Meridian Middle School Computer Technologies Journal

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Volume 13, Issue 1, 2010


Teachers’ Perceptions and Attitudes of
One Teacher Laptop Initiative:
Connections Toward 21st Century Learning

Catherine G. Raulston, Ph.D. and Vivian H. Wright, Ph.D.


This mixed-methods study analyzed the attitudes and perceptions of teachers following the implementation of a teacher laptop initiative. Data suggested that following the teacher laptop initiative participants in this study perceived they increased their computer use and began to adopt technology in the classroom. Results suggested that teachers became more comfortable with computers when given a laptop and that a teacher laptop initiative, coupled with professional development, can better prepare students for the 21st century.


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As educators try to prepare students to succeed in the workforce, they are constantly searching for ways to motivate students and equip them with the skills they need for the 21st century. In order to properly prepare students for the 21st century, many schools may need to revise current curricula and incorporate training for teachers on how to integrate technology that engages and motivates students to learn (Ullman, 2007). According to the U.S. Department of Education (2008), educational technologies have enriched learning environments and enhanced students’ conceptual understanding. Most educators and parents consider technology an integral part of providing a high quality education (Greenhow, 2008; U.S. Department of Education, 2003b). Spires, Lee, Turner and Johnson (2008) found that students believed technology was an essential part of their lives and helped engage them to achieve in school. Technology promotes interaction and communication among students and teachers while enabling teachers to change the traditional role of an educator in the classroom (Levin & Wadmany, 2008). According to Li (2007), a technology-enhanced environment can “force teachers to change their role from knowledge dispensers to facilitators” (p. 379). By integrating technology in the classroom, students become more motivated to be active in the learning process (Clausen, Britten, & Ring, 2008; Cuban, 2001; Digital Learning Environments, 2008; Lemke & Martin, 2004). In this study, teachers in one school district were given a laptop to utilize with students and enhance classroom experiences. Through surveys and focus groups, perceptions and attitudes of teachers were analyzed following the implementation of the initiative.

For over two decades, interest in computer use in public schools has been increasing. The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) reported that in 1994, 35% of public elementary and secondary schools had access to the Internet, where as of 2005, NCES reported 99% of public elementary schools have access to the Internet (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002, 2005). Although the nation has spent over $38 billion to bring technology and Internet access to schools, it does not mean the teachers feel well prepared to integrate technology into the classrooms (Benton Foundation, 2002; Franklin, 2007; Levin & Wadmany, 2008; Li, 2007; Mouza, 2008; Park & Ertmer, 2007; U.S. Department of Education, 2003b).

Although technology integration in the classroom is on the rise, studies show that much of the computer usage among teachers in elementary and middle schools is primarily for administrative and preparatory tasks instead of instructional activities with students (Becker, 2000a, 2000b; Becker, Ravitiz, & Wong, 1999; Franklin, 2007; Li, 2007; Mouza, 2008; National Center for Education Statistics, 2002, 2005; U.S. Department of Education, 2003a). Many factors can hinder computer use by teachers such as lack of teacher preparation, lack of leadership, lack of time, and lack of availability/access to computers (Bauer & Kenton, 2005; Becker, 2000a; Franklin; Li; Park & Ertmer, 2007). Ketterer (2007) believed the digital divide in our education system is “the difference between teachers who embrace the integration of technology into their classroom versus those who choose not to welcome all that technology has to offer today’s classroom environments” (p. 21). Although some teachers might have the desire to embrace technology, they are not always provided the proper tools to do so in the classroom.

Laptops in Education

Accountability measures of today have required a much stronger emphasis on the link between technology, engagements, and achievement. As a laptop initiative can alleviate the barrier of access, teachers participating in the Maine Learning Technology Initiative reported lack of technical support, lack of more professional development opportunities, and lack of time were some of the greatest obstacles in integrating the laptop technology into their curriculum and instruction (Silvernail & Lane, 2004).

Current research indicates the use of laptops has the potential to create supportive school environments that can foster student independence to technology and learning, thereby leading to increased motivation and great academic aspirations (Light, McDermott, & Honey, 2002; Mouza, 2008; Newhouse & Rennie, 2001; Swan, Van’t Hooft, Kratcoski, & Unger, 2005; Zucker & McGhee, 2005). Mouza reported that “initial findings from one-to-one initiatives have indicated positive outcomes on student learning” (p. 450). The Maine Learning Technology Initiative reported, “when students use technology they are more engaged in their learning, more actively involved in their learning, and produce better quality work” (Silvernail & Lane, 2004, p. ii).

The Irving Independent School District in Texas began a one-to-one laptop initiative in 2001. This district established long-term goals that included changing the teacher’s approach to teaching and learning as well as developing a long range plan for technology. Training was designed to focus on progressive concepts such as guiding the students instead of directing them, maintaining student interest in learning, and designing activities that seamlessly integrate technology into the existing curriculum (Borthwick & Pierson, 2008). As a result of the laptop initiative, students reported they were more motivated and engaged in learning (Borthwick & Pierson; Kerr, Pane, & Barney, 2003; Owen, Farsaii, Knezak, & Christensen, 2005). Teachers confirmed that the accessibility of technology became a benefit of their job (Borthwick & Pierson).

The National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS-T) recommends that teachers should not only use their knowledge of subject matter and teaching but also use technology to facilitate experiences that advance student learning (International Society for Technology in Education [ISTE], 2008). Former educational technology professional development programs often focused on teacher competency in using specific hardware and software, whereas today models are focused more on approaches that expand teachers’ knowledge and build skill and confidence in using technology tools in teaching and learning (Borthwick & Pierson, 2008). As access to equipment and the Internet has increased, so must professional development opportunities for educators to learn how to use the technology.

21st Century Skills

According to the Alabama State Department of Education (2008), schools are not keeping pace with technologies in schools that will be required for the 21st Century. Educators are not the only individuals who should understand the 21st Century skills and outcomes. The Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow—Today recommends “educators, students, and parents be well versed in the 21st century skills that students need to be successful” (Apple, 2008, p. 4).

A laptop initiative may directly address technology innovations, but that alone does not complete the framework for 21st century learning. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2008) stated that for students, “proficiency in 21st century skills should be the outcome of a 21st century education” (p. 5). The 21st Century Skills Organization (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2008) quoted Superintendent Steven Paine: “The Framework for 21st Century Learning is critical to the success of public education in this state and this nation” (p. 5). Learning 21st century skills can provide an opportunity for students to not only be successful but internationally competitive. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2003) has identified the following as characteristics of 21st Century Learning Skills: accountability and adaptability; communication skills; creativity and intellectual curiosity; critical thinking and systems thinking; information and media literacy skills; problem identification, formulation, and solution; self-direction; and social responsibility. The basic framework for 21st century learning includes Core Subjects and 21st Century Themes, Life and Career Skills, Learning and Innovation Skills, and Information, Media and Technology Skills.

The 2006 NetDay Speak Up surveys found that less than 50% of students, parents, and teachers indicated their schools were doing a good job of preparing today’s students for 21st century careers (Ullman, 2007). Although some of the skills are included in a basic level of current curricula in many classrooms, the necessary skill level for success in the 21st century workforce far exceeds the basic level. In order to be authentic, 21st century skills should be integrated within the traditional curriculum, allowing students to see connections between their studies and the world in which they live. Table 1 lists the characteristics offered from The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2006) for professional development.

Figure 1

Table 1. Characteristics for 21st Century Professional Development.

From education to the demands of the workplace, change is constantly occurring in society. There are three major influences on 21st century learning: globalization, technology innovations, and new research on how people learn (Apple, 2008). A laptop initiative directly addresses technology innovations, but that alone does not complete the framework for 21st century learning. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2008) stated that for students, “proficiency in 21st century skills should be the outcome of a 21st century education” (p. 5).


The purpose of this study was to analyze teacher’s perceptions, attitudes, and instructional impact from a teacher laptop initiative. This study utilized a mixed methods research design (Creswell, 2003) to examine the impact of teachers’ perceptions and attitudes about a teacher laptop initiative by using a combination of instruments and focus groups to collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data. Questionnaires provided quantitative data that were used to answer three research questions. Through focus groups, participants were able to go beyond a single answer response and elaborate on personal experiences.

The following research questions guided the study:

  1. What is the impact of a teacher laptop initiative on teachers’ perceptions of their computer use?

  2. How is the use of computers for classroom instruction impacted by a teacher laptop initiative?

  3. How are teachers’ comfort, interest, and view of computer significance impacted by a teacher laptop initiative?

  4. How can a laptop initiative help teachers to prepare students for the 21st century?

This study took place in one southeastern urban school system in the United States. During the 2007-2008 school year the school system was composed of seven schools (five elementary schools, one middle school Grades 6-8, and one high school Grades 9-12). The school system serves approximately 6,000 students and 400 teachers in the state. The racial composition of the community and system is predominately White. This is an affluent community made up of many professionals of the business community.

Background of Study

In 2005, the school system formed a system-wide technology committee that was made up of three representatives from each school in the system. In the spring of 2006, this committee was given the task of developing what they considered to be the ideal classroom. The local Board of Education indicated the need for the school system to better prepare students for 21st century learning. The Board of Education charged the technology committee with making a recommendation of how this could be done for the system. The committee then prioritized the necessary equipment needed in order to transform classrooms throughout the system into a 21st century classroom.

The school system scheduled campus visits with other schools throughout the nation already equipped for 21st century learning and that had implemented a laptop initiative. Subsequently, two visits were made to schools of comparable socioeconomic status. After the school visits, information was reported to the school board. The Board of Education then requested that the initiative be divided into phases. The technology committee met and recommended the 21st Century Classroom Project be divided into four phases: Phase 1: Infrastructure; Phase 2: Teacher Laptops; Phase 3: Interactive Classroom; and Phase 4: Student Computers.

Phase 1 involved ensuring that all schools in the school system had sufficient infrastructure. Some of the schools in the system were considered to be a classic school where some classrooms were limited to one electrical outlet and one data support. The committee decided that in order to support the amount of equipment being provided in each room, nine electrical outlets and nine network connections should be installed in each room. This would support at least four student computers, a network printer, projector, teacher computer, and any additional equipment such as a mobile lab or wireless device.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Photo: Phase 1-1

Photo: Phase 1-2

Phase 2 involved the Teacher Laptop Initiative. All certified personnel in the school system could receive a laptop during this initiative. After reviewing various brands of laptops, the committee decided to use Apple’s MacBook laptop. The committee thought this laptop provided teachers with many options including large hard drive storage, wireless Internet ability, ease of use, the option to run both platforms, and software bundles included with the laptop. The MacBook laptop also allowed for better communication with current servers in the system. If these were accomplished, troubleshooting would be simpler and would help increase technical support efficiency for the district.

In order to provide training throughout the school system, the committee designated local individuals at each school to be available for small group training opportunities. A "train the trainer" model was implemented. The number of laptop trainers per school was chosen based on a faculty ratio. Forty-eight teachers throughout the system were trained to be laptop trainers. Trainers were selected based on their technology proficiency and willingness to mentor other teachers. A 2-day training session was held by an Apple Distinguished Educator to better prepare the laptop trainers. After the initial training, the laptop trainers then directed a 2-hour training session with the remainder of the teachers in their school at the beginning of the school year. Teachers were required to sign a laptop contract before they accepted the laptop. The laptop contract agreement confirmed that the teacher would be responsible for the laptop. Once teachers signed the laptop contract, they were invited to participate in the study by completing a consent form.

The instructional technology specialist at each school met and developed a list of skills and knowledge for the laptop trainers to include in the training. This checklist included basic skills such as saving files, using help, and closing applications, to more advanced skills and skills needed to use specific applications. For example, the trainers covered topics such as using projectors with the laptop, changing passwords, and how to use programs such as PowerPoint, iCal (calendar application), and iMovie in the classroom. Ongoing training continued throughout the year to increase skills.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Photos: Year 1-1, Year 1-2, Year 2

The instructional technology specialist at each school conducted monthly trainings and stayed in close contact with the laptop trainers. Approximately $37,000 was spent on laptop training, including the costs associated with hiring substitute teachers and outside trainers for the professional development sessions.

Figure 1

Photo: Phase 2

Phase 3 entailed installing components of the “interactive classroom.” The interactive classroom consisted of a mounted projector, document camera, mounted interactive presentation board, voice enhancer, surround sound, student response system, slate, and a podium to store the equipment. These components were identified, based on the technology committee’s research, to be necessary in creating the 21st century classrooms throughout the system.

Figure 1

Photo: Phase 3

Phase 4 included beginning a 4-year rotation plan of computers in the classroom. It ensured each elementary classroom was equipped with four student computers and each middle/high school classroom contained one student computer. In addition to adding student computers to the classrooms, mobile laptop labs were added to each school with a computer to student ratio goal of 1:5.

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Photo: Phase 4

Data Collection

Two data collection instruments were used to survey teachers: Teachers’ Attitudes Towards Computers (TAC) (Knezek & Christensen, 1997) and the Stages of Adoption of Technology (Stages v1.1; Russell, 1995). These instruments were chosen because they were used in similar studies and seemed appropriate to measure teacher attitudes toward computers. The TAC is composed of well-validated portions of several attitudinal surveys allowing each portion the option to be administered as a stand-alone instrument (Knezek, Christensen, Miyashita, & Ropp, 2000). The scales used in this study were interest, comfort, and significance (Parts 1, 2, and 9), along with 10 demographic items. All scales had a reliability of .93 or higher. The Stages of Adoption of Technology (Christensen, 1998; Christensen & Knezek, 1996; Russell, 1995) is an instrument designed to be a quick, self-assessment measure. A high test-retest reliability estimate of .91 was obtained from a sample 32 of 525 K-12 teachers from a metropolitan north Texas public school district during August 1999 (Christensen & Knezek, 1997; Knezek et al., 2000).

This study was implemented in two phases to gather the quantitative and qualitative data:

Phase I (Quantitative Data): Technology Survey. Approximately 284 teachers participated in Phase I of the study. The teachers in the system were given a MacBook laptop to use throughout the year. The participants were surveyed by an online questionnaire three times throughout the study over a 16-month time span (August 2007, April 2008, and December 2008).

Phase II (Qualitative Data): Focus Groups. Approximately 40 teachers, consisting of a purposeful sample throughout the system, were invited to participate in the focus groups. This sample was composed of teachers that considered themselves proficient with technology, teachers that did not consider themselves proficient with technology, veteran teachers, and teachers that were at the beginning of their teaching career. The focus groups were divided into three groups: Elementary teachers (K-5), Secondary teachers (6-12), and the local school Instructional Technology Specialist (ITS). The ITS had several roles throughout the year, including distributing laptops, planning and implementing professional development for all faculty, and providing technical support. At each school, an Instructional Technology Specialist served as a local liaison, assisting with distributing laptops and inviting teachers to participate in the quantitative portion of the study. The researcher trained the liaisons prior to dissemination to ensure consistency of procedures across schools.


Quantitative Data Analysis

Research Question 1: What is the impact of a teacher laptop initiative on teachers’ perceptions of their computer use?

To determine if a teacher laptop initiative impacted teachers’ perceptions of their computer use, a comparison of responses from the Stages of Adoption of Technology instrument between semesters was calculated using the Kruskal-Wallis test, analogous to the one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). The item read, “Choose the stage that best describes where you are in the adoption of technology.” Table 2 summarizes the results.

Figure 1

Table 2. Kruskall-Wallis Ranks & Test Statistics for Teacher Perceptions of Computer Use.

Due to the possibility of an inflated Type I error, the researcher set the significance level at p < .001. The Kruskal-Wallis test showed a significant difference between at least 2 rankings between the 3 semesters. Because the Kruskal-Wallis test was significant, a Mann-Whitney U Test was performed. The test indicated that means for Fall 2007 were less than Spring 2008, and Spring 2008 were less than Fall 2008. Figure 1 shows the overall median adoption by semester. Fall 2008 had a higher ranking, which indicates a teacher laptop initiative can increase teachers’ perceptions of their computer use.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Teachers' perception of technology adoption by semester.

Teachers were asked to choose the stage that best describes where they are with the adoption of technology. The scale ranged from 1 to 6. The higher the stage, the higher the teacher perceived computer use. Figure 1 displays the median adoption among teachers showing that in Fall 2007, teachers ranked themselves with a 4. In Spring 2008, teacher ranks of perceived computer use increased to 5, and in Fall 2008, the median response for technology adoption was 6. Table 3 shows percentages of specific responses to adoption ranking comparing each semester.

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Table 3. Specific Responses of Teachers’ Perception of Computer Use by Semester.

According to the ranking scale, in Fall 2007 when the laptop initiative began, the median ranking from teachers was Stage 4 in the category of familiarity and confidence, indicating a sense of gained confidence and comfort in using the computer for specific purposes. By Fall 2008 the median of teacher responses was Stage 6 (the highest stage) in the category of creative application to new concepts, indicating an increased ability in integrating technology in the curriculum.

Research Question 2: How is the use of computers for classroom instruction impacted by a teacher laptop initiative?

To determine if a teacher laptop initiative impacted the use of computers for classroom instruction, a comparison of responses on demographic Item 9 between semesters was calculated using the Kruskal-Wallis test, which is analogous to the one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). In this item, participants selected a corresponding frequency that related to their use of computers for instruction in the classroom. Responses for the question were daily (1), weekly (2), monthly (3), once or twice a year (4), never (5), and n/a (6). The resulting descriptive statistics are presented in Table 4.

Figure 1

Table 4. Kruskall-Wallis Ranks & Test Statistics: Use of Computers in the Classroom.

Research Question 2: How is the use of computers for classroom instruction impacted by a teacher laptop initiative?

To determine if a teacher laptop initiative impacted the use of computers for classroom instruction, a comparison of responses on demographic Item 9 between semesters was calculated using the Kruskal-Wallis test, which is analogous to the one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). In this item, participants selected a corresponding frequency that related to their use of computers for instruction in the classroom. Responses for the question were daily (1), weekly (2), monthly (3), once or twice a year (4), never (5), and n/a (6). The resulting descriptive statistics are presented in Table 4.

Figure 1

Table 4. Kruskall-Wallis Ranks & Test Statistics: Use of Computers in the Classroom.

Due to the possibility of inflated Type I error, the researcher set the significance level at p < .001. The mean values ranged 257.41 to 426.70 with a significance of .000. Because the Kruskal-Wallis test was significant, a Mann-Whitney U Test was performed. Table 5 displays the Mann-Whitney U Test with ranks between semester and computer use in the classroom, and Table 6 reveals the Test Statistic results.

Figure 1

Table 5. Mann-Whitney U Test: Ranks between Semester and Computer Use in the Classroom.

Figure 1

Table 6. Test Statistics: Use of Computers in the Classroom.

The data illustrate a significant difference between rankings of all three semesters. Mann-Whitney post hoc tests showed that means for Fall 2007 were less than Spring 2008, with Spring 2008 means less than Fall 2008.

Table 7 shows the specific response results of demographic Question 9, comparing responses of how often a teacher used a computer in the classroom for instruction. In Fall 2007, 36.6% of the teachers reported they used computers daily for classroom instruction. By Spring 2008, the percentage of teachers using computers daily for classroom instruction increased to 56.1%; that percentage continued to grow in Fall 2008 to 70.4%. This growth indicates the teachers’ daily use of computers in the classroom for daily instruction almost doubled since the beginning of the initiative.

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Table 7. Specific Responses (Demographic Q9): Use of Computers for Classroom Instruction.

Research Question 3: How are teachers’ comfort, interest, and view of computer significance impacted by a teacher laptop initiative?

The responses were analyzed by using descriptive statistics and a one-way ANOVA. Thirty-six items were used from the Teachers’ Attitudes Toward Computers (TAC) instrument divided into three subscales: interest (Items 1-12), comfort (Items 13-22) and significance (Items 23-36). The instrument scale consists of responses ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). A summary of descriptives is found in Table 8, and the results of the ANOVA are found in Table 9.

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Table 8. Descriptives: Interest, Comfort, and Computer Significance.

Figure 1

Table 9. ANOVA Results: Interest, Comfort, & Computer Significance.

ANOVA results indicate there was no significant difference between semesters for interest or between semesters for computer significance. The data indicated a significant difference between all three semesters for comfort. A Bonferroni post hoc test was employed for multiple comparisons, indicating the Fall 2008 semester had a higher mean than previous semesters, suggesting a teacher laptop can increase a teacher’s comfort level toward computers. Table 10 shows the Bonferroni post hoc comparisons for comfort.

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Table 10. Bonferroni Multiple Comparisons for Comfort.

Research Question 4: How can a laptop initiative help teachers to prepare students for the 21st century?

After analyzing, reading, and re-reading (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) the focus group transcriptions, data analyses resulted in the following themes: preparing students for the future, enhancing teaching opportunities, creating better teachers, convenience for lesson planning, improving organization and communication skills, changing the way of teaching, and teachers becoming role models. These themes were determined by reoccurring responses from the participants.

Preparing Students for the Future. Several of the teachers described the laptop initiative as an opportunity to prepare their students for future careers and the “real world.” Teachers are able to “tap into higher order thinking” and show students that in “the real world they are going to have to know how to research for themselves and be motivated to find information and tools on their own” (Participant 2, Elementary). The teachers expressed that if students are exposed earlier to technology, then skills will “build on each other. They keep the skills they learn in the other grades and they go up” (Participant 1, Elementary). Teachers noted they could spend class time on authentic learning experiences rather than “wasting time on the silly how-to stuff. Students will get to spend more time on actual research” (Participant 1, Elementary). By teachers having access to laptops and modeling technology in the classroom, teachers perceived they could better prepare students for future jobs. One teacher noted that with technology in the schools, students “have access to it. Just about any job is going to revolve around computers and literacy” (Participant 5, Secondary). Another teacher voiced “that is what the future will be for them. That is the direction jobs are going, and they need experiences in school (Participant 3, Elementary).

Enhancing Teaching Opportunities. Several teachers expressed the importance of a laptop initiative and the effect that it has on the classroom. They suggested computers can “enhance any subject area” (Participant 5, Elementary; Participant 2, Secondary). Another teacher believed that “having this laptop has really enhanced the curriculum and my teaching as far as the resources that it opens up” (Participant 3, Elementary). Teachers are able to quickly find resources to enhance lessons that will keep students more engaged in the learning process.

Creating Better Teachers. In addition to a laptop initiative enhancing teaching opportunities, the teachers discussed how they believe the initiative made them better teachers. A Secondary Teacher conveyed, “It’s easier for the students to be interested in what I am teaching so I do think that it has made me a better teacher” (Participant 9, Secondary). Another Secondary Teacher claimed that learning to use a laptop efficiently has helped her in that she is “able to teach the kids how to use technology, which is out in the real world everyday. The more I learn about technology the more I benefit my students in that area too” (Participant 3, Secondary). In general, participants voiced beliefs that technology gives “more options right at my fingertips, so I would say it enhances who I am” (Participant 4, Secondary). Participants also believed that accessibility to communication tools and other productivity applications made them better teachers. One teacher responded with the following:

For one thing, it has definitely made me a better teacher because if I am stumped on how to teach something and I’ve got the laptop, it’s so easy to go and get ideas from other teachers. It’s so quick you don’t have to go the library and get a book or ask another teacher— it’s really quick. I also email my ideas to my colleagues all the time, so I think it has helped all around. The accessibility and ease of using it, it’s different from having to go to your desktop or stopping when you get home. You can take it home with you and keep planning. (Participant 1, Elementary)

Convenience for Lesson Planning. Providing teachers with a laptop seemed to empower them to be able to create more meaningful lessons to use in the classroom. Because the laptops were portable, teachers were able to carry the laptops home, to meetings, and to other classrooms. “You could carry the laptop home to spend time learning how to use it, making it faster to teach the kids how to use the computers” (Participant 1, Elementary). Secondary and elementary teachers both expressed that “it’s nice to have a grade-level planning meeting and have your laptops there” (Participant 3, Elementary; Participant 5, Secondary). By having the laptop in meetings, teachers were able to easily access documents, lesson plans, email communication, calendar tools, and the Internet. An elementary teacher communicated,

I feel like my lessons are a lot richer. It really is like a little notebook that has every single little thing that we need right there and we can move around with it, we can take it home, and there are just so many tools on it that I can plan a lot more than I could before. It is all right there. (Participant 5, Elementary)

Improving Organization and Communication. Many of the teachers believed that having a laptop improved their organizational skills, which made them more productive teachers. “When you learn how to organize things in files you know where things are, and it is a good way to organize the test you make and study sheets and flipcharts or whatever, just learning how to organize that and knowing right where it is a big help” (Participant 3, Elementary).

Teachers also stated that the laptop helped enhance communication skills among colleagues, parents, and students. “The laptop has given access to create newsletters and quickly respond to emails from parents” (Participant 2, Secondary). The reading coach at one of the elementary schools believed that her “ability to communicate so easily with everyone and anyone is such a tremendous benefit” to using the laptop (Participant 6, Elementary).

Changing the Way of Teaching. Experienced teachers voiced that a teacher laptop has changed the way of teaching in the classroom. One teacher of 30 years voiced that she “almost can’t get to all of the technology that has become available to her over the last five years because there is just so much.” She said “it keeps it exciting 30 years later!” (Participant 1, Elementary). Other teachers believed the entire school has become more excited about teaching and educating students.

It’s a tool. I’ve been seeing some teachers embrace it that I didn’t think would. That has been beneficial just seeing some teachers energized by it. Because for some teachers, it truly is changing the way they are teaching. It is making them a completely different teacher, and that has been a good thing. I think it helps the entire school when people are energized by what they are doing. (Participant 2, Secondary)

Teachers Becoming Role Models. Many of the teachers viewed themselves as technology proficient role models for students. “There are some students that do not have any exposure to technology so we are role models for them because this may be the only time they see it in a school system” (Participant 8, Secondary). One teacher noted that “becoming more confident and comfortable with learning new things with technology…sends a good message to the kids that we are not afraid to learn new things” (Participant 2, Elementary). Another teacher referred to teachers as the “refugees” and students as the “natives of technology” so educators should learn “how to speak their language, model technology, and show them that it can be more than just recreational/games” (Participant 1, Elementary). Teachers expressed that we are all “lifelong learners” and when problems arise for teachers who do not feel comfortable with technology, it should be viewed as “an opportunity to show students how to be flexible or creative problem solve” (Participant 3, Elementary).

Discussion and Implications

The increase in rankings of teachers’ perception of computer use from the Stages of Adoption of Technology survey reveals that providing teachers with a laptop and professional development to learn how to use the technology in the classroom can bring teachers one step closer to applying technology and using it as an instructional tool. Literature indicates, “that access to laptop computers can change the teaching and learning dynamics in the classroom” (Mouza, 2008, p. 450). However, providing a laptop alone is not enough to motivate and educate teachers on how to integrate technology in the classroom. It is not possible for all individuals to feel an immediate sense of comfort when learning something new such as the functionality of a laptop, therefore “teachers need access to high-quality professional development ” (Mouza, 2008, p. 451). By providing professional development opportunities, teachers can become properly educated on how to use new equipment and programs as well as ask questions, which will hopefully affect teaching practices in the classroom. In this study, by Fall 2008, 56% of the participants indicated they could use technology as an instructional tool and they could integrate technology in the curriculum. This was a 32% increase from the previous year.

Teachers were not just using the laptops at home but the teachers also continued to use them in the classroom. Among some of the ways teachers were utilizing computers were applications and programs such as iMovie, podcasting, and word processing software. These results suggest that if teachers are given a laptop and the knowledge of how to use it through professional development, they will experiment with programs and applications to use in the classroom. Once teachers are provided access to technology along with professional development, technology integration can begin in the classroom (Keller & Bichelmeyer, 2004). Once teachers begin the integration process, new opportunities can be provided for students. An elementary teacher reflected on her experience with integrating technology in the classroom: “It has made things concrete that would have been abstract for young children. It gives them something concrete to understand and enhances their understanding. It’s building their schema and background knowledge” (Participant 4, Elementary).

The data also indicated that teachers became more comfortable with computers when given a laptop, which is important before being expected to use it for instruction (Bonifaz & Zucker, 2004). If teachers feel comfortable using a computer, then they will be more likely to use it in the classroom for instructional purposes. Both elementary and secondary teachers responded that having access to a laptop daily made them more comfortable with technology. The Instructional Technology Specialist (ITS) from the high school noted, “The teachers at my school feel that it’s not as intimidating to try to learn something when they know they will be able to take it home and become a little more familiar with it” (ITS, Participant 1). An elementary teacher explained, “As we become more comfortable with technology, we also become more confident in what we are doing. We aren’t scared to take the chance to use it in the classroom with our students” (Participant 2, Elementary).

Although this study did not directly measure technology effects on students, teachers were probed on their perception of whether a laptop initiative is preparing students for the 21st century. After reviewing the responses from the participants, it was evident they believed that a laptop initiative coupled with professional development for teachers can help prepare students for the 21st century. It is not solely a laptop initiative that prepares students for the 21st century but the opportunities teachers are able to expose students to in the classroom through using technology. An elementary ITS expressed that “by the teachers using technology, it trickles down to the students as well. The students are so greatly benefiting from the teachers having a laptop because the lessons are so much more custom tailored to the needs of the class.” The Florida Laptop for Learning Task Force (2004, p. 2) reported, “Technology alone is not the answer to the challenges facing education in the 21st century. But with technology, our schools and teachers can leverage resources, individualize instruction, and open the door to lifelong learning opportunities for students.” A secondary teacher in this study echoed that and shared “students seem more receptive to learning when they are in a technology rich environment. The laptops have helped the students act as both participants and facilitators, which embraces many 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration and problem solving” (Participant 8, Secondary).

In order for teachers to prepare students for the 21st century, administrators must equip educators with the knowledge of how to integrate 21st century skills into their classrooms. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2006) offers six characteristics for 21st century professional development. These characteristics include understanding the importance of the skills, encouraging collaboration, developing learning communities, build upon expertise, and enhance the support and use of technology. Table 11 displays the guidelines of how this current study helped to meet these professional development characteristics.

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Table 11. Characteristics for 21st Century Professional Development.

Implications for Teachers

One of the major findings in this study was that if teachers are given resources and proper training on how to implement technology in the classroom, then attitudes and classroom practices may be changed. If educators begin to integrate technology in the classroom and model skills for students, it can help prepare students for the 21st century. Teachers in this study indicated that once they received professional development training to learn how to operate the equipment, they were then able to find ways to integrate technology into their classroom. Teachers with 25 years of teaching experience admitted that “it brings new life into the whole teaching experience. The teachers that were kind of on the edge of being burned out have found a fresh restart point” (Participant 5, Secondary). Once educators receive the technological knowledge, they should connect curriculum and pedagogy to develop learning experiences that integrate technology in the classroom (Florida Laptop for Learning Task Force, 2004; Mishra & Koehler, 2006).

Through the focus group interviews, teachers expressed several challenges they have incurred with the laptop. One common challenge teachers spoke about was “having to recover and think on your feet when things didn’t work right with the laptop” (Participant 2, Elementary). Teachers find it difficult when they have planned a lesson and are dependent on using the laptop for instruction and experience technical difficulties. Teachers also discussed having issues with wireless connections, docking stations, and battery issues.

Implications for Administrators and Final Thoughts

For district and building administrators, the implications of this study suggest strong leadership and collaboration should be established. Because teacher attitudes and beliefs can affect the success and impact of a laptop initiative it is imperative to provide professional development training for teachers in order to educate them on use of the equipment and how to utilize it in the classroom (Borthwick & Pierson, 2008, Dawson, Cavanaugh, & Ritzhaupt, 2008). A secondary ITS noted,

I can definitely say that when we started with the laptops, it was the single most transforming thing that we did that year not only because of the professional development that was given but because how rapidly the teachers were learning. We saw a tremendous amount of growth in the teachers. Several teachers at the high school did not accept the laptop the first year of the initiative simply because they didn’t see a need in getting it (Participant 2, Secondary).

It is possible they did not accept a laptop because of the legal wording in the laptop contract or not realizing how it worked with the additional equipment being added to each classroom. However, once other people in the school received it and had positive things to say about it, the reluctant teachers began wanting the laptop. This study reinforced the importance of positive teacher attitudes, because once teachers had positive things to say about the laptops after the first year, other teachers began to want one.

In today’s information age, jobs and skill demands are changing (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2006). Schools must begin teaching students 21st century skills to help students be successful in the workplace (Apple, 2008; Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2006). Projects such as laptop initiatives can be one way to put the tools in the hands of the teacher so educators can better prepare students to become lifelong learners. To view more specifics about this study, including forms and video footage, visit


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Cassie G. Raulston is an Instructional Technology Specialist for Vestavia Hills City Schools. Dr. Raulston is a former Gifted Education Teacher and works with educators across the state to assist with educational technology experiences. She has conducted numerous technology integration workshops and has presented at regional and national conferences.


Vivian H. Wright is an Associate Professor of Instructional Technology in the College of Education at The University of Alabama. In addition to teaching graduate courses at the university, Dr. Wright directs the Master Technology Teacher professional development program and works with teachers throughout the state to help develop methods to integrate emerging technologies. She has authored and co-authored over 50 articles and book chapters and in 2009, received her university’s Outstanding Commitment in Teaching award.