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A case study of one-to-one laptop initiatives in midwest public high schools

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Jeff Eugene Danielsen
Abstract:
The purpose of this case study was to discover the types of leadership policies and practices that make one-to-one laptop initiatives sustainable in three schools in South Dakota and Kansas. In order to implement a one-to-one initiative, administrators must determine what needs should be met ahead of the implementation. The needs may include budgetary changes, infrastructure decisions, professional development issues, and policies. The researcher conducted 20 on-site interviews of stakeholder groups including superintendents, principals, technology coordinators, teachers, and school board members to learn about their perceptions concerning the one-to-one laptop initiative. Other data collected included demographic review of the district, a professional development calendar, a sample of curriculum projects, a copy of procedures and policies related to the laptop project, and any previous surveys done by the school district concerning stakeholder satisfaction with the one-to-one laptop initiative. Data were analyzed horizontally and vertically to create an in-depth, thick description of each of the school sites. Themes emerged regarding the practices and procedures schools utilized when implementing a one-to-one initiative. Processes followed in planning and implementing a one-to-one laptop initiative varied among the three school districts. Stakeholders most often reported vision of the administration, a clear plan for financing and implementation, engagement of students and staff morale, 21st century learning, and the changing role of the teacher and student as influences of one-to-one computing. Common themes across all three sites included (a) school leaders' need to establish the clear vision and put in the policy and procedure necessary to support a one-to-one initiative, (b) administrators need to plan for both initial intensive professional development along with an ongoing support system of professional development when implementing a one-to-one initiative, and (c) the school district needs to make a local fiscal investment to both initial and ongoing financing in order to implement the one-to-one laptop initiative.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Page Abstract ii Doctoral Committee iv Acknowledgments v List of Tables xi Chapter 1. Introduction 1 Purpose of the Study 2 Significance of the Study 4 Definition of Terms 4 Limitations of the Study 5 Delimitations of the Study 5 Organization of the Remainder of the Study 6 2. Review of Related Literature and Research 7 Status of Technology in Schools 7 One-to-One Computing 9 Change in Schools 15 Technology Staff Development 20 Administrators and Technology Initiatives 26 Impacts on Student Learning 29 Summary 30 vi

3. Methodology ...32 Purpose of the Study 32 Review of Related Literature and Research 33 Qualitative Research Design 34 Ethics and Qualitative Research 35 The Role of the Researcher 36 Purposeful Sample 37 Data Collection Procedures 37 Number of stakeholder interviews 39 Data Analysis 40 Verification of Data 41 Summary 42 4. Findings and Analysis 43 District Visits and Interviews 43 Findings 44 School District A 44 History and origin of the one-to-one laptop initiative 44 Financing 45 Staff development 45 Policies 46 Plans to continue 46 Classroom practices 47 Impacts on learning 47 vii

Challenges and obstacles faced 49 Stakeholder satisfaction 49 School District B 51 History and origin of the one-to-one laptop initiative 51 Financing 52 Staff development... 52 Policies 53 Plans to continue 54 Classroom practices 54 Impacts on learning ..54 Challenges and obstacles faced 56 Stakeholder satisfaction 57 School District C 58 History and origin of the one-to-one laptop initiative 59 Financing 60 Staff development 60 Policies 60 Plans to continue 61 Classroom practices 61 Impacts on learning 62 Challenges and obstacles faced 63 Stakeholder satisfaction 63 Features of One-to-One Schools 65 viii

Vision for the One-to-One Initiative 65 Preparing for 21st Century 68 Professional Development 70 Professional development 71 Summary 72 5. Summary, Conclusions, Discussion and Recommendations 73 Summary 73 Review of Related Literature and Research 74 Methodology 77 Findings 79 Conclusions 80 Discussion 81 Recommendations for Practice 83 Recommendations for Further Study 84 References 85 Appendixes A. Superintendent Letter and Consent to Participate in Research - School District 92 B. Participant Letter and Informed Consent Statement 96 C. Semi-Structured Interview Protocol for Superintendents 99 D. Semi-Structured Interview Protocol for Principals, Teachers, Technology Coordinators, and School Board Members 102 E. Field Notes Protocol 105 ix

F. Member Check Example 108 G. External Auditory Feedback Form 110 x

List of Tables Table Page 1. Numbers of Stakeholders Interviewed by District 40 2. Stakeholder Satisfaction Levels of One-to-One Initiative for District A 50 3. Stakeholder Satisfaction Levels of One-to-One Initiative for District B 58 4. Stakeholder Satisfaction Levels of One-to-One Initiative for District C 64 5. A Description of One-to-One Initiatives by School 65 6. A Description of One-to-One Professional Development by School 72 XI

1 CHAPTER 1 Introduction Computers have now been in our schools for at least three decades, and schools have continually looked for a way to attain one computer for every student. Since 2000, many different schools and even whole states have begun initiatives to give every high school student a laptop. Most recently, the state of South Dakota began a program called, "Classroom Connections," whereby schools could apply to the state for financial assistance to help distribute laptop computers to every student in high school. As part of this program, school districts pay two-thirds of the cost and the state pays one-third of the cost of each machine (South Dakota Department of Education, 2009). The state of Maine was the first state in the nation to offer a full-scale rollout of the laptops for middle school students in 2002. Since the inception of the Maine laptop project, 39,000 laptops have been distributed to all middle schools in the state (Muir, 2003). Another major adopter of the one-to-one laptop program has been Henrico County in Virginia. In a report from February of 2005, 20,000 middle and high school students in this county were given laptops. "The goal of this program was to integrate electronic technology throughout the curriculum" (Garas, Davis, Hopstock, Kellum, & Stephenson, 2005, p. iii). Both of these initiatives required broadband and wireless connectivity. According to the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) and the report Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994-2005, 97% of public schools with Internet connections used broadband access. This compares

2 to just 80% of public schools having broadband access in 2000 (p. 5). This broadband access is a hurdle that once crossed makes it easier to implement a large-scale rollout of laptops at a school. The state of South Dakota embarked on a project to wire all schools for broadband access beginning in 1996. The Wiring the Schools project allowed South Dakota schools to have greater access in the 1990s while other states had to have schools complete their own wiring in order to ensure access (South Dakota Department of Education, 2009). The component most necessary with regard to access for laptops is wireless infrastructure. IES (2005) reported that 45% of all public schools had wireless connections and 15% of all public school instructional rooms had wireless connections. Teachers and students with laptops would have a difficult time using hard-wire to physically gain access to the Internet without these wireless connections. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to discover the types of leadership policies and practices that make the one-to-one laptop initiatives continuous in three schools in South Dakota and Kansas. In order to implement a one-to-one initiative, administrators must determine what needs should be met ahead of the implementation. The needs may include budgetary changes, infrastructure decisions, professional development issues, and policies. The following research questions guided the study: 1. What administrative practices and procedures led to a sustainable implementation of the one-to-one laptop implementation?

3 2. How was the laptop initiative initially financed? How was financing maintained? 3. What policies were necessary to ensure a sustainable implementation? 4. What infrastructure needs were necessary to ensure a sustainable implementation of the one-to-one laptop plan? 5. What efforts were made by administration for professional development of staff? 6. What were the anticipated advantages that caused school districts to implement the laptop initiative? 7. To what extent have the anticipated advantages been realized? 8. What unexpected outcomes have occurred? 9. What were the disadvantages that have been perceived? 10. How satisfied with the laptop initiative project are district stakeholders regarding the following: a. student achievement? b. academic learning time? c. staff and student morale? d. student safety? e. homework? f. influences on family life? g. others? Significance of the Study

4 School districts in the Midwest and throughout the country are considering the one-to-one laptop initiative in some form as a possible technology option. This study will give other school districts considering such a change the background information on which to base a decision and provide potential implementation procedures for their school district. This study is significant due to the fact that school districts and other states have invested significant monetary resources into the creation of the laptop initiative. The study will also inform educators about the implications for classroom structure and the facilitation of lessons for a school involved in a laptop initiative. Specifically, this study speaks to the ease of differentiating lessons by the use of technology. Definition of Terms The following definitions were used throughout the course of this study. The researcher developed all definitions not accompanied by a citation. Classroom Connections: Program initiated by the State of South Dakota in 2006 where schools purchased computers for all high school students. The state of South Dakota contributed one-third of the cost of the computers, and the district contributed two-thirds of the cost. The state also provided initial professional development for educators at each of the participating schools (South Dakota Department of Education, 2009). Digital Dakota Network Campus: A student information systems, DDN Campus, is a statewide web-based database of student and staff information. Under this system all data are stored using a unified secure system that allows for the sharing of information with schools, parents, students, and the state (DDN

5 Campus, 2008). Digital Dakota Network (DDN): The Digital Dakota Network (DDN) is a statewide interactive video communications system using compressed digital technology to provide a "meeting pipeline" across the state of South Dakota and the global community (Digital Dakota Network, 2008). One-to-one laptop initiative: The use of one laptop per one student in a school, whereby the laptop is taken home by the student, students have access to the laptop 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and wireless network has been installed in the school, so that all laptop computers may connect to the Internet at any time. Limitations of the Study The study is limited to the accuracy of information obtained through interviews, data collection, and field notes of the three school districts selected as the purposeful sample within the bounds of the case study. Delimitations of the Study 1. The study was delimited to three school districts using a one-to-one laptop implementation in the states of South Dakota and Kansas based on the size, location, and number of years in the laptop initiative. Therefore, the ability to generalize the study may be limited because of the size and number of school districts studied. 2. Data collected relative to satisfaction were confined to the one-time interview protocol collection of the stakeholder groups.

6 Organization of the Remainder of the Study A review of current literature and research that discusses the process of change in schools, one-to-one computing, technology in schools, and necessary items to implement a laptop initiative is included in Chapter 2. In Chapter 3, a discussion of the methodology used to collect data, interviews, and information from three sites in South Dakota and Kansas is offered. Chapter 4 includes the results of analyses from the data collection, and the findings of the study. In Chapter 5, a summary, findings, conclusions, and recommendations for further study are included.

7 CHAPTER 2 Review of Related Literature and Research The literature review will be an integrative review based upon the following topics. First, a discussion of the prevalence of technology and the related staff development in schools will be presented. Second, literature as it relates to the phenomenon of one-to-one computing will be reviewed, including material from vendors promoting this. Next, a look at the process of change in schools is presented. Lastly, a comprehensive look at the role of the school administrator in technology initiatives and the impact on learning will be reviewed. Status of Technology in Schools Schools throughout the United States are utilizing the Internet. Wells, Lewis, and Greene (2006) reported that in 2005, 83% of public schools with Internet access offered staff development to teachers on technology integration in the past year. Wells, Lewis, and Greene (2006) also found that 36% of surveyed schools had 76% or more of their teachers attend professional development on the use of the Internet in the curriculum. These statistics point to the fact that schools are considering the use of technology in the curriculum. The rise of the Internet in classrooms has mirrored society itself. In 1994, only 3% had Internet access while 94% of classrooms were able to go online in 2005. Bausell (2008) reported that the state of South Dakota had an average of two students per computer. This rating for South Dakota along with Maine's rating of two students per computer is the best in the United States (Bausell, 2008). The state of Maine embarked on their own laptop initiative beginning in

8 2002 when all seventh graders were assigned a laptop. According to the Technology Counts Report (2008) the state of Kansas averages 2.6 students per computer. The state of Kansas received an overall grade of a B-, while the state of South Dakota received an overall grade of an A-. To compile the grade, the Education Research Center used ratings for access to technology, use of technology, and capacity to use technology. Surprisingly, the state of Maine received a grade of C+. Maine's lower grade is most likely due to the fact that only seventh and eighth-grade students had access to laptops and several schools are still installing wireless access points. The other prevailing idea that accelerates the rate of technology usage is the concept of 21st Century Skills. In a 2007 white paper summarizing the 21st Century workplace, the U.S. Department of Labor Commission looked at two different tasks: "1) to determine the workplace skills that would be needed in the coming 21st Century, and 2) to evaluate how well American schools were equipping students with these skills" (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2007, p. 4). The CEO Forum School Technology and Readiness Report (2001) gave six recommendations to ensure the nation's investment in education technology improves student achievement and benefits education. (1) Make the development of 21st century skills a key educational goal, (2) Align student assessment with educational objectives and include 21st century skills, (3) Adopt continuous improvement strategies to measure progress and adjust accordingly, (4) Increase investment in research and development and dissemination, and (5) Ensure equitable access to

9 technology for all students, (p. 3) The ratio in the United States of students to computers with Internet access has dropped considerably since 1998 when it was 12 students to one computer. That same number in 2005 was 3.8 students to one computer (Wells, Lewis, & Greene, 2006). In the same study, small schools (those under 300 students) had a ratio of 2.4 students to computers with Internet access. There has been a tremendous growth in teaching with technology in schools in terms of equipment, Internet access, and training of teachers. Schools continue to look at new ways to incorporate technology in the learning environment. One-to-One Computing Technology plays a part in almost every facet of life in today's modern society. Smartphones, WiFi, and PDAs were unknown only a decade ago. What these mobile technologies have done is transform the way we think about computing. Technologies have also given us greater portability and access than ever before. What does portability and access mean to schools? It means that students have 24-7 access when away from school and are expecting greater access while in the classroom. "Today's students consider this type of access akin to being always on in constant contact with their friends via texting, instant messaging, mobile phones, and Internet connections" (Ito, Horst, Bittanti, Boyd, Herr-Stephenson, Lange, et al., 2008, p. 1). Schools have begun to transform the classroom by turning to a one-to-one computer initiative to answer this call for greater access during the school day. Since the late 1990s, schools have begun to search for a way to give each

10 student a personal computer. Henrico County Public Schools in the state of Virginia was one of the first large school districts to attempt this type of access. The 2001 Henrico County Public Schools effort involved a total of 14,000 high school students and 11,000 middle school students that were given iBook computers (Garas, Davis, Hopstock, Kellum, & Stephenson, 2005). In the fall of 2002, the state of Maine provided every seventh-grade teacher and student "roughly 1,800 teachers, 16,000 students in 239 schools" with laptops (Muir, Knezek, & Christensen, 2004, p. 8). The governor of Maine, Angus King, had consulted with education technology guru, Seymour Papert, about student achievement and technology use. Papert's advice was not to bother unless the ratio was 1 to 1. By the fall of 2003, 37,000 computers had been distributed to all seventh and eighth-grade students and teachers (Muir, Manchester, & Moulton, 2005). These two projects have been some of the most studied in the nation. However, there is becoming an ever-increasing amount of knowledge through the study of these early adopters of one-to-one computing. Bonifaz and Zucker's (2004) report, Lessons Learned About Providing Laptops for All Students, refers to this one-to-one computing as ubiquitous. Bonifaz and Zucker (2004) listed policymakers' goals for laptop initiatives to include increasing economic competitiveness, reducing inequities in access to computers and information between students from wealthy and poor families, and raising student achievement through specific interventions, such as improving students' understanding of algebra through the use of

11 education software. Other reasons cited for supporting laptop initiatives include improving classroom culture, increasing students' engagement, making it easier to differentiate instruction according to students' needs, and solidifying home-school connections, (p. 3) A report by Apple Computer Inc. (2005) gives student engagement and ownership of the learning process as the two most significant findings in one-to- one learning. Teachers, parents, and students consistently report that students who participate in a 1 to 1 program are more involved in learning activities, spend more time working on schoolwork at home, delve more deeply into learning topics, have improved attendance and fewer behavior problems, and communicate more effectively with parents and teachers than other students, (p. 4) In the case of the Henrico County Public Schools distribution of iBooks, 91% of parents reported their children using the computers at home. This was in addition to the fact that 90% of these families already had a home computer (Garas et al., 2005). What prevents more schools from implementing one-to-one computing? Dual computer ownership is important to note as the presence of another computer in the home is often cited to the author as a reason to not spend money on one-to-one initiatives. Another compelling reason to not participate is given by Larry Cuban in his book, Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom, where Cuban (2001) claims there are no overall gains in academic

12 achievement due to technology usage. Cuban (2001) does, however, offer advice to those schools trying to incorporate more computers in the classroom. Cuban's (2001) advice to policy makers and practitioners is to (1) Speed up the process of making computers readily available to students in each classroom, (2) Eliminate the gap in Internet access between urban and suburban schools, (3) Invest more in online learning and distance learning, (4) Increase on-demand technical support for teachers, (5) Add more professional development, (pp. 179-180) Experts also argue that computer use threatens important relationships. Cuban (1997) argued that teaching begins with an adult and a student building a relationship to help the student learn important lessons. The teaching profession is being compared to a "repetitive clerical task" which can now be automated. Cuban (1997) believed the call for higher productivity in education has pushed for the automation of classrooms. The dynamics of the teacher-student relationship is changed by placing several computers in a classroom. It is the human touch that makes education different from making a car, filing a claim, or wiring a building. The lack of human interaction between the student and teacher is cause for trepidation for many educators. Donovan, Hartley, and Strudler (2007) noted that teachers struggled with planning and curricular goals in one-to-one initiatives. Educators are concerned that the pedagogy in their classrooms may not be compatible with the innovation of one-to-one computing. Donovan, Hartley, and Strudler (2007) explained that teachers who were uncomfortable with the laptops tended to be observed using

13 them for word processing and teacher-centered activities. Once students are given this "ubiquitous, 24/7 access to computers," learners begin to use more of the resources, have more contact with each other and their teachers, along with gaining valuable skills for modern living (Penuel, 2006). While there are critics of one-to-one computing, there is other information to tout the success of one computer for one student. An executive summary by Gateway listed the advantages of one-to-one computing as the access and ability to help bridge the digital divide in the classroom. One-to-one computing gives every student and teacher the same tool to complete schoolwork. Laptops also allow students to take the computer home and share the tool with their parents, thus increasing school and home communication (Center for Digital Education, 2004). Gateway (2004) cited Watertown High School in South Dakota as having an increase in communication with parents and teachers. The higher the prevalence of one-to-one initiatives, the more research is available for schools considering laptops. Apple Computer Inc. (2005) listed 17 different research reports available regarding one-to-one computing. Research about one-to-one computing is divided into four categories: quantitative research, qualitative research, competitive advantage, and unexpected outcomes. Apple Computer (2005) outlined key findings of the research. One quantitative study by Gulek and Demirtas (2005) indicated that students had significantly higher test scores and showed a greater length and higher quality of writing. Zucker and McGhee (2005) employed qualitative methods to show that one-to-one computing improved school home-communication, gave more

flexibility for teachers during instruction, and caused more student interaction with teachers. Apple Computer (2005) commissioned a group of researchers to create a profile for each state regarding one-to-one computing efforts within states. Some key findings from two profiles, Michigan and Indiana, are that teacher retention and enthusiasm are on the rise, parents and communities became more involved with the schools, and there was an increase in student responsibility. Some unexpected outcomes were illustrated in the state of Virginia profile. The Virginia report detailed a 13-point gain in SAT scores for Henrico County, Virginia as well as the lowest dropout rate and highest attendance rate in history of the school. The number of schools engaging in one-to-one initiatives is growing, but to date, a significant number of studies have not been conducted. Apple Computer (2005) noted, While the body of research on 1 to 1 learning programs is positive, to date, research has not kept up with the rapid expansion of the initiatives. More and better-designed studies must be conducted to quantify the benefits of the initiatives and the impact they have on student achievement and state test scores, (p. 15) Penuel (2006) conducted a study of one-to-one initiatives, regarding the common characteristics of each program. Penuel (2006) found three core features of similarity to a wide variety of initiatives: (1) providing students with use of portable laptop computers loaded with contemporary productivity software (e.g., word processing tools,

15 spreadsheet tools, etc.), (2) enabling student to access the Internet through schools' wireless networks, and (3) a focus on using laptops to help complete academic tasks such as homework assignments, tests, and presentations, (p. 331) Gulek and Demirtas (2005) pointed out with the potential benefits of the laptop program, comes the responsibility to create equal access to the laptops. Gulek and Demirtas (2005) outline the steps to create equitable access and skills: (1) remediating students who lack experience with technology; (2) increasing teachers' technology skills; (3) providing students with greater access to a computer; and (4) developing teacher and student standards for technology proficiency, (p. 30) One-to-one computing is becoming more prevalent. Research is emerging on the implementation and impacts of one-to-one initiatives. Change in Schools School organizations must prepare to implement change. The rate of change in the world is not going to slow down. If anything, competition in most areas will probably increase over the next few decades. The typical organization has not operated well in a rapidly changing environment. Structure, systems, practices, and culture have often been more of a drag on change than a facilitator (Senge et al., 2000). One-to-one computing is one of the major changes schools are facing. Fullan (2001) identified organizational principles for successful educational

16 reform strategy. The main principle is to make sure the reform is about the instruction. People are then able to plan, implement, and reflect by keeping the instructional improvement as the main thing. The shared expertise of talented people working together will help drive instructional change. Finally, the focus should be on system-wide improvement where clear expectations are set which allows the change to be decentralized through collegiality, caring, and respect (Fullan, 2001). Fullan (2001) concluded that the main problem with schools is not the absence of innovations but the presence of too many disconnected, episodic, piecemeal, superficially adorned projects. Schools cannot afford to be 'disconnected' or episodic with major changes initiatives such as one-to-one computing. Fullan (2001) maintained that schools suffer from the additional burden of having numerous unwanted, uncoordinated policies and innovations handed down to them by hierarchical bureaucracies. It is important for schools to understand the policies and procedures necessary before jumping into a one-to- one initiative. Schools must think beyond policy and procedures and engage all stakeholders with a one-to-one computing effort. Gardner (2006), in Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People's Minds, took on the single deepest question in the field of psychology: how and when do we change our minds? Gardner (2006) challenged people to think about the last time they had tried to change someone's mind about something important and chances are that they were unsuccessful. "Of all of the species on earth, we

17 human beings are the ones who specialize in voluntary mind change: we change the minds of others, we change our own minds" (Gardner, 2006, p. 199). One of the key stakeholders schools must engage with a one-to-one initiative is the teaching staff. School leaders need to assess where the teachers are and where they must go. Gardner (2006) said that the most important thing to do in changing someone's mind is to connect to the person's reality as the point of departure for change. "The purpose of a mind-changing encounter is not to articulate your own point of view but rather to engage the psyche of the other person" (p. 163). School leaders would be wise not to mandate a one-to-one computing effort. Mandated school reform initiatives have failed to improve schools and increase organizational capacity that is needed to support innovation. Fullan (2007) summarized, Radial experiments are now surfacing in many places, as policymakers know that virtually all strategies over the past decades have failed to achieve needed breakthroughs. Centralized high stake accountability schemes have failed to produce ownership as has decentralized site- based management. The clear advice - is the government must go beyond standards and accountability and focus on capacity building linked to results, engaging all levels of the system, (pp. 261-262) Change initiatives such as one-to-one computing are much more complex than anticipated. The main reason that change fails to occur in the first place on any scale, and is not sustained when it does, is that the infrastructure is weak,

Full document contains 126 pages
Abstract: The purpose of this case study was to discover the types of leadership policies and practices that make one-to-one laptop initiatives sustainable in three schools in South Dakota and Kansas. In order to implement a one-to-one initiative, administrators must determine what needs should be met ahead of the implementation. The needs may include budgetary changes, infrastructure decisions, professional development issues, and policies. The researcher conducted 20 on-site interviews of stakeholder groups including superintendents, principals, technology coordinators, teachers, and school board members to learn about their perceptions concerning the one-to-one laptop initiative. Other data collected included demographic review of the district, a professional development calendar, a sample of curriculum projects, a copy of procedures and policies related to the laptop project, and any previous surveys done by the school district concerning stakeholder satisfaction with the one-to-one laptop initiative. Data were analyzed horizontally and vertically to create an in-depth, thick description of each of the school sites. Themes emerged regarding the practices and procedures schools utilized when implementing a one-to-one initiative. Processes followed in planning and implementing a one-to-one laptop initiative varied among the three school districts. Stakeholders most often reported vision of the administration, a clear plan for financing and implementation, engagement of students and staff morale, 21st century learning, and the changing role of the teacher and student as influences of one-to-one computing. Common themes across all three sites included (a) school leaders' need to establish the clear vision and put in the policy and procedure necessary to support a one-to-one initiative, (b) administrators need to plan for both initial intensive professional development along with an ongoing support system of professional development when implementing a one-to-one initiative, and (c) the school district needs to make a local fiscal investment to both initial and ongoing financing in order to implement the one-to-one laptop initiative.