Breaking the Mold: An Educational Perspective on Diffusion of Innovation/Adoption of 1:1 Laptops
By Lisa Gestrine
Overall, there are many challenges to a 1:1 student laptop initiative. Without long term planning, discussion about funding, proper administrator and teacher training, consistent resources and support for teachers, and positive support and willingness from teachers, a 1:1 student laptop initiative will not be successful. The most crucial part of introducing laptops into education is making sure that they are being integrated correctly in each classroom. In this chapter Gestrine discusses 1:1 laptop integration focusing on the concept of integration and diffusion, reasons behind this initiative and offers her professional experience with 1:1 laptops.
1:1 Laptop Integration
In the past two decades there has been a paradigm shift in education. Technology integration has been a major part within the paradigm shift. Technology integration is defined as teachers using technology to develop students’ thinking skills (Hew & Brush, 2006). Technology integration has shifted the way education is taught. In the fall of 2008 only six districts in the state of Iowa had a 1:1 student laptop initiative in place. But, as of 2011, Iowa now has close to one hundred schools with a 1:1 student laptop initiative in place (McLeod, 2011). With this drastic change in education, problems have surfaced. Many districts decide to convert their school to a 1:1 school, but they do not give adequate resources and training to teachers. Many teachers are told to use computers, but they are unsure of how to use them in the most effective way for their students. In many cases, the laptops become a glorified word processor and used for nothing else. A case study done on 1:1 student laptop initiatives found six barriers that are keeping the innovation from fully integrating and diffusing into schools. The six barriers are (Hew & Brush, 2006):
- Knowledge and Skills
- Attitudes & Beliefs
- Subject Culture
All six of these barriers play a factor in why the integration of 1:1 laptops in schools has been a difficult and long process. Many teachers are reluctant to this innovation because of their attitudes and beliefs. Teachers who viewed technology as merely ‘‘a way to keep kids busy,’’ did not see the relevance of technology to the designated curriculum. Computer time was commonly granted after regular classroom work was done and as a reward for the completion of assigned tasks (Hew & Brush, 2006). Change is never easy, and the integration of the 1:1 student laptop initiative has been a slow process. If integration is to happen, certain problems have to be addressed and certain resources have to be offered.
In order for a 1:1 student laptop initiative to be integrated in a school, there are many initial steps that need to happen. There has to be strong support at all levels of the district. If there is no support from the teachers, the initiative will not be successful because the teachers will not want to teach it. But if there is no support at the administration level, the initiative will not even begin to be integrated. Long term Funding also needs to be planned out in advance. A 1:1 student laptop initiative is a very huge expense for schools, and if the budget is not planned accordingly, the initiative could be threatened by budget cuts. Partnerships inside and outside of the school need to be formed. If partnerships outside of the school can be formed, those partnerships can be used for resources and support for a new innovation in a school system. Partnerships within a school can be beneficial, as well, because those partnerships can also be used for resources and support for a new innovation as well as help continue the innovation by being a resource and support system for teachers if needed. Another initial step to take before taking on a 1:1 student laptop initiative is to plan out the logistics. The school district needs to decide what age groups will benefit the most with 1:1 laptops, whether will the students be able to take the laptops home, what happens if a laptop is broken, what should the laptops be used for, and so on (Bonifaz & Zucker, 2004). If a 1:1 student laptop initiative is going to be enforced in a school, parents, teachers, other schools, and the community will have questions. All of the logistics need to be sorted out before integration starts to happen. After these first main steps are completed, the integration process can begin.
Integration of 1:1 student laptop initiatives is a slow process. Three reasons for this include teacher training, distribution of computers, and funding (Russell, Bebell, & Higgins, 2004). Funding is a main reason for many schools and districts as of why they have not adopted this type of initiative. In order to run and maintain a 1:1 student laptop initiative, it costs $0.93 per day per laptop. But, that cost does not include teacher training, technical support, and software for the laptops (Barrios, 2004). In regards to teacher training, many schools do not provide the resources for teachers to learn how to properly implement laptops within their classrooms. Valiente states:
- Teachers need a clear vision of what the learning goals of these initiatives are. Availability of computer technology alone will have little or no impact on the intellectual challenge of teachers‟ lessons or the students‟ styles of learning. It seems very clear that simply providing schools with computers is not enough to increase student achievement or to change the nature of instruction and learning (Valiente, 2010, p. 8).
Many teachers that have been teaching for multiple years are very reluctant to change to something such as a 1:1 student laptop initiative. If teachers start out reluctant to a new integration and have no resources or training, an integration such as this will not be as beneficial to students or will not be fully integrated. In order to aid teachers with the integration process, the training needs to start with the administration. If a school district is expecting their teachers to learn a new technology, the administration needs to be a resource that teachers can go to for help and support. According to Inan & Lowther (2010):
- Overall support for school technology coming from key stakeholders, including teachers, staff, administrators, students, parents, and the community, has often been considered to be a critical component of a successful laptop integration effort (Inan & Lowther, 2010, p. 938).
Once the administration is properly trained, then they can get the proper training for the teachers, act as resources for the teachers, and find other resources for the teachers to utilize as well. Along with the administration being resources, school districts can partner with local universities or education organizations such as the state Area Education Agency (AEA). Many times these resources are free and can be a huge benefit for a school. Professional development also needs to be flexible (Bonifaz & Zucker, 2004). If teachers already feel reluctant towards a new innovation, requiring them to attend a professional development event at a certain time can make the innovation feel even more forced. By having the professional development be flexible within a certain time frame, teachers will be able to approach it when they are ready, creating more open mindedness towards the innovation.
Training not only needs to be flexible and required for teachers and administration, but it needs to teach technology integration, not just technical skills. Bonifaz and Zucker (2004) state:
- Teachers participating in one-to-one projects agree that in order to make the transition to ubiquitous computing, they need assistance integrating technology into the curriculum, not only help developing new technical skills (Bonifaz & Zucker, 2004, p. 7).
Along with the flexibility of training and the type of training, the quality of training is the most important. Resources and training support needs to be available at all times. Many schools make the mistake of having training at the beginning of a 1:1 student laptop initiative, but if teachers don’t have resources and support through the whole integration process, the innovation will not be successful because a beginning training can only teach so much. Teachers have to be continuously trained and know they have support throughout the whole process so they can continue to learn and integrate in hopes of reaching diffusion (Inan & Lowther, 2010).
Training can affect the way teachers think about technology integration and 1:1 laptops in education. If schools give teachers a positive experience with a new initiative, then they will think more positively about the change. Teachers' perceptions of technology and how can it be used in the classroom greatly affect the integration process. The decision of how to use technology ultimately depends on the teachers, and with proper training, teachers will know how to properly integrate technology and have positive thoughts about the change in the school resulting in full integration leading to diffusion (Inan & Lowther, 2010).
After several years of the integration process of innovation, diffusion starts to slowly happen. Integration has been successful and the innovation has been diffused when using the laptops is not out of the ordinary and is part of the daily routine of students and teachers. Diffusion of 1:1 laptops in the classroom can have many benefits such as being able to post information online, instant feedback to students, and collaborative learning (Campbell & Pargas, 2003).
In order for diffusion to happen as well, classroom management with technology integration is crucial. Classroom management is one of the most important factors that influences student learning. Hew and Brush (2006) state:
- In a technology-integrated classroom, teachers need to be equipped with technology-related classroom management skills such as how to organize the class effectively so that students have equal opportunities to use computers, or what to do if students run into technical problems when working on computers (Hew & Brush, 2006, p. 228).
During the diffusion process, motivation and support of utilizing the laptops needs to continue. For both pre-service and veteran teachers, professional development and support is needed to move beyond “the novice uses of technology” over time (Reinhart, Thomas, & Toriskie, 2011). Such support could mean that a technology facilitator or coordinator is hired for the district. A technology coordinator can be a resource for teachers to help them implement technology in their classrooms appropriately, troubleshoot any technological problems a school may have, or provide assistance to the administration in regards to technology. Reinhart, Thomas, & Toriskie (2011) state:
- Technology facilitators can provide the additional professional development that teachers need. Technology facilitators also provide regular, accessible support for the use of technology in their classrooms. The inclusion of a technology facilitator/coordinator in the school's staffing plan is ideal (Reinhart, Thomas, & Toriskie, 2011, pg. 4).
In order to properly diffuse a 1:1 student laptop initiative the most important thing that is needed is support in some way. Support, as mentioned above, can come from a technology facilitator or a technology coordinator, but support also needs to come from the administration in order to keep the teachers positive about technology. If teachers feel comfortable with using the technology and know they have support if something were to go wrong, I believe teachers will use the laptops more and more, eventually making the technology an everyday tool that students use.
Why 1:1 Student Laptop Initiative
Technology is known to have many positive effects on students. Laptop integration is known to keep students more engaged in their learning, promote collaboration between students, and decrease disciplinary problems within classrooms. Russell, Bebell, and Higgins (2004) found that students’ motivation was higher. They also found that students who were in a 1:1 laptop classroom that their behaviors at home changed as well. Students reported spending less time at home watching television and more time on homework when they were provided with laptops (Russell, Bebell, & Higgins, 2004).
A 1:1 student laptop initiative does not just benefit students. Research done by Dunleavy, Dexter, and Heinecke (2007) has found that such an initiative has made a positive change in teachers as well.
- Teachers report designing lessons that are more student-centered and constructivist, allowing for less lecturing and more facilitating or guiding students in the learning process (Dunleavy, Dexter, and Heinecke, 2007, pg. 441).
Their research has also found that teachers who are integrating laptops are increasing the instructional period time because they can use the laptops in cross-curricular projects, increasing the amount of time students can learn each subject. Teachers are also able to receive and give instant feedback to their students, informally or formally assess students at a quicker pace, and keep track of student progress in each subject area (Dunleavy, Dexter, and Heinecke, 2007).
Personal Experience with 1:1 Laptops
As an undergraduate student at Iowa State University, I got the opportunity to job shadow a technology coordinator at a local district as well as do minor research at another local school in regards to the integration of 1:1 laptops within their school. The first local school I did research at was a very small school near Ames, Iowa, and they were early adopters of 1:1 laptops. Every fifth grade student was granted the opportunity to have a laptop for school that they could take home and utilize. The one project I was able to see all the way through from planning to assessment was an exotic animal research project. Students were using specific websites to research animals that they had never heard of. Throughout their research they had to answer specific questions made by the teacher, and they had to find an online picture of their animal as well as draw one on the computer. Students were fully engaged with this project. I saw a huge improvement with classroom management with this specific class. Students had less trouble focusing, and they were intrigued by what they were learning because it was new information. If they did not have the computers, they would not have been able to research about these exotic animals because many animals were not typical animals a teacher would see in an encyclopedia or animal book. Being an early adopter, I interviewed a fifth grade teacher about her feelings switching to a 1:1 classroom. She had many concerns because they were not provided with professional development, they just decided to switch to a 1:1 laptop initiative to make their school more marketable for a child’s education. The teacher also stated that many other school districts tour their school to observe a 1:1 classroom, but she doesn’t know how to answer their questions because she is unsure about many things herself. This experience shows the importance of training and resources for teachers through the integration and diffusion process. Without resources, many teachers could become frustrated or lost in this case because of lack of knowledge about a 1:1 atmosphere. If the proper training was established in this specific experience, the teacher could have been a great resource and leader in the field of 1:1 classrooms for other teachers that observe her.
My second experience was much different when I received the opportunity to job shadow a technology coordinator at a near by district. This person was in charge of trouble shooting, helping teachers integrate technology, and teaching certain computer classes. During my time, I was able to sit in on a meeting with the administrative board when they were discussing their school changing to a 1:1 laptop initiative. Many members of the administration were on board and ready to make the change the following year. But, the technology coordinator brought to their attention many flaws they had yet to figure out, such as budget planning for items besides the computers, teacher training, which grades would have the 1:1 atmosphere, and what role parents would play in the switch. This experience proves that many school districts want to become a 1:1 laptop school because of the technology growth. But, before any school makes the change, they have to have a strategic plan in place, have resources ready and available for teachers, and have training set up for teachers and the administration before the integration process begins with the students.
I personally am an advocate for 1:1 schools. Throughout my experience as a teacher, researcher, and intern, I have seen the benefits that technology has on a classroom. Not only are students growing up with technology, but they are more engaged and enjoy learning with technology. When I brought iPads in for one day for a fourth grade class I was teaching, they enjoyed the technology so much that every day after, they asked when they could use the iPads again. With a 1:1 atmosphere, each child will be able to receive access to technology at any time and shifts will not have to be taken so each child gets a turn with a computer. Our world is changing, and I believe education has to change with our changing world because if it doesn’t, we are not successfully preparing students to be ready for the ‘real world.’ Educators should not worry so much about their fears about using technology, but put their students first and think about what is best for each and every one of their students.
Overall, there are many challenges to a 1:1 student laptop initiative. Without long term planning, discussion about funding, proper administrator and teacher training, consistent resources and support for teachers, and positive support and willingness from teachers, a 1:1 student laptop initiative will not be successful. The most crucial part of introducing laptops into education is making sure that they are being integrated correctly in each classroom. After laptops are integrated over a long period of time, the laptops will become diffused within the education, becoming a norm for students and teachers. In order for diffusion to happen, resources need to be provided to the teachers and staff. Teachers will be able to give students instant feedback, promote collaborative learning, and post information online to keep parents updated with weekly news and have students access information at home from their computers. A 1:1 student laptop initiative has been shown to keep students more engaged and decrease disciplinary problems within the classroom. Teachers are increasing instructional time, giving and receiving instant feedback, and assessing students formally and informally at a quicker pace. Many positive effects come from a successful integration and diffusion process. I am very happy with the growth of 1:1 schools, not just in Iowa, but around the United States, because there are so many positive benefits of technology in a classroom. In order to make the change a positive experience for educators and to keep the growth a positive growth for education, schools need to take the appropriate actions before making the decision to become a 1:1 school.
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