Monday, May 31, 2010

What changes occur to teachers’ pedagogy when a one-to-one laptop program is introduced in their classroom?

Much of the literature so far considered, suggests that while teachers' pedagogy varies along a continuum from direct instruction through to construction, exemplary technology integration is found at the constructivist end of the continuum (Ertner 2001). A more apt question may then be: “Do teachers move from direct instruction to constructivist pedagogy when a one-to-one laptop program is introduced in their classrooms?”.
Before considering a response to this question, it is necessary to consider factors that influence teachers' pedagogy. Ertner (1999) argues that the more teachers integrate the use of technology, the more their pedagogy will change. The underlying assumption being that once sufficient technology is provided in classrooms, integration will follow (Ertner 1999; Becker 2000) and that teachers will employ more constructivist pedagogy.  There are however, barriers to this integration. Ertner (1999, p.48) describes factors that limit the integration of technology in the classroom in terms of first order barriers such as lack of computers and teachers' perceived lack of time for planning for technology integration.  Curriculum constraints,  lack of good technology role models amongst peers and lack of support by school leaders may also be added as external factors worth consideration. For example, Ertner (1990) states that teachers have very little experience with integrating technology in classrooms and they typically have few role models on which to build their own visions of an integrated classroom. Second order barriers to integration include teachers beliefs about both education and technology. These beliefs may be influenced by traditional instructional practices including teachers' own childhood schooling experience, teachers' previous experiences with technology in the past, lack of personal technology use, age and gender ( Etherington 2008, p.43 ). Teachers' views about themselves as agents of change, willingness to particpate in self-reflection, staff power relationships and cultural background may also be barriers to integration.
In answer to the question,  “Do teachers move from direct instruction to constructivist pedagogy when a one-to-one laptop program is introduced in their classrooms?”,  Handal (2004) and Judson (2006) state that it is not external factors, such as the introduction of one-to-one computing that changes teachers' pedagogy but internal factors such as teachers' beliefs about the nature of teaching and learning that are the strongest determinant in the degree of change that occurs. Therefore the introduction of a one-to-one laptop program that aims to increase the prevalence of constructivist pedagogy needs to include:
“Reformulating basic school culture notions regarding what constitutes content and content coverage, what comprises learning and engaged time, and even, what behaviours define teaching" (Ertner 1999, p.48).


Becker, H.J., The "Exemplary Teacher" Paper— How It Arose and How It Changed Its Author's Research Program. Available at: [Accessed May 24, 2010].

Ertmer, P.A., Gopalakrishnan, S. & Ross, E.M., 2001. Technology-using Teachers Comparing Perceptions of Exemplary Technology Use to Best Practice. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 33(5).

Ertmer, P.A., 1999. Addressing first- and second-order barriers to change: Strategies for technology integration. Educational Technology Research and Development, 47(4), 47-61.

Etherington, M., 2008. E-Learning Pedagogy in the Primary School Classroom: the McDonaldization of Education. Education Papers and Journal Articles, 6.


Judson, E., 2006. How teachers integrate technology and their beliefs about learning: is there a connection? - Free Online Library. Available at: [Accessed May 31, 2010].

Peggy A. Ertmer, Sangeetha Gopalakrishnan, and Eva M. Ross, 1999. Technology-Using Teachers Comparing Perceptions of Exemplary Technology Use to Best Practice. Available at: [Accessed May 24, 2010].

Friday, May 28, 2010

One-To-One Classrooms

Since the 1960s, computer pioneers such as Seymour Papert (1980) have been advocating the educational value of computers in primary schools. Papert's vision, inspired through meetings with Piaget in Geneva, was for each child to have their own computer. In 1968, Alan Kay (Chen 2008) drew a picture of children with a computer each at a time when computers filled whole rooms. This drawing inspired designers and engineers to create the first laptop computers, which were aimed at the business rather than education market. Clearly these designers failed to recognise Papert's foresight as to the potential for laptops in education and schools.

"More and more I was thinking of the computer not just as hardware and software but as a medium through which you could communicate important things… an instrument whose music is ideas." (quoted in Stager 2003)

Several factors however, have recently meant that one-to-one computing in schools is becoming a reality. In 1990, Methodist Ladies College began one of the first significant one-to-one programs in Australia and industry started to take notice of the potential of the education market. Negroponte's (2005) One Laptop per Child program put further pressure on manufacturers to reduce the price of laptops. Also, the principle of one-to-one laptops being provided to students as a nation building and economic imperative, became manifest in the government policies of Portugal (Intel 2008) and Uruguay, which in turn may have influenced the Australian Federal Government's 2009 Digital Revolution. This implementation of increased computer hardware resources into Australia’s high schools has forced a rapid response from Australian private school systems (in particular).

Such implementation of one-to-one laptops poses many challenges to teachers (Donovan 2007). Although computers have been used in schools for over twenty years, rapid changes in hardware and software and the abandoning of school computer labs in favour of laptops, means that many classroom computer practices have to be revised (Simpson 2000). The training needs and range of technical abilities of teachers is an important political issue as evidenced in the Rudd government's Digital Strategy for Teachers (Digital Revolution 2010). Their announcement, on February 18, 2010 of $40 million in funding to support teachers’ ICT development highlights that this is both a political and educational imperative.

Part of this funding will be to determine how ICT proficiency can best be achieved. Very little research, to date, has focused on ICT professional development for teachers specifically in one-to-one laptop classrooms. Furthermore, in heeding the foresight of Seymour Papert (1980) in his early constructivist vision for laptops in schools, the value of a laptop is not as a tool to support traditional models of schooling, but for extending the natural ability of children to construct, explore and experiment. As such, any professional development preparing teachers for such a classroom context needs to move beyond technical skills or even pedagogical integration to fundamentally challenge and rethink the learning and teaching dynamic which happens in their classrooms.

From a more utilitarian/functionalist perspective, it may be argued that teachers have an obligation to prepare students in the use of technology (Barrett, 2002, p.47), as computers are used extensively in the workplace and society (Carter, 1998), but if one-to-one laptop programs fail to lift levels of engagement and improve learning outcomes, it is difficult to justify the cost. The program will fail to be sustained if teachers and parents do not see any benefits flowing from it. Teachers who are not supported to effectively embrace not just the technology, but the pedagogical strategies that it enables, will inevitably limit the outcomes for the children which they teach.

It would be naïve to suggest that the presence of the devices alone in the classroom lifts levels of student engagement. The devices may provide a brief increase in student interest in school because of their novelty value. However, it seems more likely that teachers' values and attitudes, their pedagogical practices and student-teacher relationships are more important factors in building and sustaining levels of student engagement.

In order to gain a clearer picture of the complex interaction of factors impacting on students and teachers in one-to-one classrooms, the following questions will be considered:

What changes happen to teachers’ pedagogy when a one-to-one laptop program is introduced in their classroom?
How might the changes to their pedagogy be influenced by their values, attitudes and beliefs?
What professional development or learning might best support their effective transition to a one-to-one laptop classroom?
What might be the impact of the introduction of one-to-one laptops and associated pedagogies on the engagement of learners?
How might relationships between teachers and students change in a one-to-one laptop classroom?

The Australian government's Digital Teacher Strategy highlights the importance of professional development of teachers affected by the Digital Revolution one-to-one laptop program. Such professional development needs to be authentic and reflect a thorough understanding of the factors influencing successful use of laptops in the classroom. This study will help provide a more in-depth picture of the nature of related student-teacher interactions with one-to-one laptops and provide recommendations for teacher professional development.


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MultiMedia Schools, 9(4), 46-49.

Carter, M. W. (1998). A portable paradox? Laptop computers and outdoor learning.
The Journal of Experiential Education. 21(1), 14-21.

Charmaz, K. 2000, 'Grounded theory: Objectivist and constructivist methods', in Handbook of Qualitative Research, eds N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln, Thousand Oaks, Sage, pp. 509-535.
Chen, B (2008) The Laptop Celebrates 40 Years. Wired Magazine November 3, 2008

Cohen, L., Manion, L., Morrison, K. (2000). Research Methods in Education (5th ed.). London: Routledge.

Digital Revolution (2010) Digital Strategy for Teachers. Accessed March 13, 2010 from

Donovan, L. (2007). Teacher concerns during initial implementation of a one-to-one laptop initiative at the middle school level. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 39(3), 263-286.

Intel (2008a). Intel Collaborates with Government of Portugal on a comprehensive new education initiative. Accessed June 15, 2009, from

Penuel, W. R. (2006). Implementation and effects of one-to-one computing initiatives: A research synthesis. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 38(3), 329-348.

Livingston, P. (2006). 1-to-1 Learning: Laptop programs that work. Washington: International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

Negroponte, N (2008) One Laptop per Child. Accessed March 8 2010

Papert, S. A. (1980) Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. Basic Books, NY

Phelps, R., Graham, A. (accepted 2010). Exploring the complementarities between complexity and action research: The story of Technology Together. Cambridge Journal of Education.

Phelps, R. (2002). Mapping the Complexity of Computer Learning: Journeying Beyond Teaching for Computer Competence to Facilitating Computer Capability. Unpublished PhD, Southern Cross University, Lismore.

Stager, G.S (2003) School Laptops - Reinventing the Slate District Administration Magazine, March.

Simpson, N. (2000) Studying Innovation in Education: The Case of The ConnectEd Project. AARE Conference Papers.

Strauss, A.  Corbin, J. (1994) 'Grounded theory methodology: An overview', in Handbook of Qualitative Research, eds N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln, Thousand Oaks, Sage, pp. 273-285.