These days, a good laptop like Google’s Chromebook can cost less than a new math textbook. So it’s no longer an extravagant luxury for schools to provide one for each student. And the potential benefits of such a supply are worth a good look.
Michigan State University is one of those doing the looking. In a meta-analysis led by Binbin Zheng, 96 independent studies into school laptop programs were looked at. They focused on programs that distributed laptops to K-12 students to use across all their school subjects. After narrowing their scope to 10 studies with statistics that could be charted against one another, they released their findings.
The main points boiled down to these:
Whether or not laptop distribution programs help to bridge the income-education gap is not clear. Poor students’ grades increase from being given a laptop more so than better-off students’ grades do, but the better-off students’ test scores still remain higher.
Students of all demographics show performance improvements in writing, reading, and middle-school science when participating in a laptop program.
Teacher participation in the laptop programs are vital. If the teacher is not engaged in teaching students how to get the most out of their technology, the programs fail. To bolster this, teachers must be given strong IT support and training and be included in the program. When teachers are engaged like this, teacher-student relationships also improve, which may account for a percentage of the improved test scores.
Students who participate in laptop programs were found to write more in and outside of the classroom than students who did not.
These results of the meta-analysis all echo a 2013 study also led by Zheng on one-to-one laptop programs in two low-income, primarily Hispanic school districts. That study also showed that at-risk students used their laptops more frequently than other students.