Laptops initiative for students with dyslexia or other reading and writing difficulties: Evaluation report of early implementation, 2002-2003

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Conway, Paul F.
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National Centre for Technology Education (NCTE)
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Research Projects
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This evaluation report presents findings from the early implementation of the Laptops Initiative for students with dyslexia and other reading and writing difficulties during the period December 2000 to September 2003. The report situates the Laptop Initiative in the context of the national and international focus on how best to integrate ICTs into the daily fabric of teaching and learning with a concurrent policy move toward providing support for students with learning difficulties in mainstream settings. These three themes - early implementation, ICT/technology integration, and provision of learning support for students in mainstream settings - are the central themes in the report. The overarching project goal was to identify how laptops and other portable ICT equipment can best be used to support students with dyslexia or other reading and writing difficulties in a manner that facilitates learning, and access to learning, in an inclusive environment.The first phase of the evaluation work on the early implementation involved orientation to the personnel, scope and developments to date in the project (January- March 2003). This phase involved meeting with relevant NCTE and DES personnel (the Director of the NCTE, the Project Coordinator, NCTE's National Coordinator for Special Needs, NCTE's Project Officer for Special Needs, and the DES Inspector providing advice to the project coordination team), meeting teachers in two focus group meetings in March 2003, review of some relevant literature on laptop and ICT initiatives and planning the case study phase of the evaluation. The second phase (April-July 2003) of the evaluation focused on gathering case study data in four selected schools, preparing an initial draft of sections of the report summarising data gathered during the March Focus Group meetings and outlining a framework for the school case studies. The third phase (August-November 2003) of the evaluation involved revisiting the case study schools and the development, administration and analysis of a school survey which was sent to principals. The subsequent report on the early implementation of the Laptops Initiative documents the development of the project from its inception in December 2000 to various strands of development at national, school and classroom levels until end of September 2003. The various interview protocols, survey instruments and other data collection guidelines are contained in the report as appendices.This evaluation of the Laptop Initiative reflects the early development of the project. In many respects the Laptop Initiative could be seen as the SIP of SIPs, (SIP being the acronym for the School Integration Project, one of the three strands in the Schools IT 2000 initiative). That is, the Laptop Initiative provides an opportunity to examine a large-scale school integration pilot project across thirty-one post-primary schools, with a number of supporting conditions such as: the freedom given to each school to design and craft the project according to its locally identified needs and strengths, funding for substitute teacher cover to support participating teachers, an experienced seconded project coordinator supporting the schools, with additional support provided by local ICT advisors, NCTE personnel overseeing and providing further expertise to the project, involvement of principals in national project meetings, in-service days and further training for teachers and principals, and a Laptop Initiative newsletter designed to support teachers in sharing their Laptops Initiative-related teaching practices. There are a number of very positive developments and overarching observations worth reiterating at this point: Teachers, principals, and students alike are generally very positive about the project and see it as having made a worthwhile contribution to literacy learning. They identified significant successes to date, real obstacles to its fuller implementation, as well as areas for future development. Over a thousand students have been using the laptops across the thirty-one schools. Students were positive about their laptop-related learning experiences. The 2002-03 year marked a turning point during which many teachers and principals moved from being somewhat skeptical about the initiative to being strongly committed to its actual benefits and further potential. The Laptops Initiative is well rooted in almost all participating schools. Schools made very significant progress during 2002-03 in purchasing, organising, planning, developing awareness of the project in other schools and distributing the laptops for use across different class and year groups. The dominant approach to provision of support for students with learning difficulties in literacy is withdrawal. Consequently, to date, the laptops have fitted into rather than transformed provision for students with dyslexia and other reading and writing difficulties. As such, dominant organisational and cultural patterns tend to exert a significant and powerful assimilationist pressure on innovations such as the Laptops Initiative. Significantly more boys than girls are involved in the project. The fixed model of laptop deployment (allocating laptops to one location) has been the dominant model for laptop management to date. However, many schools have also used the floating model (allowing students to bring laptops around the school) and a small number have allowed students to occasionally bring a laptop home, that is, use of the fostered model.
Laptop computers , Reading difficulties , Computer Uses in Education , Computer Assisted Instruction , Computer Literacy
Conway, P. F. (2005) Laptops Initiative for Students with Dyslexia or other Reading and Writing Difficulties: Evaluation Report of Early Implementation, 2002-2003. Dublin: National Centre for Technology Education (NCTE).
Copyright © National Centre for Technology in Education, 2005.