Since our district looks likely to adopt “one-to-one” computing in the not too distant future (see: Creating the Vision for Technology), I’ve taken a look at some white papers and reports discussing its effectiveness.

Interestingly, several of them openly report that issuing laptops to all students helps change traditional teachers into constructivists — I say “openly” because the word constructivism is actually used. Normally constructivist practices are promoted sans the label, which isn’t a draw for parents. But not in this case.

Of course, few parents are going to see white papers extolling the transformative wonders of laptops in the classroom, so that may account for the frank celebration of guide-on-the-sidery.

From a report on Microsoft’s Anytime Anywhere Learning Program :

Laptop teachers show significant movement toward constructivist teaching practices. When we asked teachers to reflect on their practices three years ago and currently, only the Laptop teachers showed statistically significant change toward more constructivist teaching practices. These changes included more frequent uses of student-led inquiry and collaborative work, and also included departures from traditional classroom roles and changes in activity structures. Data from Non-Laptop teachers did not show any significant changes in their practice from three years ago. In a measure of more traditional teaching, Non-Laptop teachers report they employ direct instruction (a traditional practice defined on our questionnaire as the sequence “review, teach, guided practice, individual practice”) almost every day, and that this has not changed at all over the last three years. In contrast, Laptop teachers have moved from employing direct instruction almost every day to about once a week in the current year. However, differences in current practices for Laptop and Non-Laptop teachers on most measures were not statistically significant, though directionally Laptop teachers were slightly more constructivist. The laptop program itself, then, may be acting as a catalyst for change.


For both groups, the large majority of teachers who indicated a change toward more constructivist pedagogy also indicated that computers played a role in that change. When we asked teachers to reflect on changing practice, we also asked them to indicate whether computers had played a role in particular changes, such as using more authentic assessment, allowing themselves to be taught by students, encouraging students to choose their own research areas or explore topics independently, or moving away from direct instruction. In each case, more than four out of five teachers who made a change in such practices indicated that computers played a role in this change; in some cases, one hundred percent indicated a computer role. Computers themselves, then, may be acting as a catalyst for change for both Laptop and Non-Laptop teachers.

Teachers sing about becoming guides on the side