I found a 2006 article by William Penuel in which he reviewed the 1:1 research. His findings were not so very positive. He found very few studies that had conducted quasi-experimental studies. Now, I am a big fan of qualitative research, but if we want to talk about effect of 1:1, experimental designs ought to be part of the picture. Unfortunately, they are only a small slice.
He grouped these experimental conclusions into 3 categories.
1) Studies pointed to 1:1 being better implemented than fewer computers per student. Makes sense, but doesn’t tell us anything about student benefits.
2) Studies that claimed 1:1 laptop initiatives increases students digital literacy. This also makes sense, but only if limit “digital literacy” to computer skills. Sure this is important, but certainly not the point of education.
3) Studies that claimed the laptop initiatives increases students writing. Great! Oh wait, the studies didn’t use an appropriate experimental design so their claims aren’t actually very robust. In Penuel’s words:
We identified four separate studies that reported positive effects of laptop pro-grams on students’ writing skills (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005; Light et al., 2002;Lowther & Ross, 2003; Lowther et al., 2001). However, none of these stud-ies used a pretest to determine whether students had actually improved theirwriting skills over the course of the study. Therefore, although several studiesreported positive effects, the research-based evidence that laptop programs canimprove writing is somewhat less strong than research-based evidence of effectson technology use and technology literacy.