One-to-One Computing ii

Abstract

One-to-one computing initiatives are becoming increasingly popular throughout the


world. Their integration into classrooms on a one-to-one basis has had positive impacts
on student learning, interest, communication, and technology use to the point that one-to-
one computing can no longer be ignored. The United States of America has been a leader
in North America and is know for their great success with the laptop program in the State
of Maine. However, its next-door neighbor, the province of New Brunswick, has not
followed suit to the same degree. This report will look into the success of various laptop
programs, investigate the significance of student laptop programs, and acknowledge
barriers to entry for one-to-one computing in an effort to highlight the need for New
Brunswick to undertake a full scale laptop initiative for its public school system.
Shane M. Sturgeon The Importance of One-to-One Computing iii

Table of Contents

Abstract…………………………………………………………………………………..ii

Table of Contents………………………………………………………………………..iii

Introduction………………………………………………………………………………1

Why One-to-One Laptop Programs?...............................................................................2

Notable Laptop Programs……………………………………………………………….6

New Brunswick Dedicated Laptop Project……………………………………………10

Barriers to One-to-One Computing Initiatives………………………………………12

Conclusions……………………………………………………………………………...14

References……………………………………………………………………………….16
Introduction

It is evident that technology is playing an increasing role in contemporary life.

Personal computers and mobile phones offer information on demand as well as frequent

communication opportunities through multiple avenues. With help from Web 2.0,

environments like social networking communities and wikis support millennial students

in becoming widely known for their abilities to multitask via electronic environments.

By reflecting the use of technology in contemporary life, education can become

more dynamic and relevant, therefore sparking student interest and motivation (Wilson,

2004). Motivation plays a large role in daily attendance, achievement and engagement,

which in turn contributes to student success. One good way to achieve this reflection of

contemporary life is to provide students with computers on a one-to-one basis. One-to

one computing offers one computer for every student to be used as his or her own

personal learning assistant. When properly implemented and supported, one-to-one

computing programs have been documented as being providing favorable results for all

stakeholders: students, teachers, administrators, and parents. This review will examine

some of the more prominent laptop initiatives as a means to support the value of one-to-

one computing in the classroom.

The 21st century is foreseen as consisting of great quantities of data and

information (Bundy, 2001). Being able to access this data, and more importantly, find

reliable and relevant data, is believed to be even more important than storing it in one’s

memory (Av & Cosgrove, 1997). With the vast assortment of resources made available

through the internet, providing the students with access to this information empowers

them to pursue self-directed learning on demand.


Rapid growth of technology in the classroom has provided access to this wealth of

information as more computers are placed in schools. Interactive white boards are also

becoming popular as they allow the teachers and students to interact by combining the

concepts of blackboards and computers. However, technology integration, in its truest

form, remains limited in many schools, and New Brunswick public schools are no

exception. One-to-one notebook computing initiatives have the potential to remove these

limitations and help provide an improved learning environment in accordance with the

educational tools available via technology.

Why One-to-One Laptop Programs?

Planning and managing a one-to-one computing environment can be an enormous

undertaking. Selecting, purchasing, and setting up software and hardware is not task that

is easily or quickly accomplished. Wireless networks need to be implemented, technical

support staff need to be hired, and educators need to be trained. So, why go through all

of the annoyances of putting this type of program into practice? Pamela Livingston

(2006) provides an interesting response this question:

The digitally enhanced, comprehensively networked world our students


are entering demands it. It’s a world that demands instant access to
information, higher order thinking skills, and the ability to collaborate
over distance. One-to-one provides it all – in spades. It’s not easy, it’s not
straightforward, it’s time consuming and expensive, but it’s the most
important thing we can do for our kids to prepare them for the world to
come.

The diversity offered by laptop computers is unmatched by any other educational

tool. In fact, calling laptops a tool is an understatement considering the functionality it

offers students and teachers. Some educators are even calling them digital teaching

assistants instead of an educational tool. According to Nair, (2000), a tool is an


instrument to help complete a specific task and typically only has one particular use but,

digital learning assistants are tools that support multiple activities, like writing, reading,

researching, editing, and publishing.

Due to their mobile capabilities, notebook computers offer admittance to

information quicker and easier than ever before (Sahl & Windschitl, 2000). With mobile

network access fuelling the need for t answers on demand and instant information in

contemporary life, reflecting this use of technology in education at an early age can

become more dynamic and relevant, therefore sparking student interest and motivation

(Wilson, 2004).

Walker & Rockman (1997) note several advantages for students utilizing laptops

over those who do not. They claim that laptop students spend more time involved in

collaborative work due to the networking abilities of the laptops. Creating shared

network drives and collaborative sites enables students to work in groups even though

they are not in the same room, or country for that matter. Asynchronous relationships,

enabled by networking, also means that students can now work at their own pace on their

own schedule as well.

Walker & Rockman (1997) mention that laptop students produce higher quality

writing as laptops simplify the drafting process. Spelling and grammar tools help

students become more conscious of their mistakes, and since real-time editing has

replaced rewriting multiple drafts of final copies by hand, students are now able to

produce superior writing in shorter allotted times. Improved research analysis skills were

noted by Walker & Rockman (1997) as well. When students are engulfed in true

technology integration, research materials are literally at their fingertips. As research


opportunities increase due to their continuous resource access, students become more

proficient at sifting through mass amounts of information until they find the information

they seek. Frequent use also helps develop student research skills. An increase in self-

directed learning was also noted by Walker & Rockman (1997), and was deemed as being

imperative to motivating students to follow their educational interests.

Academics aside, there is evidence that confirms major social improvements for

schools with one-to-one computing initiatives. Due to their abilities to accommodate

individual learning preferences, laptops have had a very positive influence on student

attitudes in participating laptop classrooms. There is evidence showing the positive

relationship of technology on student involvement and how one-to-one computing

initiatives increase student attitudes toward learning and individualized interest levels

(Sivin-Kachala & Bialo, 2000). However, what often goes unnoticed is the impact that

student motivation has on the entire school atmosphere. Motivated students normally

have less discipline problems than non-motivated students so already, the relationship

between students, teachers, and administrators becomes less fragile. Fewer discipline

issues translates into less effort required for teachers and administrators to implement

measures and prevention tactics for student infractions. As the amount of time required

dealing with negative student behavior decreases, teachers and administrators are

presented with more time to develop alternative programs that were possibly not

available before. For instance, this time could now be used to develop enrichment

programs, intramural programs, breakfast programs, and school clubs.

Another argument for laptops on a one-to-one basis is their mobility. With

wireless network connections becoming the norm, not only at school, but at work,
throughout the community, and in the home, laptops can be used almost anywhere. With

mobility comes access to resources, and this is a key function to technology integration.

With mobility, students can use technology outside the school for various purposes. Not

only can school assignments be completed at home, on the bus, or in the park but,

mobility allows students to pursue their own interests outside of the curriculum through

self-directed learning and exploration.

Having access to a computer lab at noon or during one period per week for a

specific class does not constitute true technology integration. True technology integration

requires technology to be intertwined with all classroom activities by the students and

teachers, and without one-to-one computing, true integration is not possible (Livingston,

2006). With regular access to tools and information allowing constant use of vast

electronic resources, comfort levels, skill levels, and competencies with technology can

all flourish within the students. These increases can translate to improved self confidence

in student’s individual capabilities such as learning, problem solving, and communication

abilities, which can also improve student participation and interest in classroom activities.

Laptop programs have been known to exhibit benefits to teachers as well, and one

of these areas is a strengthened professional relationship between teachers and students.

As students become more independent through laptop-promoted, self-directed learning,

they become less reliant on the teacher. As the curriculum delivery method shifts from

teacher-centered to learner-centered, the role of the teacher becomes that of a facilitator

as opposed to a traditional knowledge-reservoir position. Enabling the students to be

guided toward their strengths and interests, instead of being forced to follow the same

path as the rest of the class, has had an immediate effect on student achievement and
attendance. It is this mentoring approach that is believed to be the most effective method

for one-to-one computing initiatives (Center for Digital Education, 2005, 14).

Another positive effect of laptop programs is the ripple effect created when

teachers become more technically competent with computers and the integration of

technology into their classrooms. Middleton & Murray (1999) show evidence of student

achievement increases relative to teacher use of technology in the classroom. When

compared with traditional, non-computing classrooms, as technology use rose in the

classes, so did student achievement. This finding not only reinforces the value of

computer use in the classroom by the teacher and students but, it also offers great

incentive for any teachers who are skeptical about introducing computers to their

classroom.

Notable Laptop Programs

The topic of one-to-one computing initiatives in public school systems is quite

new but, is quickly gaining momentum with various studies available. The United States

of America is among the leaders worldwide in laptop programs and as of 2004, one in

every six U.S. school districts was involved in student laptop initiatives to some extent,

with the state of Maine leading the way (Rockman, 2004).

In September of 2002, the state of Maine began their one-to-one laptop initiative

by providing every grade seven and grade eight student in the state, and their teachers,

laptop computers (Maine Learning Technologies Initiative, 2005). The Maine Learning

Technologies Initiative has provided many opportunities to gather data and insight on

student laptop initiatives and much of the available data has shown a positive influence of

the laptop initiative. For instance, when collecting data from students in the program,
one middle school study showed evidence of students being more engaged in their work,

more involved in personalized learning, and submitted higher quality work (Rockman,

2004). In a student sample where the laptops were taken away the next year, students felt

the quality of their work and in class productivity decreased (Rockman, 2004). The same

study showed teacher data indicating that the students’ attendance, behavior, and

achievement all made positive progress. These findings were especially prevalent in at-

risk and special needs students (Lane & Silvernail, 2004).

In another study of the Maine laptop initiative, similar positive results were

discovered (Rockman, 2004). Increases in motivation, group work, and peer learning

were recorded, as well as opportunities for personalized learning. Other observations that

substantiated previous student research included improved attendance, fewer disciplinary

referrals, and greater interest in their work. In addition to this, 76% of students indicated

that they enjoyed writing more with laptops than on paper because it was easier to rewrite

and revise as they progressed (Rockman, 2004). This shows that laptop computers had

positive outcomes on core subjects and not simply technology related subjects.

In 2003, the state of New Hampshire developed the Technology Promoting

Student Excellence (TPSE) program that provided one-to-one notebooks to all grade

seven students in six of New Hampshire’s neediest schools. Their goal was to follow the

lead of the Maine notebook program in an attempt to improve student attendance and

behavior, as well as student learning and skill building. The TPSE program reported

similar improvements to that of the Maine program, such as increases in technology use

across the curriculum by teachers and students, student participation, student motivation,

student-teacher interaction, student achievement, and information retention by students


(Bedell, 2005).

MDR: Schools That Fail AYP Are Below Average in Tech Use (Branigan, 2003)

made a correlation between technology use and school success. This article, after

attaining data from www.schooldata.com, claims that K-12 Schools that have failed to

meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) are below average in offering technology

related resources such as laptops and high speed internet access (Branigan, 2003). The

AYP is a measurement to determine student progress in reference to the No Child Left

Behind (NCLB) Act, which aims at having a 100% success rate for students by June of

2014. The direct correlation between offering technology in the classroom and student

progress provides insight to the impact of technology in regards to student academic

progress.

Similarly, the Promise of Ed Tech: Laptops Spur Learning states that when one-

to-one laptop computers and other technologies were used in Virginia English classes,

there were large gains in testing results for the Virginia Standards of Learning tests

(Edwards 2004). This also supports the direct correlation between technology integration

and student achievement.

In 2003, Peace River North, School District 60 in British Columbia implemented

a Wireless Writing Program (WWP) where iBooks were made available to 1150 students

and 37 teachers in 17 schools on a one-to-one basis over an 18 month period. The

rationale of the district was to improve student achievement, learning skills, and

motivation by integrating technology into student writing programs. Their report

concluded that student performance, their classroom attitudes, and their learning

environments all improved dramatically (Jeroski, 2005).


The study states an irregular increase of 18.75% on the 4-point rating scale in

student writing and the increase is attributed to the integration of the laptop program. In

addition to this, over 90% of parents and 75% of students reported improvement in their

children’s attitudes toward school. Perceived increases in writing frequency, meaningful

writing, presentation, and language are also noted (Jeroski, 2005).

Student confidence, particularly in males, increased to the point that drop-out

rates decreased considerably. Previously, many males dropped out of the school system

and were drastically outnumbered by females. Eventually, male-to-female ratios were

restored to the norm in alignment with the demographics, showing evidence that one-to-

one computing can positively affect attendance and success (Jeroski, 2005). Teachers

reported substantial improvements during the WWP, citing providing more choices to

students, increased student feedback on writing, and improved efficiency in the classroom

since the iBooks were implemented (Jeroski, 2005).

Canada’s largest laptop initiative is taking place in the province of Quebec under

the watchful eye of the Eastern Townships School Board (ETSB). Starting in 2002, the

ETSB paid special attention to detail in the planning and implementation of the program

by developing a 208 step process based on information published by past U.S. initiatives.

Unlike many laptop programs, this initiative was not solely based on middle school ages.

Instead, they provided iBooks to all students within the boundaries of the school board

from grade three to grade eleven, which is the last required year for public school in

Quebec. By 2005, over 4700 units were in place throughout the district (Canuel, 2005).

The ETSB report shows similar results to other one-to-one computing programs. Their

provincial standardized testing showed gains in language, math, and reading scores.
(DMI/ELS, 2007).

New Brunswick Dedicated Laptop Project

The New Brunswick Department of Education (NBDOE) has recently been

making a focused effort on improving the use of technology in public schools. Over the

past two years, the NBDOE has focused on teachers by implemented a teacher laptop

initiative (“Province Hands,” 2006), employing the services of Microsoft Exchange

Server for online e-mail access and SharePoint teacher portal environments, increasing

the number of technology mentors, phasing in wireless networks, and purchasing

countless units of technical equipment for classroom use (data projectors, interactive

whiteboards, etc.) in order to prepare teachers for vast improvements regarding

technology integration.

Next, the NBDOE began providing the same services for students. Students

currently have online e-mail access and there are also plans for student portals in

preparation for next the 2007-08 school year. These portal environments offer

tremendous opportunity for students to work collaboratively, have file transfer access

from home to school, and access the expanding license-free media data base that offers

graphics, audio, and video for use in presentations websites, and other projects.

Possibly the most convincing move by the NBDOE to prove their dedication to

technology in education is their involvement in a student laptop initiative. In 2004, the

NBDOE placed laptops in the hands of 500 grade 7 students during phase 1 of a pilot

program and recently, expanded the program to include 3000 grade 7, 8, and 9 students in

27 different schools with a motive to improve academics (“Lord Tories,” 2006). The

pilot project used grade seven as a starting point with the notion of letting the laptops
follow them throughout middle school and onto high school. This is the first time in New

Brunswick history that laptops have been provided to high school students on a one-to-

one basis and was viewed as a major break through.

Six months into this laptop initiative, a study was completed on the impact of the

program and results are consistent with similar programs. In terms of student

satisfaction, 97% thoroughly enjoyed the new program. Many felt that they were more

engaged in their work, more proud of their results, prioritized writing and editing more

than ever, more organized, more interested in school and more involved with group

projects (Fox, Greenlaw, MacPherson, MacDonald, & Wilson, 2005). These results are

difficult to ignore. The laptop initiative has improved grades, attendance, writing, and

technology skills.

In addition to student success, the laptop initiative is improving teacher

performance as well. Teachers reported that the laptops allow them to more readily

prepare instructional materials, research topics, and lesson delivery (Fox et al., 2005).

Teachers found the laptops especially intuitive when dealing with individualized learning

which is detrimental when dealing with special needs students and other unique teaching

situations (Fox et al., 2005). Even with these positive results, New Brunswick

government is still skeptical about further pursuing the program. The New Brunswick

laptop initiative has not been exterminated however, as of July 2007, there has been no

further progress to continuing the program to the rest of the province over the past two

years.

Barriers to One-to-One Computing Initiatives


Educational views are often split when it comes to technology in the classroom.

Often, teachers are onboard and excited about technology in the classroom or skeptical

and cautious about it. With the skeptics come excuses not to implement technology, or

barriers that slow down or even halt technology progress in the classroom. As classroom

barriers are erected, technology progress throughout the school is delayed.

A common complaint is that proper training or professional development has not

been administered. It is crucial that teachers are equipped with the proper technical skills

required for technology integration into the curriculum (Cunningham, 2003). Technology

related professional development is readily available to teachers across North America

however, most of the professional development offered is based on how to use a

particular application instead of how to successfully integrate the application into the

classroom environment (Sandholtz, 2001). For example, a teacher could become a

Microsoft Office User Specialist but, still be clueless as to how to use it effectively with

students or apply it to current curriculum concepts. With computer applications

becoming more and more user-friendly, time and resources are better put to use on

training the teacher how to integrate the technology into their classes as opposed to

simply how to master the computer program.

Even with the overwhelming statistics on the benefits of technology integration

into education, barriers remain and financial obstructions are frequent. Arguments are

often made that too much money is being spent on computers in education but there are

remedies for this argument. First of all, computers are getting cheaper all the time while

also getting more powerful. Buying a top of the line computer from last year is now

dramatically reduced in price and for most classrooms, high performance computers are
not necessary for common tasks. Furthermore, there is a slow but steadily increasing

movement that supports open source software, which is free non-commercial software

that shares its code in order for users to upgrade and improve the product. Websites like

http://sourceforge.net/ and http://portableapps.com/ offer access to many free

applications. In addition to the price, other benefits include frequent updates, beta

testing, and no spyware or adware. The application themselves include office

applications, photo editing, system tools, and countless others.

Spawning from open source software popularity and stability is the $100 Laptop.

Developed by the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) council, a laptop was created in order to

provide laptops to underprivileged children. The laptops are designed to be used in the

poorest, most remote areas of the world and do not even require electricity as they can be

powered by a crank located on the computer. The computers are made up entirely of free,

open-source software, including a Linux operating system. The machines can be

purchased by governments in order to distribute on a “one laptop per child” basis. This

means that they cannot be stockpiled or given to teachers or administrators so they can be

used solely by the children. They are currently selling for over $150 US per unit but

should be down to their goal of $100 per laptop by 2008. Interestingly, one of the driving

forces behind the project, Nicholas Negroponte states the intent of the project: “It's an

education project, not a laptop project” (n.d.). This statement conveys a message that

laptops are not merely about adding technology to the curriculum, they are about

educating students and supporting their need for technology to learn, not to learn

technology. With advances like this program, finances begin to pale in comparison to

other barriers.
Differences in educational philosophies and beliefs can also create barriers to

technology integration. Within the school itself, true technology integration is impossible

without the cooperation of the school administration. Technology integration requires

various resources and support from the entire staff in order to surround and support the

students in a completely technical environment, and if these cannot be provided for the

initiative, chances are slim that the project will be successful, or even beneficial. Since

many of these resources for public schools are provided by government, Dr. Seymour

Papert believes that laptop initiatives need to start with a “visionary politician” as

opposed to educators (Livingston, 2006, P. 7). This comes as no surprise as many of the

laptop initiatives have been launched by senators and premieres as opposed to teachers or

principals. Furthermore, it was a political move that froze the New Brunswick laptop

initiative in its tracks. The project began as a Progressive Conservative program and

when the government power shifted to a Liberal government in 2006 no progress has

been made.

Conclusion

Although one-to-one computing is still a somewhat fresh subject in technology

education, the idea is growing rapidly and being implemented swiftly by many learning

communities around the world. The research completed on this topic to date has

identified valuable upside to students and teachers participating in technology integration

via one-to-one computing. With students performing, behaving, understanding,

communicating, attending and participating at higher levels than ever before, laptop

initiatives appear worthy of the time, effort, and resources required in order to properly

implement them. The many benefits of one-to-one computing, for students and teachers,
are plentiful and dynamic.

In the past, students were expected to come to school prepared with the basics

learning tools like paper and pencils while the school provided anything else required. In

New Brunswick, this is not the case. Students cannot be expected to provide their own

computers for school due to economic reasons so, the NBDOE needs to join other

educational leaders and provide the necessary resources in order to prepare students for

the 21st Century Skills mindset. Learning communities need to provide the proper tools

for learning (Livingston, 2006).

Political support appears to be the most important ingredient for public schools to

integrate technology and until this support is acquired, New Brunswick is destined to be

left behind other learning communities. Depriving New Brunswick students of the

resources required for success in the digital age is not in the best interest of the province

or its inhabitants. While other students around the world are progressing with technology

throughout society, New Brunswick is lagging by not addressing the issue. This is

especially discerning due to the fact that successful one-to-one computing programs have

already been implemented in Canadian school districts such as Peace River North and

Eastern Townships School Board showing increases in achievement, technology use, and

motivation. One might ask “How New Brunswick might be able to afford such a

computing initiative?” but, a more appropriate question might be “How can New

Brunswick not afford such a computing initiative?”

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