One laptop per student : A pre-requisite to a 21st Century public education

In earlier articles we noted that ICT would “enable” New Brunswick’s NB3-21C public education agenda. A key reason we are well positioned to implement a 21st Century learning model is our 1:1 Dedicated Student Notebook Research Project.

In May 2004 New Brunswick Education issued a call for proposals to school districts to evaluate the learning and teaching benefits of a 1:1 student notebook model, at the grade 7-9 level. Six schools (nine classes) were selected representing rural and urban schools of varying sizes. In August 2004 Hewlett Packard (Canada) Co. provided 620 wireless notebooks over a two year period. Schools in New Brunswick were already connected with high speed bandwidth and the six research schools were equipped with a wireless network based on Cisco Systems equipment. Mount Allison University and St. Francis Xavier University were retained to evaluate the project and Microsoft Canada donated $100,000 toward the cost of the research. Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co. independently contracted the Canadian Education Association to assess the project.

Teachers in the six research schools received their laptops in the fall of 2004 and technology mentors and technicians were assigned to train the teachers. In January 2005 laptop computers were distributed to 237 Grade 7 students. By the end of June 2006, 474 grade 7 and 8 students in the 6 research schools had 1:1 notebook access. By 2008-09 the project had expanded to 24 schools, 156 classes and 3900 students.

Beginning May 1st 2006 all New Brunswick’s teachers (8,000) were offered a notebook computer. Today most teachers have a laptop, all of which will be refreshed in spring of 2010.

Highlights of the research undertaken on the 1:1 student notebook research project, including testimonials from students, teachers, support staff and parents, include:   

  •        Student engagement and achievement increased, along with a deeper level of understanding
  •        Customized instruction was facilitated
  •        Student self assessment was strengthened
  •        Behaviour issues and truancy decreased
  •        Teacher engagement and satisfaction increased
  •        Teacher workload decreased
  •        Instructional practice shifted from sage on stage to guide on the side
  •        Project based learning emerged as a norm
  •        Collaborative student learning and collaborative teaching were facilitated
  •        A more positive school environment, excitement and positive attitudes toward learning emerged
  •        Struggling students produced higher quality work and gifted students benefitted from enriched learning experiences

In summary, the 1:1 student and teacher notebook access model facilitated a paradigm shift in how students learn and how teachers teach. The individualized access to information empowered the students while facilitating an inclusive and personalized learning model. In essence, the 1:1 notebook model “enabled” the emergence of key elements of a 21st Century learning model.

We believe a 1:1 student laptop model, allowing individualized internet access and other key applications for students in our upper grades, is a pre-requisite to realizing our NB3-21C public education strategy. In addition, an enriched ICT classroom environment from kindergarten to grade 12 is required.

The current challenge is to identify an ICT network and sustainable funding model that will allow all this to happen, during an era of global fiscal restraint.  

“The research team has concluded that one of the greatest successes of this research project has been the significant improvement in the student’s abilities to enhance their 21st Century skill-set.” (Fox, Greenlaw, MacPherson, Nov. 2006)

John D. Kershaw
Deputy Minister
NB Department of Education
Anglophone Sector

David M. Kershaw
Master’s Student
Computer Science
Dalhousie University

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