This is Part 2 of the post about a survey of over 700 students from the U.S., Switzerland, Australia, Israel that responded to a voluntary survey posted using Google forms. To find participants, I sent out requests to teachers and school leaders via Twitter, listservs such as Ed-Tech and plain vanilla email to people I knew at 1-to-1 schools. The survey was to be anonymous with only initials of participants — and teachers were to give their students access however they chose – as a link on a Web page, through email, or in class. Teachers explained their own ability to see the results so students understood this. I gave rights to all the teachers who involved their students to the underlying Google spreadsheet and graphs.
The survey was short with a few multiple choice and optional open-ended questions. It intentionally involved this type of choice along with the forum for students to express their opinions. Many educators know the value of allowing students this opportunity to express their ideas not just in choosing one project or another – but in describing what works for their own learning and why.
How Might Laptops Benefit Schools?
The question posed about how laptops might benefit schools resulted in some thoughtful responses. This is also where the students who did not support using laptops had an opportunity to describe their views. The answers for the students (approximately 7%) who did not feel laptops were beneficial were around the distractibility factor, and that the cost of the hardware was too high. Here’s a sample response from a student at an independent school critiquing laptops:
“I am not a fan of the laptops. I think that they make me less focused. It’s hard to do homework when you have email, Internet, and fun games there.”
While several others agreed, more responses were positive, citing benefits such as:
“…To have all … materials in one device. Laptops are almost the only tool we need as students to have in class.”
Another student explained:
“Laptops create a more technical and communication source for the students and teachers. It allows organization and interaction between students and teachers.”
One school had several weather closings but having a laptop at home meant little interruption to learning according this student:
“…when we finally were back in class, it felt like we hadn’t missed a beat. My English and Spanish teachers emailed us all of our homework so we were not behind at all.”
Advice for Students New to Laptops
The question about advice for students new to laptops fell into several categories including the “take care of it” camp; the “don’t go places you shouldn’t” reminders, and recommendations to take time to get to know and understand the computer. Here are some sample responses:
“Treat it very carefully don’t pick it up by the screen; run virus scans, and back up your files.”
“Use it wisely– its not just a tool for instant messaging and for playing music– really take advantage of the amazing opportunity.”
“The advice I would give to a student using a laptop is simply, explore! Take advantage of the unique opportunity you have been given and soak up everything you can.”
“Organize your computer to a way that will make it easier for you to get what you need, and remember where things are. Also, if you have trouble with your computer, never be afraid to ask someone in charge (teacher, tech official, etc) for help.”
If you were to survey students …
If you decide to poll your students, you may want to consider the type of questions you create based on your overall goals. Open-ended optional questions which begin with reflective language such as “Think about…” along with a promise of anonymity will bring out suggestions, ideas, and criticisms from your largest stakeholders which may provide the key to improving your one-to-one program. Or if you haven’t yet gone one-to-one, finding out underlying beliefs and assumptions from your student population will help you plan.
As to content of your survey you may want to hone in on curricular areas; the types of projects or lessons that students see 1-to-1 furthers; issues students have had to overcome with laptops and how they did so; or their suggestions in general for the program.
Content for those still exploring one-to-one might target how students would envision themselves as learning if laptops were part of the environment; how current projects or lessons could be different if they had their own digital learning device; how they would expect to handle, care for, and organize a computer that moved from home to school.
Getting stakeholder thoughts and buyin helps you understand assumptions and expectations. A survey done well and thoughtfully can be an important tool.