From Now On

The Educational Technology Journal

 Vol 12|No 10|June|2003
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Assessing the Impact
of Laptops in Maine

by Jamie McKenzie

(about author)

© 2003, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved.

Photo © 2003, J. McKenzie,
all rights reserved.

Back before the economy slipped into a sertious decline that left most state budgets seriously depleted, a governor in Maine with a budget surplus came up with the notion that student learning would be radically improved if each middle school student had a personal laptop.

The governor is history. The budget surplus is history. But the laptops arrived in seventh grade classrooms during September of 2002. The rest will arrive in eighth grade classrooms in September of 2003.

Was the governor right?

An intriguing question, well worth pursuing. Toward that end FNO has launched an independent assessment project with a number of middle schools in Maine. The goal is to study the impact of the laptops and various program strategies on student learning and teachers' daily practice over a three year time period.

The identities of these schools will be kept confidential.

Central to the assessment will be the repeated use of two versions of the Educational Daily Practice Survey (EDP). The student version asseses the frequency and the types of learning activities students are asked to perform. The teacher version assesses the frequency and the types of learning activities teachers assign.

Schools can measure the effectiveness of programs by tracking evidence of change in the daily practice of participating teachers.

Desired Behavior

Daily appropriate use

As teachers gain in skill, confidence and inclination, they and their students will begin reporting daily use of new technologies side by side with more traditional technologies such as books, Post-It Notes and Magic Markers.

Continued self sustained growth

Participating teachers report sustained acquisition of new technology skills along with an expansion of lesson design capabilities.

Access for all students

Without exception, students in classes of participating teachers report sufficient access to tools to manage assignments effectively.

Self sustaining community of learners

Participating teachers indicate that adult learning is collaborative, ongoing and informal.

Technology invisible, transparent, natural

Artificial, silly uses of new technologies subside and technology for the sake of technology is no longer evident. Uses of new technologies are comfortable, casual and unexceptional.

Expanding definitions

Classroom strategies and activities move from an emphasis on technologies and technology skills to focus on information literacy, research, questioning and standards-based learning. Students are challenged to analyze, infer, interpret and synthesize with a mixture of classical and digital tools.

Support for engaged learning

Students report that they spend an increasing percentage of their time on Engaged Learning tasks - taking responsibility for their learning in a collaborative, strategic and energized mode.

Teacher as facilitator

Both teachers and students report that teachers devote an increasing proportion of their class time to facilitating and guiding the learning of students as opposed to more
Discerning use Participating teachers gain enough in confidence and discernment to identify technology uses and activities they have discarded or found unsatisfactory. They report movement toward quality and worth.
Standards-based activities The technology activities are focused on improving student performance on demanding curriculum state standards.
© 2002, J. McKenzie, all rights reserved.

Both versions of the EDP are available for free use by any school hoping to assess the impact of a technology program - whether the strategy involves laptops for all students, mobile laptop carts, classroom desktop units or lab-based programs.

In addition to the EDP, a survey has been constructed especially for Maine to assess the impact of various program support elements such as robust professional development and unit development that may or may not be present in each of the middle schools.

Additional Schools

FNO still has room for several more Maine schools to participate, though the total will be limited to a dozen.

Participation is free and confidential. Purchase of such assessment services might normally cost as much as $ 25,000+.

Contact Jamie McKenzie at if your school wishes to learn more about participating in this study.

Other schools may use the EDP surveys without charge and without formal involvement in the study.

Back to June Cover

Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie .

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