Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Education)

Schools and Centres


First Supervisor

Associate Professor Jean Macnish

Second Supervisor

Dr. Frank Bate


Since the beginning of 1:1 laptop programs in schools there has been extensive research undertaken about the effectiveness of how laptops are used for teaching and learning. With an educational environment in Australia where the use of Information Communications Technology (ICT) is one of the five general capabilities of the Australian Curriculum, an expectation to use ICT effectively for teaching and learning is explicit. However, the use of laptops for teaching and learning is complex for teachers and students. Furthermore, parents are expected to support their child’s learning in a digital age where mobile devices for learning are common. Therefore, investigating parental involvement and perceptions was a significant feature of the study.

This report presents a three-year longitudinal study that examined the implementation of a student-owned 1:1 laptop program in a school for boys in Perth, Western Australia. The research tracked 196 students drawn from the junior (primary) and middle (secondary) schools, their families and associated teachers for a three year period. The focus on male students is purposeful. Understanding how male students use their laptops for learning can provide useful insights into the affordances and risks for schools and, in particular, the field of boys’ education. The aim of the research, therefore, was to describe and explain how boys use their laptops for learning in primary and middle school settings. Involving the whole school community in the research allowed for rich description and hopefully insightful explanation.

The research literature reports that the use of laptops for learning can increase motivation and engagement, improve technology proficiencies, provide enriched learning experiences, and help teaching and learning. The five research questions developed to guide the research were aimed at either endorsing or challenging these claims.

Underpinning this research was a mixed methods approach investigating how the boys used their laptops for learning, teachers’ pedagogical uses of laptops, implementation differences between a junior and middle school, and the possible impact of the laptops on literacy and numeracy outcomes. A rich data set, collected over three years, and derived from qualitative and quantitative techniques, was interrogated in relation to the study’s research questions. The study’s longitudinal design provided further opportunities to triangulate data over the three years, enhancing the strength and reliability of the findings.

The novelty factor of laptops for learning quickly abated for both junior and middle school students. A two-pronged approach of providing targeted professional learning for staff coupled with confronting the obvious distraction that a 1:1 device can be for primary and middle school students, yielded positive outcomes. Students held strong views about the role, and effectiveness of a teacher when utilising their laptops for learning. Although teachers reported laptops were important for the teaching and learning program, there was a wide variation in the way teachers harnessed the 1:1 laptop environment for the benefit for student learning. Also, teachers were faced with pedagogical challenges in terms of considering games or Web 2.0 for learning. Literacy and numeracy outcomes based on national assessment results compared to national standards revealed the case study student participants performed favourably.

Four enablers for effective laptop use are theorised. These are: inquisitive students, creative teachers, proactive leaders, and national and state policy directions. However, five paradoxes potentially inhibited these enablers. These paradoxes are presented as ‘spanners’ in the cogs of effective 1:1 laptop initiatives: engagement and seduction of students; transformative and conservative pedagogical practices; integration and alienation of parents; autonomy and systemic dependency of schools; and, the hope and fear of Web 2.0.

The study may assist educational policy-makers, school leaders and teachers who are contemplating how to best integrate 1:1 laptop devices into the fabric of schools. A model is presented to provide new knowledge about the impacts of 1:1 devices on teaching and learning.

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