Synthesis of 1:1 Research – Not so positive

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 their
writing skills over the course of the study. Therefore, although several studies
reported positive effects, the research-based evidence that laptop programs can
improve writing is somewhat less strong than research-based evidence of effects
on technology use and technology literacy.
We want so badly to believe technology is going to be a key to creating a better learning experience for kids.  Yet, I don’t see the research to support it.  Let me be clear.  I’m not anti tech use.  I am against the anti intellectualism that pervades edtech discourse.  I am also against the way the edtech discourse continues to ignore the role of the teacher – until someone calls you on it.  So i’ll keep calling you on it.
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One Response to Synthesis of 1:1 Research – Not so positive

  1. Jeremy Haugen says:

    There is some interesting research on 1:1 with children of poverty. Wish I had a citation for you…
    Anyway, seems that test scores for children of poverty go in the toilet for the first three years of being in a 1:1.
    No clear reason, perhaps its a distraction, perhaps it’s seen as only a communication/entertainment tool.


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