Wednesday, October 31, 2007

As simple as a laptop?

I am a fan of using technology to enhance learning for students. I truly believe that the tools that we are provided on the web will engage students, are authentic to the world that awaits them, and in many ways are tools they are already familiar with. You can really focus on the content if student have mastered the tools.

So I was interested to read study that was done as a result of Maine's program to give every student a laptop computer. According to the Boston Globe article, the program sought to eliminate the "digital divide" between wealthy and poorer students and provided more than 30,000 computers to seventh and eighth grade students in public schools in 2002 and 2003. The study focused on the results of the Maine Educational Assessment to see if the standardized test scores backed up the perception that the laptops helped improve student writing.

The results?
- 49% of eighth graders were proficient in writing in 2005, up from 29% in 2000
- math scores remained unchanged, while science went up 2 points
- reading scores dropped 3 points

Additionally, teachers noted that the writing improvement was the same whether the students used the laptops or pen-and-paper - apparently the good habits of writing transferred over.

The study has me wondering - was it really the laptops? Did teachers change how they taught writing? I wonder what the students say about writing before and after the laptops - is it easier, more fun? Why an increase in writing and not in reading?

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