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Collection: Laptops

Purple arrow (1137 bytes)Project PULSE: Laptop Computers for Students and Teachers

REFERENCES: Bank Street College of Education. (1993, May). Project PULSE: Laptop computers for students and teachers. News from the Center for Children and Technology and the Center for Technology in Education, p.1-6. McAdoo, M. (1994).

Equity: Has technology bridged the gap? Electronic Learning 13 (7), 24-27. [See p. 26-27: Project PULSE: Using technology to challenge]

Permission to reprint given by the authors.

Description of research:

CONTEXT: A two-year research project was conducted at Abraham Clark Jr/Sr. High School in New Jersey by the Center for Children and Technology (CCT), formerly at Bank Street College and currently a division of Education Development Center. A class of twenty-five eighth graders, together with their English and science teachers, the school computer coordinator and CCT researchers have been members of the Project PULSE team (Pupils Using Laptops in Science and English). Project PULSE is part of the Laptops for Education program sponsored by the Panasonic Systems and Communications Company.

All teachers and students in the project had individual laptops for the entire school year for use at school and home, for academic work, personal projects, family activities, and telecommunications. The laptops were equipped with basic software tools, an internal modem, and an electronic bulletin board system. Research focused on:

DESCRIPTION: The science and English teachers collaborated on a coordinated curriculum, and the computer supervisor provided support, tutoring, and technical assistance. Students and teachers used internal modems to dial into a local telecommunications system from home, and printers at school to print out work throughout the school day. The school also housed a personal computer with a color monitor and laser printer, as well as the server for the local bulletin board system.

Since students had the opportunity to use their laptops as they liked, they were used for a range of activities. The teachers had an opportunity to experiment with interdisciplinary work, to gain experience using tool-based software in the classroom and to expand their classroom through telecommunications.


By using laptops both at school and at home, the student's "laptop experience" was very different from using computers in a school computer lab. Students felt "ownership" toward their laptops and took the opportunity to explore and discover their many uses for themselves.

Laptops supported them in their written work: besides the editing support offered by word processing, use of laptops added three important factors that influenced their ability and willingness to write: portability, flexibility, and privacy. Students could work on school assignments and do private projects wherever and whenever was necessary or most comfortable. Since they had access to the local telecommunications system, students were provided with a new way of "talking" with their teachers: many students used the system to initiate discussions with their teachers and to report on achievements or problems. The constant availability and portability of the laptops, combined with the integrated word processing, data analysis, graphing and telecommunications capacities of the software, facilitated increased involvement in project-based work over the course of both school years.

The telecommunications system offered teachers two main benefits: a solution to the chronic problem of poor channels for communication, traditionally one of the most difficult obstacles to successful teacher collaboration, and it encouraged private conversation between themselves and their students, which they reported was extremely rewarding.

Logistical issues did arise, including concerns with security, maintenance and power supply issues.

Outcomes indicated that several basic requirements will make the introduction of laptops successful in any school:

For more information: Executive Summary from the Year One Project PULSE Report.

If you would like to obtain the full report, indicate you are requesting Report (TR26) Year One of Project PULSE (Pupils Using Laptops in Science and English): A Final Report, Katie McMillan and Margaret Honey: December, 1992. Reports are $3.00 per copy (no purchase orders or cash).

Send to: Education Development Center, Inc., Center for Children and Technology, 96 Morton Street, 7th Floor. New York, NY 10014. Attn.: Order Department.

To obtain the article referenced above, Project PULSE: Laptop computers for students and teachers , or to subscribe to the newsletter, News from the Center for Children and Technology , contact the Center for Children and Technology, Education Development Center, Inc. (see address below). This free newsletter is published four times a year and highlights research and development projects of the Center for Children and Technology.

For more information: Education Development Center, Inc., Center for Children and Technology, 96 Morton Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10014 (212) 807-4200.

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Executive Summary

The following report is based on a year long study that was conducted with a class of eighth graders, their English and science teachers, and the school computer supervisor at a school in Roselle, NJ. The report is organized in four sections. In the introduction we describe the structure and goals of the project, and review the process of selecting a partner school and establishing the ground work for the project. The second section presents the research questions and findings, which focus on five topics: the development, over time, of the teachers' goals and practices and their relation to the technology; classroom interactions among students and teachers in relation to the technology; the development of project-based activities, particularly in science; the development of students' writing skills; and the impact of local telecommunications on patterns of teacher-student interaction. The third section discusses the technical constraints that influenced the growth of the project. The final section outlines the teachers' initiatives for expanding and building upon the work of the first year of the project.

The themes that emerged as most significant to the students' and teachers positive experiences of the laptops as tools which facilitated their work include a high level of student and teacher motivation, the role of the teacher in facilitating and encouraging students' active appropriation of the technology, and a steady increase in technological competencies among the teachers, particularly with regard to telecommunications.

The portability of the laptops and availability of integrated tool-based software made it possible for the science teacher to undertake long-term, collaborative science projects with the students. This represented a significant departure from the previous years' curricula and, as a result, students were able to gain experience with the kinds of tasks and procedures involved in scientific inquiry.

For the majority of the Project PULSE students, the laptops functioned as portable "diaries" in which they were able to keep personal and teacher assigned journals, write stories, and complete assignments. Privacy, portability, and constant availability freed students to integrate technology into personal, not just school-based, projects. Consequently, students wrote much more than in previous years.

Based on a holistic measure of writing scores for a randomly selected group of students, they improved markedly on their ability to communicate persuasively, organize their ideas effectively, and use a broad vocabulary accurately. The most significant changes that the teachers reported regarding the impact of technology on their practices included an ability to undertake more inquiry-oriented and project-based activities with students, and the opportunity to communicate themselves and with their students during off-hours through the local bulletin board system.

The local bulletin board was used actively throughout the school year. Over a ten week period, there was a total of 735 logins: 63.4% of these were students, 20.9% were teachers, and 15.6% were research staff. Over the course of five months, 5670 messages appeared, the majority posted by a core of approximately 25 students, teachers, and staff out of a total of 45 registered users.

The teachers have managed to effectively leverage this project as a way of bringing other badly needed resources into their school. Their initiatives have produced a grant from New Jersey Bell to install additional phone lines; a grant from JVNCNet providing no cost access to the Internet; a grant fro New Jersey BISEC (Business Industry Science Education Consortium) to further develop inquiry-based science curriculum; and selection as a participating site in TERC's Global Laboratory, a year-long international research and telecommunications project.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

ŠEducation Development Center, Inc.