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Study Shows The Benefits of 1:1 and the Factors that Enhance Success

At ISTE 2010, Project RED announced the results of an ambitious national survey focused on the impact of various 1:1 implementation models on student learning, drop-out rates and much more.

What impact is one-to-one computing having on schools nationwide? What are the factors that determine successful outcomes? And how affordable are such programs in the long run? These are the questions that Project RED, a research team headed by the One-to-One Institute and the authors of the America's Digital Schools reports, set out to answer through an extensive survey of U.S. schools.

Project RED surveyed principals and technology coordinators at 997 schools that are representative of U.S. education in terms of enrollment, geography, poverty-level and ethnicity. With questions focused on 136 independent variables in 22 categories, the study analyzed a number of success factors including:

  • High-stakes test scores;
  • Disciplinary action and dropout rates;
  • Teacher attendance;
  • AP course enrollment and college attendance plans;
  • Course completion and graduation rates for high school students;
  • Cost-savings from such factors as reduced paperwork.

The Project RED Team announced its findings at the ISTE 2010 conference in June. Overall, the study found that schools with a 1:1 student-to-computer ratio outperform non-1:1 schools on both academic and financial measures. For example, schools with 1:1 programs reported a 15-point reduction in disciplinary actions and a 13-point decrease in dropout rates as compared to all other schools.

Equally important, the survey shows that a number of variables can enhance the benefit of 1:1 programs. "The most exciting findings," says Tom Greaves, CEO of the Greaves Group and founder of the initiative, "were identification of which implementation factors improve learning outcomes." The Project RED researchers found that 1:1 schools employing what they refer to as "proper implementation factors," outperformed all others. Chart #1 illustrates the positive impact of just two of these implementation factors: the weekly use of electronic formative assessments and professional learning communities for teacher collaboration.

Best Practices for 1:1 Implementations

According to Project RED, in addition to formative assessment and teacher collaboration, other best practices contributing to "proper implementation" included:

* Daily implementation in all classes: The most significant improvements were found in settings where technology was included in intervention classes. In fact, the researchers found that technology-infused interventions (ELL, Title I, Special Ed and Reading Intervention) were the top model predictor of improved high stakes test scores, dropout rate reduction, and improved discipline. Daily use of technology in core classes, for students at all levels of ability, is the third most important factor. Taken together, these results make clear that regular use of the technology is central to success.

* A school principal who leads change management: The Project RED analysis showed that a having a principal who models and leads technology usage is another important element of an effective 1:1 program. Principal leadership is the second most significant factor in reducing dropout rates and the single most important variable across several of the other education success measures. This finding suggests that change management training for principals involved in large-scale technology implementations is of paramount importance.

* The Use of Games/Simulations and Social Media: The Project RED researchers cite the use of Web 2.0 games and social media for collaboration, mentoring and student engagement as yet another element of a successful program, explaining that, "Leveraging the curiosity and highly social nature of students keeps them in school." Along these same lines, virtual field trips were included in the list of best practices that increased student engagement and enhanced results.

An Investment Not an Expense

Two financial factors were identified by the Project RED team as off-setting the costs that many associate with 1:1 computing. Most dramatically, there is the cost-savings that comes from reducing dropout rates. As the Project RED summary puts it: "The huge economic cost of dropouts is well known. The difference in lifetime tax revenues between a dropout and a college graduate is approximately $200,000. If 25% of dropouts actually graduated from college, the increase in tax revenues would be $6.25 Billion per year per graduating class. Schools with a 1:1 student/computer ratio are cutting the dropout rate and reaping this broader benefit."

On another front, there are the cost-savings associated with reduced printing, copying and paper usage. According to Project RED, "It is estimated that high schools where every student has a computer and which use an LMS could cut copy budgets in half. On a national basis that would equate to savings of $400M a year for high schools alone."

Overall, the benefits offered by 1:1 and the savings that it can generate lead the researchers to suggest that such technology programs should be viewed as an "investment" not an "expense."

Moving Towards Best Practices

According to Project RED, "The daily use of technology in core classes correlates highly to desirable Education Success Measures [and] was one of the top five indicators of better discipline, better attendance, and increased college attendance." And yet, many 1:1 schools reported using the technology only weekly or less frequently for many classes. In fact, the researchers concluded that 80 percent of schools under-utilize technologies they have already purchased.

Furthermore, they say, "despite knowing that technology improves learning only when it is deployed frequently in appropriate learning environments," very schools implement many of the factors that are shown to be key to success. Perhaps studies like this one—which will be available in August in a report to be published by MDR – will help program implementers refine their plans and improve effectiveness. To help with this effort, the Project RED team is making information on best practices available at no cost at its web site.



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