Laptop computers in an elementary school: Perspectives on learning environments from students, teachers, administrators, and parents

Date of Completion

January 2001


Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Technology of




While nearly all schools in the United States currently have Internet access, teachers report that they are not well-prepared for integrating computers into their instruction, do not have administrative support, and are ill-prepared for creating the type of classroom environments in which students will use technology. Qualitative investigations have not examined how teachers, students, and parents perceive these barriers or respond to these challenges when they use laptop computers. ^ This ethnographic study investigated how the implementation of laptop computers, where every teacher and every Grade 3 through Grade 5 student had a laptop, affected teaching and learning in an urban elementary school over an academic year. The following questions guided the study. What changes do teachers make as they integrate laptops into their instruction? How do teachers increase their technology skills while trying to teach the curriculum? How do students and teachers describe methods of instruction before and after the implementation of laptop computers? ^ The methodology for the study included (a) in-depth interviews with 177 students 22 teachers, 24 parents, administrators, and support staff during 95 days of data collection, (b) observations in classrooms, faculty meetings, inservices, PTO and Site Based meetings, and social gatherings, and (c) review of artifacts (e.g., teacher lessons, student work, communications, and e-mail correspondence). Additionally, over 700 digital photos, video and digital voice recordings of participants were taken during the study. ^ Two core categories emerged from the data analyses. The use of laptops in the schools (a) created a new motivation for teaching and learning and (b) indicated that meaningful professional development and technical support must be relevant and accessible. Themes from the data included teacher excitement, student enjoyment, teachers use of laptops to increase understanding of content areas, and the positive impact on the school culture. Themes that supported the need for professional and technical support included the concerns and challenges teachers faced; one-size fits all professional development, and the absence of a school technology plan. ^