An AlphaSmart for each student: Does teaching and learning change with full access to word processors?

Although increasing numbers of schools are investing in portable writing devices, few have attempted to provide one device for each student. Instead, classroom sets of portable writing devices are often shared across classrooms or classrooms are equipped with a limited number of devices that are shared among students. As an example of the latter, Wellesley Public Schools, a suburban district near Boston, has placed six to eight AlphaSmarts in each third, fourth and fifth grade classrooms. Although students make regular use of the AlphaSmarts in their classrooms, students are often unable to access the device when needed because other students are using them. This study used a variety of methodological tools (teacher interviews, student interviews, student drawings, and over 50 classroom observations) to examine what happened in three Wellesley 4th grade classrooms when each student received their own AlphaSmart. A summary is provided of the literature on the affects of computers and writing as well as research on laptops and portable writing devices in schools. The methodology is described and results of the study are presented and discussed. The results indicate that several aspects of teaching and learning did change when the ratio of students to AlphaSmarts increased from approximately three to one to one student per Alphasmart. An appendix includes the master coding list used in the content analysis of classroom observations. (Contains 18 references, 3 tables, and 3 figures.)

Russell, M., Bebell, D., Cowan, J., & Corbelli, M.
NECC 2002: National Educational Computing Conference Proceedings.
Related Research
Content Area: 
Grade Level: 
early elementary
intermediate elementary
middle school
IDEA Disability Category: 
emotional disturbance
major-other health impairment
specific learning disability
speech or language impairment
Instructional Support: 
electronic references and resources
multiple formats of text and notation
National Writing Next Standards: 
editing and revising
English Language Arts: