Information Literacy in the Lapto...
Teachers College Record Volume 109, Number 11, November 2007, pp. 2511���2540 Copyright �� by Teachers College, Columbia University 0161-4681 Information Literacy in the Laptop Classroom MARK WARSCHAUER University of California, Irvine Background/Context: Technological and economic changes have put a high premium on developing students��� information literacy and research skills. Previous attempts to deploy educational technology toward these ends have proved disappointing because K���12 teachers have difficulty integrating shared computers into instruction. In response, numerous schools and districts have piloted one-to-one programs, in which each student has access to a laptop computer connected wirelessly to the Internet throughout the school day. Purpose/Objective: This paper analyzes the information literacy and research practice in a purposely stratified selection of 10 one-to-one laptop K���12 schools in California and Maine. Research Design/Data Collection and Analysis: Sources of data in this multisite case study include observations, interviews, surveys, and teacher- and student-produced materials. Findings/Results: The study found that students in all the laptop schools learned to access information, manage it, and incorporate in into their written and multimedia products. However, the focus on evaluating information, understanding the social issues surround- ing it, and analyzing it for the purpose of knowledge production varied widely across schools. Some schools succeeded in promoting scholarly approaches to working with informa- tion, whereas other schools mostly limited themselves to teaching procedural functions of computer and Internet use. Examples of these differences are given through a comparison of three diverse schools in Maine. Conclusions/Recommendations: The study concludes that one-to-one wireless laptops offer important affordances for promoting information literacy and research skills but that socioe- conomic context, visions, values, and beliefs all play a critical role in shaping how laptop programs are implemented and what benefits are thus achieved. Recent decades have witnessed the most rapid advances in the means of communication and knowledge production since the advent of the
2512 Teachers College Record printing press (see discussion in Harnad, 1991). These technological changes have in turn made possible a new stage of capitalist develop- ment, termed informationalism by Castells (1996). In informationalist or postindustrial capitalism, raw infusions of capital or labor are much less significant to economic advancement than is the ability to accumulate and analyze information and turn it into knowledge. The jobs that drive the new knowledge economy and provide people with power, prestige, and high pay are almost all in what former secretary of labor Robert Reich (1991), called symbolic analyst services and include professions such as research scientists, design engineers, management consultants, strategic planners, marketing strategists, and production designers. Symbolic analysts must be highly analytic in their use of infor- mation, persuasive and creative in their communications, and autonomous and flexible in their ability to manage tasks from a number of simultaneous projects. Most symbolic analysts use digital technology on a constant basis to network with others, seek or analyze information, and create multimedia products for diverse audiences. They require a high degree of information literacy, defined as the ability to access needed information effectively and efficiently evaluate information and its sources critically incorporate selected information into one���s knowledge base use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose and understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information (American Library Association, 2000). These technological, economic, and workforce changes have prompted educational reform efforts so that schools can better help stu- dents develop the skills in accessing and using information, conducting research, and producing knowledge that are required in this new century (see, for example, North Central Regional Educational Laboratory & the Metiri Group, 2003 Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2004). It has long been believed that incorporating greater amounts of technology into schools would help foster such reform (see Culp, Honey, & Mandinach, 2003). In pursuit of improved education, the United States has decreased its average student computer ratio from an estimated 168.0 in 1983 (Anderson & Ronnkvist, 1999) to 3.8 in 2005 (Market Data Retrieval, 2005). Yet research suggests that the computerization of schools has not achieved its goals because a range of logistical, administrative, and peda- gogical obstacles make it difficult for teachers to effectively deploy shared computers (see, for example, Cuban, 2001 Warschauer, Grant, Del Real, & Rousseau, 2004). The need to schedule computers in advance is one major obstacle toward effective integration of technology into instruc- tion, and students��� unequal access to computers at home represents
Information Literacy in the Laptop Classroom 2513 another challenge (see study by Warschauer et al., 2004). As a result, only a small percentage of teachers make use of technology on a frequent basis, and use is even rarer in academic subjects (Becker, 2000b Cuban). In addition, unequal patterns of technological access and use in society get reproduced in schools as teachers make use of limited computer resources to benefit the most able or privileged students (see Schofield & Davidson, 2004). To overcome these problems and better incorporate technology into instruction, increasing numbers of U.S. schools are turning to one-to-one laptop programs (for overviews, see Johnstone, 2003 Rockman, 2003). In these programs, all the students in a class or school receive laptop computers for use throughout the school day and, in most programs, at home. By eliminating obstacles of sharing computers, scheduling com- puter use, bringing students back and forth to computer laboratories, and unequal computer access, laptop programs seek to achieve a more natural integration of technology into instruction. One-to-one instruc- tional programs invariably involve wireless access to the Internet so that students have online information available to them throughout the day, as would any typical knowledge worker in the United States. Dozens of research studies have been published on laptop use over the last several years, and many of these studies suggest positive outcomes (Penuel, 2005). Yet most of these studies lack methodological rigor (see critique in Penuel), and most are based in only one or two schools. The larger published studies (e.g., Silvernail & Lane, 2004) have been princi- pally based on surveys, with relatively little direct observation of what takes place in the laptop classroom. Finally, though a number of the stud- ies have touched on how laptops are used for information access, infor- mation literacy development, and research (see, for example, Walker, Rockman, & Chessler, 2000), none of the studies to date focused on information use and research as the central question. METHODOLOGY This article presents findings from a 2-year laptop and literacy study con- ducted from 2003 to 2005. A complete report on the findings can be found in Warschauer (2006). In this article, the data are summarized with respect to the following research questions: (1) What patterns of information use and research were noted in the laptop classroom, and how did they compare with what teachers and students said was typical in their prior nonlaptop classes? and (2) How did approaches to informa- tion use and research differ according to the social context of laptop schools?
2514 Teachers College Record The study is based on an examination of laptop use in a purposely strat- ified sample of 10 schools in two states (see Table 1). All the schools were either in Maine (3 schools) or California (7 schools). Maine represents a state with high test scores, a history of progressive education, a relatively homogenous population as to ethnicity and language, and a public statewide laptop program. California represents a state with many failing schools, an educational climate dominated by conservative approaches to raise test scores rather than progressive education, a highly diverse pop- ulation as to ethnicity and language, and a hodgepodge of pilot laptop programs launched in individual schools and districts. The sample of 10 schools in the study includes two elementary schools, four middle or junior high schools, three high schools, and one combined elementary- junior high. Students in these schools use laptops in grades ranging from Grade 2 to Grade 12. The schools are located in urban, suburban, and rural settings and are located in wealthy, middle-class, and poor neigh- borhoods. The ethnic composition of the schools varies widely, with Table 1. School Sites School Grades of Location Principal SES Program Funding Platform Laptop Ethnic Program Groups Henry 3���6 Suburban, White, High Gifted Parental Macintosh Elementary California Asian Lease Flower 3���7 Suburban, Asian, Medium General Parental Macintosh School California White Lease River 4 Urban, Latino Low Language Private Windows Elementary California Arts/ESL Grant Nancy Jr. 7 Urban, Latino, Low General Federal Macintosh High California White Howard 7���8 Suburban, White High General State Macintosh Middle Maine Castle 7���8 Urban, White, Low General State Macintosh Middle Maine, Black Freedom 8 Urban, Black, Low Alternative Private Macintosh Middle California Latino /At Risk Grant Carlton 9���12 Urban, Asian, Medium Academic Parental Windows & High California White Core Purchase Macintosh Melville 9���12 Suburban, White, High Academic Parental Windows High California Latino Core Purchase Plum High 9���12 Rural, White Low General State and Macintosh Maine Private Note: All names are pseudonyms. In a previous article (Warschauer et al., 2004), Castle Middle was referred to as Urbania Middle.
Information Literacy in the Laptop Classroom 2515 Whites, Latinos, Asians and Asian Americans, and African Americans each forming the largest ethnic group in at least one school. Most of the schools in the study have integrated laptops into their general school pro- grams, but in certain schools, the laptops are principally or even exclu- sively used in special programs, such as those for at-risk or gifted students. Funding for the laptop programs is provided from a variety of federal, state, and private sources, including, in some cases, parental purchase or lease, and the platforms deployed include Windows and Macintosh, and, in one school, both. Research at the schools was directed by the author and was carried out by a team of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates (see Acknowledgments). Data collection at the schools involved a combina- tion of observations, interviews, surveys, and document review. In 6 of the 10 schools, a team of researchers visited the school part of the day approximately 1���2 times per week for most of a school year to conduct the research. In 4 of the 10 schools, the research was more intensive, with a team of researchers visiting the school all day for 4���5 days over a 2-week period. At all the schools, the administration allowed us to observe and interview whomever we wished, but participation by any individual teacher, parent, or student was voluntary. About 5���7 individual case study students were chosen at each school to represent the diversity of students at the school (by grade level, language background, gender, ethnicity, and whether they were high or low achievers). A total of 650 hours of classroom observations were conducted at the 10 schools, with detailed field notes taken during all observations. Interviews were conducted with a total of 61 teachers 32 other school staff (administrators, librarians, counselors, or technology coordinators) 67 students and 31 parents. Interviews ranged from 20 to 60 minutes, and a number of the people were interviewed multiple times. All inter- views were tape recorded and transcribed. Teachers and students in 3 of the 10 schools completed a voluntary anonymous online survey with a response rate of 100% of the teachers (35 out of 35) and 86% of the students (877 out of 1,012). We also col- lected documents and records from individual schools, including school, district, and state policy documents print and digital teaching materials print and digital assignments completed by case study students and, in some cases, school or student test score or attendance records. Data were analyzed through standard qualitative methods, first to iden- tify key patterns within each research site, and then to make comparisons and find commonalities or differences across research sites. To facilitate this analysis, all the interviews and field notes were coded with the HyperRESEARCH (2005) software program, using a bottom-up coding