Independent Research Results Support Educator and Parent Enthusiasm for Student Use of Laptop Computers to Learn Anytime, Anywhere

, November 9, 1998 — Michael’s transition from elementary school to middle school at New York City’s Mott Hall School was difficult. He was quiet, didn’t participate and was failing academically. His parents knew the change was tough on him – the classwork was more challenging than he was used to, and his poor handwriting and lack of organization made him feel inferior to his classmates. “I knew he really wanted to go to Mott Hall, but it was just a little bit too much for him to handle,” says his mother. In response to the stress, Michael began to isolate himself from his classmates. Michael’s teacher, Ms. Gordon, saw the school’s participation in “Anytime Anywhere Learning” as a potential lifesaver for Michael. The program, started in 1996, is aimed at encouraging learning anytime, anywhere by giving students access to a laptop 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Ms. Gordon suspected Michael was bright, and that a laptop would help him overcome the problems with his handwriting and disorganization so he would feel more confident sharing his work with his classmates for group projects.

She was right. By the second month of having full-time access to a laptop computer as a personal learning tool, Michael was a key member of the class, participating in discussions and sharing his work with the entire class. With heightened self-esteem, Michael now takes initiative. He does extra homework and in-depth research for class projects. His Dad says, “He’s the Michael Jordan of the computer world.”

Michael’s story supports new research findings revealing that students with full-time access to laptop computers perform better in school. A study released this week entitled “Powerful Tools for Schooling” found that students with laptops demonstrate more critical and creative thinking, produce higher quality work and are more motivated and interested in core academic subjects. The study, sponsored by Microsoft and Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., is the latest independent evaluation of Anytime Anywhere Learning school laptop programs, in which Windows-based laptops, Microsoft Office Professional edition and the Internet are used as integral teaching tools.

Through a combination of surveys, observations, simulated problem-solving tasks and student interviews, researchers found:

  • Students who use laptops apply more problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

  • Laptops enhance learning in core academic subjects and increase students’ passion for learning.

  • Laptops lead to higher quality work, especially writing.

  • Laptops allow teachers to spend more one-on-one time with students.

  • Students using laptops spend more time on school work than those who do not have laptops, but have desktop computers at home.

In the U.S., enthusiasm for laptop computers is high. More than 60,000 students and teachers at 500 public and private schools are participating in Anytime Anywhere Learning nationwide, a ten-fold increase over the 52 schools that piloted the programs in 1996. Anytime Anywhere Learning also has generated interest from educators worldwide. Both Canada and the United Kingdom are piloting laptop programs this school year, and educational delegations from around the world have visited U.S. Anytime Anywhere Learning schools to learn more about learning with laptops.

With Microsoft’s leadership, a number of hardware, software and training companies are supporting educators’ implementation of laptop programs. Educators are sharing their experiences, visions and strategies for integrating laptops into the classroom through a free resource book, a Web site and the annual Anytime Anywhere Learning Summit, which more than 700 educators attended in 1998. The 1999 Anytime Anywhere Learning Summit is scheduled for Jan. 29-31 in Dallas.

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