According to a study released this week by SRI International and EDC, an overwhelming majority of grade 6-12 teachers and students in the Henrico County, Virginia public school district have benefited from the use of laptop computers. The Henrico County program has provided 25,000 laptops to students and teachers and is the largest single district “one-to-one computing” initiative in the United States.
In one survey conducted as part of the study, 97% of mathematics and science teachers reported that the computers have helped students to learn these challenging subjects, and 59% report that the laptops have helped “a lot” or “a great deal.” Also among the study findings:
- Teachers report that the laptops have had “positive” or “very positive” impacts on both gifted students and students with learning disabilities as well as on typical students
- More than 80% of students reported that it is “helpful” or “very helpful” to have a computer to use for their schoolwork.
- Teachers report that the computers have had “positive” or “very positive” impacts on students’ engagement and interest levels, the teachers’ interactions with students, and on students’ ability to work independently.
“The survey results and site visits we conducted in Henrico County provide strong evidence that the initiative is working to strengthen teaching and learning of mathematics and science in the district,” said Raymond McGhee, Ph.D., the research scientist at SRI International who directs the study, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.
As part of the study, researchers interviewed and conducted focus groups with more than 100 students, teachers, parents, and administrators. According to one teacher, “The benefits to students are amazing. The fact that they can see animations on the laptops and see things happening just makes it so much better than a two-dimensional model.”
One school principal expressed that the laptops were especially beneficial for at-risk students. About 25% of the 43,000 students in the district, located near Richmond, are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, a common measure of student poverty, including far higher proportions at some schools. A separate survey conducted for Henrico County by FGI Research reinforced the SRI-EDC findings, showing for example, that the great majority of teachers, parents, and students support the Henrico County initiative, with 86% of thousands of respondents wanting the County’s high school laptop initiative to continue.
District support has been particularly strong. In fact, teachers report strong support by the district for maintaining the computers and related equipment, including the wireless Internet network in each middle and high school. The district also offers extensive professional development to help teachers integrate laptops into instruction. For example, more than 75% of the mathematics and science teacher respondents report taking a technology workshop during the academic year, while 64% report taking a summer workshop. The district also licenses software and Internet resources useful for teaching and learning in various subjects.
“The study shows that Henrico County has provided teachers and students with the supports they need to make the laptop initiative work,” said Andy Zucker, Ed.D., of EDC, who co-directs the NSF grant. “The very positive findings from research in Henrico County, and from related research in Maine, where every 7th and 8th grade student and teacher has a laptop, show that one-to-one computing is feasible on a large scale, and that teachers, students, and parents recognize its value,” said Zucker.
Results from the study were presented at the National Education Computing Conference (NECC) on June 23, 2004.
Originally published on May 31, 2004