Study finds that laptops significantly improve student learning

See this study, “Miracle or Menace: Teaching and Learning with Laptop Computers in the Classroom” which is in Educause Quarterly (Vol. 27, No. 3, 2004). Basically, they gave a bunch of students at West Point laptops and found a “statistically significant” increase in learning as the result of the laptops, as measured by tests and surveys of the students. Definitely worth a read; a few thoughts on my run though the piece:

* West Point is of course a highly selective school, the students all live on campus, and I’m going to guess that theft isn’t that big of a deal on campus. On the other hand, EMU is a school full of non-traditional, returning, and/or commuting students, and EMU is a campus where one always needs to keep an eye on their backpacks. Having said that…

*… I wish some administrator at EMU would suggest at least discussion of a laptop program. Sure, there are a ton of problems, but as this article points out in interesting detail, there are a ton of advantages, too. I was in a meeting just the other day where we were talking about the pressing technological needs on campus. It seems to me that if EMU supported some kind of laptop program, then it could spend less time and money on desktop labs and more on wi-fi networking and such.

* One thing they point out in this study is there a direct relationship between a faculty member’s willingness (or lack thereof) for incorporating the laptops into their teaching and the faculty member’s own use or ownership of a laptop. In other words, teachers who had laptops themselves want to teach with laptops. As someone who has had a laptop for his main (and at times only) computer for around 10 years now, this makes perfect sense to me.

* What I like about this study is that it “triangulates” some research methodologies effectively. Some of it is quantitative, some of it is qualitiative, and together, it tells a good story.

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