digital nation - life on the virtual frontier

The Class of the Future

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photo of a one-to-one laptop classroom

By 2000, approximately 1000 American schools used variations of one-to-one programs, totaling over 150,000 laptops. One-to-one initiatives have continued to grow in number and size across the United States over the past 10 years, and students and teachers have generally expressed enthusiasm for the projects.

Pilot Program

In the late 1990s, Maine governor Angus King used a $70 million budget surplus in 2000 to launch the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), the nation's first statewide one-to-one program. Despite initial skepticism from some legislators, by the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year, every 7th- and 8th-grade student and teacher in Maine's 239 middle schools -- about 37,000 people in all -- had received a laptop.

While more than 70 percent of Maine teachers believe that laptops have had a positive impact on their students' learning, as of 2007, overall performance on the 8th grade Maine Education Assessments (MEAs) had not changed appreciably since the inception of the laptop program. But five years after the initial implementation, students' writing scores on the MEAs had significantly improved. An average student in 2005 scored better than approximately two-thirds of all students in 2000. Furthermore, students scored better the more extensively they used their laptops in developing and producing their writing.

Despite the recession, Maine is expanding its laptop program to include every public school student in grades 7 through 12 by fall 2009. This would provide students at all 120 of Maine's high schools, along with 241 middle schools, a new Apple laptop for approximately $242 per computer per year. The new lease is expected to cost the state about $25 million per year.



photo of a one-to-one laptop classroom

The America's Digital Schools (ADS) 2008 report identified widespread adoption of one-to-one computing programs and the growing use of online assessments among the key trends in education technology. Of the one-to-one districts surveyed in the report, 78 percent reported "moderate to significant improvement" in student achievement as a result of the program, compared with just 30 percent in 2006.

However, the report also found several troubling trends: many schools are not using software resources to their full potential; implementation of these and other technologies leaves little funding for new initiatives; and bandwidth issues are limiting the scope of interaction students can have with technology.

Ultimately, the biggest factor for successful programs is not the laptops themselves, but rather the way they are implemented. Studies have found that teacher training, strong leadership and technical support are critical for successful implementation. Moreover, laptop programs need to align with curriculum standards. If not implemented properly, programs can pose unique challenges and barriers, such as management problems, increased teacher workload and increased program costs.


posted February 2, 2010

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