Pictured above: St. Louis Catholic High School seniors Andrew Mayer and Ellen Latil use their new laptops for a senior English assignment during class.
(February 8, 2013) Mobile technology in the classroom is a popular research topic among education researchers as schools explore ways to keep up with the latest technology in education while keeping their students engaged in the learning process.
A one-to-one laptop initiative instituted at St. Louis Catholic High School last fall was the perfect research vehicle on this topic for a group of professors in the Burton College of Education at McNeese State University - Dr. Dustin Hebert, assistant professor of education professions, Dr. Brett Welch, associate professor of education professions, Dr. Jan Broussard, assistant professor of education professions, and Dr. Sharon VanMetre, professor of education professions.
"St. Louis Catholic High School has been working with laptops this year. One-to-one laptop initiatives such as this constitute one of the emerging dimensions of research as P-12 schools are working toward maximizing learning through innovation and creation. Providing such technology at students' fingertips at every moment of the instructional day creates an environment for this to flourish," said Hebert.
Hebert contacted St. Louis President Deborah Frank about following the initiative for two years and she was enthusiastic about the collaboration.
All students and faculty received Fujitsu tablets prior to the 2012 fall semester and attended training sessions to learn the tablets' features and programs, according to Frank.
"This initiative allows us to use technology in teaching and learning to help us prepare our students with the skills they will need to be productive in the future, and the McNeese research study will help provide us with the necessary benchmarks to determine our success. This collaboration is a win-win situation for us and McNeese."
Frank explained that this initiative is a significant venture for St. Louis that involves student achievement and motivation, instruction, fiscal resources, personnel and infrastructure. "In financial terms, this initiative is a significant investment in technology for us and having a mechanism to determine the return on that investment will be of interest to all parties involved with the initiative."
Throughout the 2012-2013 school year, the research focus is on the processes, successes and challenges presented during the first year of implementation using observations in the classrooms and interviews and surveys of faculty, students and leaders. "Our findings will then be presented before this school year ends, and we hope that the research we have conducted will help the school community gauge the success of this initiative to date and set goals for its future," said Hebert.
The 2013-2014 school year would focus on examining the instructional applications of laptops within each academic discipline of the school's curriculum.
"Because of this significant investment, the school leaders are looking to set goals for the 2013-2014 school year of what measurable outcomes they hope faculty and students will accomplish relevant to technology use. We hope that our findings for the 2012-2013 school year will provide a baseline for those outcomes," he explained.
Hebert said today's high school students have been using this technology for recreation for years and should not have many problems discovering how the technology can be used in their learning.
"This initiative now provides the opportunity for these students to transition more smoothly into substantive learning in the classroom that will continue to benefit them after they graduate and continue their studies."
For faculty, the technology provides the opportunity to expand instructional techniques that would not be possible otherwise. It also enables faculty to provide different, and in some instances, greater interaction with students. "With the technology tools now available at St. Louis, teachers can design lessons that allow more differentiated learning options that may engage students more than traditional instruction would," said Hebert.
"Our experiences with the faculty, students and leaders of St. Louis have been great so far. We were welcomed into the school community and we are excited to be a part of this innovative undertaking," he added.