Computing Why We Need This Program and Essay

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Computing: Why We Need This Program and How We Can Implement it Effectively and Efficiently

I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks.

I should say that on the average we got about two percent efficiency out of schoolbooks as they are written today. The education of the future, as I see it, will be conducted through the medium of the motion picture . . . where it should be possible to obtain one hundred percent efficiency.

-Thomas Edison

I think it's fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we've ever created. They're tools of communication, they're tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user, . . . We are not even close to finishing the basic dream of what the PC can be.

-Bill Gates

A quarter of a century ago, discussing the introduction of various technologies (textbooks, chalkboards, radio, film, television) into the classroom, Larry Cuban (1986) pointed out that in many cases teachers had been "inflexibly resistant to 'modern' technology, stubbornly engaging in a closed-door policy toward using new mechanical and automated instructional aids" (p. 2). Had the number of teachers who resisted the introduction of these new technologies been too high, the development of the American school system might have stagnated to such an extent as to make the United States less competitive in scientific and technological innovations as compared to other developed countries. It is necessary to use technology -- in an efficient way, to be sure -- in the classroom as it greatly facilitates learning process. And if the United States is to remain competitive in the realms of science and technology, then developing the most efficient systems of schooling for our children is a must.

"The classroom of the future," as one educational administrator recently argued, "is all about bringing technology to students and teachers integrating the technology into the lessons" (Gorder, 2007). In today's digital world the need for digital advancement has become so important that teachers and administrators are increasingly thinking about ways of integrating students' primary means of communication such as text-messaging, cell phones, iPods, and iPhones into the day-to-day learning process. The most efficient technological tool for students, I argue in this paper, is the laptop. Therefore, it is necessary for schools to adopt 1:1 (one-to-one) computing so that all students take advantage of this useful tool. 1:1 computing, which refers to an "environment in which students use computing devices, such as wireless laptops or tablet PC computers in order to learn anytime and anywhere" ("One-to-one Mobile Computing, 2010"), is a program which helps K-12 as well as college students to improve their writing skills, interpersonal and communication skills, critical thinking skills and the ability to work individually, and, as the research on this question shows, access to laptop makes students more enthusiastic about learning. In this paper, I am going to discuss the benefits of adopting 1:1 computing, challenges and difficulties of implementing the program, and make a few recommendations on how to effectively implement this program.

Research on the effects of 1:1 computing on students' achievements have identified several benefits of adopting this program. Among these are skills required for the 21st century (problem-solving, communication skills, technology literacy, to name a few), improved writing skills, better quality of student work, more refined student attitudes and work habits, greater student motivation and engagement, better student-teacher interactions, greater teacher enthusiasm, improved professional productivity among teachers, positive changes in the learning community, increased involvement of parents as well as the local community, and greater home-schooled communication ("One-to-one Mobile Computing, 2010; Bebell & O'Dwyer, 2010). Obviously, these are not the only effects of 1:1 computing. There are several hazards and challenges involved and some educational administrators have questioned the efficacy of employing 1:1 computing (Norris & Soloway, 2010). Generally, however, research suggests that the benefits of adopting 1:1 computing greatly outweigh its potential problems and hazards.

In the case of South Dakota, which is aiming to provide a computer for every student in high school, the implementation of 1:1 computing largely led to positive results. Introduction of the program to several high schools in 2006 and 2007 demonstrated that the program motivated students to be more engaging, improved student performances on standardized test scores, and attracted more high-achieving students to the high schools. Teachers were also pleasantly surprised to see how their students began to produce lengthier and better quality written works. As summarized by Gorder (2007), the benefits of using 1:1 computing also included:

working from anywhere taking notes electronically using inking anywhere, anytime with the Tablet computer recording lectures and presentations by teachers using voice to complete work assignments being more productive in less time reading and saving important information managing files easily motivating with technology accessing information anytime

Teachers in these high schools also noticed that students began to come to school earlier and the overall attendance had risen sharply. Other researchers found similar results in the upper elementary schools of Andover, a town near Boston (Russell, Bebell & Higgins, 2004).

Illustrative of this positive trend is also the study of a private middle school in southeastern United States by a group of dedicated researchers (Oliver & Corn, 2008). Oliver and Corns' study is based on two-year monitoring of the private middle school before and after the implementation of the 1:1 computing program. They used surveys, private interviews, observations as well as school documentation of students' achievements. The program, according to Oliver and Corn, helped students to develop a more positive attitude towards learning. Students began to use technology for specific subjects such as math and science more frequently, and they used their technology skills for collaborative works such as editing wikis. "In general," Oliver and Corn write, "technology use increased most in math, science, and social studies classrooms, with smaller increases in language arts and foreign language classrooms" (Oliver & Corn, 2008). Oliver and Corn conclude that the introduction of these new technologies to classroom is changing the teacher experience and is likely to change the student experience as well.

According to some other researches, the use of 1:1 technology may be as useful in arts and humanities as it is in hard sciences such as math, physics, and biology. One research which was conducted in an upper-elementary Arts school in southern California, with a mixed population of Hispanics (47%), Whites (28%), Asians (20%), and others (5%), evaluated students' ability to integrate computer technology for English language classroom among 4th-grade students (Suhr et al., 2010). Suhr et al. specifically tried to find out if technology could help students to overcome fourth-grade slump -- the transition period when students move from the stage of learning to read to the stage of reading to learn. The results were largely positive, and Suhr et al. conclude that students participating in the 1:1 computing program outperformed non-participating students in CST (California State Test) ELA (English Language Arts). Laptops helped students to improve their writing and communication skills, and students mostly used their laptops for "writing papers, browsing the Internet, creating presentations (KeyNote), maintaining a personal calendar (iCal), managing photos (iCal), working with movies (iMovie), and taking quizzes" (Suhr et al., 2010).

The United States is not alone in experimenting with 1:1 computing programs. Several highly developed countries such as France, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have been experimenting with it for at least a decade (Inan & Lowther, 2010). The eagerness of these countries to adopt 1:1 computing is grounded on the program's benefits to the classroom environment. Obviously, all of these countries and the United States face various challenges and difficulties in trying to implement the program. One of the major challenges in this endeavor is how to integrate teachers into this program. But the energy and dedication overcoming this challenge may require is certainly worth the price. Inan and Lowther (2010) identified several steps which are necessary for successfully integrating teachers into the program. The most important of these is the overall support coming from teachers, staff, parents, administrators, students as well as the local community. Inan and Lowther note that peer support among teachers is especially important in motivating them to engage the new technology.

Another component of a successful integration of teachers into the program is the availability of technical support. It is obviously very difficult for teachers, not specialized in software training, to keep up with the rapid technological changes. And the laptop tendency to cause technical problems makes teachers reluctant to integrate this technology unless on-site technical support is readily available. The most important component of laptop integration for teacher use is teacher readiness and teacher belief. Research shows that teachers need to have the knowledge and skills, and be ready to learn from technical support staff as well as their peers. Teachers who express willingness and enthusiasm to increase their knowledge of…

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