REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 4, 2000 — Janet Graeber, director of Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bellevue, Wash., remembers when the school implemented Anytime Anywhere Learning in 1996. The success of the pilot program confirmed her belief that using laptop computers would change the entire dynamic of teaching and learning at Forest Ridge.
“We’ve discovered so much since we started,”
“It’s opened up a whole new way of thinking about how we learn and when we learn. Now, students and teachers are collaborating over the school network — not just during the day but after hours as well. Learning isn’t limited anymore by the four walls of the classroom.”
The amazing change in the way students and teachers view the classroom isn’t just happening at Forest Ridge, it’s happening all over the world. Forest Ridge was just one of the 52 schools that piloted Anytime Anywhere Learning in 1996. Since then, enthusiasm for laptop computing has grown more than tenfold. Today, more than 100,000 students and teachers at 800 schools nationwide are using Microsoft Windows operating system-based laptops loaded with Microsoft Office and Internet connectivity as basic learning tools. There are Anytime Anywhere Learning programs in the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as pilot programs in Belgium, South Africa and Canada.
From February 4 through February 6, more than 700 educators from around the world are meeting in Seattle to share ideas and strategies for integrating laptops into the classroom. The three-day conference, presented by Microsoft Corp., Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Compaq Computer Corp., NoteSys Inc. and Gateway Inc., is the only educational meeting dedicated to in-depth discussion of the potential for laptop computers to improve teaching and learning. Janet Graeber and Forest Ridge chemistry teacher John Phillips are just two of the Anytime Anywhere Learning veterans who will be talking to educators interested in starting laptop programs of their own.
John Phillips has been an enthusiastic participant in Anytime Anywhere Learning since the program started at Forest Ridge.
“The laptop isn’t a novelty — it’s a tool in our students’ repertoire,”
“It’s okay to be informal about it. We don’t have special computer classes for students. Instead, they learn a new computer skill at the moment they need it. If we’re recording data in a chemistry experiment and need to find the standard deviation, we’ll talk about how to do the calculations in Microsoft Excel right then.”
Phillips has also seen an incredible increase in the quality of student work.
“We’re doing a project where each student publishes a Web page on an element in the periodic table. They know their work is visible to their peers and to the entire school, and they’re much more motivated to do their best.”
Across the globe in South Africa, Michael King, senior vice principal of the Diocesan College in Cape Town, is seeing similar results. Diocesan College launched Anytime Anywhere Learning for grades 9 through 11 at the beginning of 1999.
“We’ve seen an enormous impact on the motivation levels of the students across a whole range of abilities. The laptops help empower students. The work they do on the laptops is something they can take ownership of and they’re proud to present what they’ve accomplished.”
Phillips’ and King’s observations reflect the results of an ongoing, three-year independent program study by education researcher Saul Rockman and sponsored by Microsoft Corp. and Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. Findings of this evaluation reveal that 87 percent of teachers believe access to laptops has increased the quality of their students’ work. The study also found that students in classrooms equipped with laptops demonstrate improved critical thinking and writing skills, and their teachers are spending more time working closely with students one-on-one and in small groups.
So what advice does Graeber have for the more than 700 educators gathering in Seattle this weekend?
“It’s challenging sometimes, but the entire Forest Ridge community — students, parents, faculty and administration — are committed to this project,”
“I would tell educators interested in starting the program to be open to experimenting with new ways of teaching with laptops and to take the time to share successes with each other. The peer-to-peer learning experience has been incredible, and we’re constantly pushing the envelope on the definition of the word ‘classroom.’ We’re learning in a much bigger world!”