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Definitions: Theoretical background relevant to technology facilitated social learning
Research evidence: Systematic literature reviews on the theme of technology facilitated social learning

An international literature review of 1:1 computing in schools

Summary and key points

A review of 145 papers covering all 1-1 devices in primary and secondary schools across all countries. The study finds mixed results including positive, negative and no-effects.
The authors acknowledge the enormous potential for technologies to implement constructionist learning approaches and student-centred pedagogies, via active, collaborative, experiential and problem-based learning methods. However, they suggest that we are at an early stage in figuring out how best to integrate technologies in schools and that in most cases their implementation fails to take into account the constructivist pedagogy (Tedre et al. 2011). There are many impact studies but not so many conclusive and generalisable results. A large research review by the US Ministry of Education showed that technology itself does not entail positive effects but work methods that include student self-reflection, self-assessment, and self-explanation do (Means et al., 2009). ‘The most important ingredient in ‘positive change’ is the interaction between teacher and student.’ (p.202)
An overall theme is that technology does not itself lead to positive effects: it can make good schools better but increase problems at less successful schools (Warschauer, 2006). However the implementation of new learning models can also cause tensions.

Increased ‘engagement and motivation’, ‘quality of work and achievement’, and ‘independent learning’ are the three most frequently cited findings on positive impacts. Other areas of impact include improved research and writing skills, positive attitudes towards writing, computing skills, access to online content, impact on attendance, time spent on homework. Another key area is assistance for students with special needs, such as visual representations of learning material, easier ways of writing, and increased engagement in active learning and retention. Teachers reported using a more constructivist approach. For example, according to a survey among kindergarten teachers in Kent, Ohio, ‘oftentimes, the teacher saw her role as more of a facilitator, trying to provide opportunities and resources for students to discover or construct knowledge’ (Katz and Kratcoski 2005, p. 52). p.204. Other positive impacts for teachers were opportunities for improved feedback and assessment, individualised learning, collaboration between teachers, and access to networking and professional development opportunities. Positive impacts on classrooms include increased interaction and communication, and more collaborative work: For example, ‘Increased communication and respect among students and between students and the teacher help to create a ‘community of learners’ (Fairman, 2004, p. iii).

Negative impacts can be broadly categorised into distraction, insignificance to academic achievement, psychological strains and over-dependency. These can create obstacles to learning and, depending on the nature of the use of technology, may help or hinder learning. Some studies found that negative effects decreased over time. Implementation can also be an issue: a research review by Rosso (2010) concludes that ‘extensive computer use requires a thorough change in the view of teaching and learning, including the relation between teaching/work and tests, teachers work methods and role, and the students’ view of school work’ (p.209).


Warschauer et al. (2012) suggest that, ‘the technocentric approach is counterproductive and that any educational reform effort with digital media needs to  be grounded in solid curricular and pedagogical foundations, include requisite social and technical support, and be carried out with detailed planning, monitoring, and evaluation’ (p. 73).
Slay et al. (2008)  find that incorporating technology into teaching without the required confidence, training and competence can weaken learning experiences. A robust infrastructure and a dynamic visionary leadership is  needed, together with an effective monitoring and evaluation programme.
‘The study finds that 1:1 programs in schools are generally motivated on the ground of constructivist learning theory (in contrast to traditional instructionism) that advocates the use of computing technology in education and strives for enhancing learning processes by doing and playing and helping to prepare students for life and work in the highly connected digital environment of the twenty-first century. There are several impacts reported in this paper which are broadly categorized as ‘positive’, ‘negative’ or ‘no-effect’. The positive effects, which are considerably more frequent in the literature than the negative or no-effects ones, are described here in terms of four categories—students, teachers and teaching, classrooms, and community. Much evidence suggests that 1:1 initiatives enhance students’ academic engagement and motivation, quality of academic work, independent learning, computing skills and collaboration. Teachers are reported to benefit from engaging with flexible teaching, collaboration, and professional development. Classroom environments improve due to ICT facilitating improved teacher–student interactions and reducing disciplinary problems. The community as a whole benefits as technology contributes to reducing socio-educational inequalities, increasing parental involvement in school and technology literacy’
‘There are some contrasting results that bring into debate the issue of to what extent 1:1 programs help improve students’ academic achievements (generally measured in terms of GPA). Some evidence suggests that computer use by children in their learning process may provoke distraction, psychological as well as physical strains, and over-dependency on technology which can disrupt the ‘art of thinking’.
‘The most important implementation challenges found in this study are, (1) efficient management by a strong leadership, (2) having adequate contextual knowledge or understanding about local environment for effective implementation of ICT-supported work processes, (3) shifting educational paradigm, (4) teachers’ professional development, (5) stakeholders’ commitment and uninterrupted support, to ensure program sustainability, (6) monitoring and evaluation, and (7) a robust infrastructure that includes localized creative contents, adaptive technology; sufficient Internet connectivity, and power supply. Local implementation emerges as the most difficult factor as similar interventions yield different results in different schools.’ (p.213)

Key ideas

- An overall theme is that technology does not itself lead to positive effects: it can make good schools better but increase problems at less successful schools (Warschauer, 2006).
- Positive effects are considerably more frequent in the literature than the negative or no-effects ones; the three most frequently cited positive effects are increased ‘engagement and motivation’, ‘quality of work and achievement’, and ‘independent learning’.


Fairman, J. (2004). Trading roles: Teachers and students learn with technology. Orono, ME: Maine Education Policy Research Institute, University of Maine Office.

Islam, M. Sirajul, and Åke Grönlund. "An international literature review of 1: 1 computing in schools." Journal of educational change 17.2 (2016): 191-222.

Katz, K. B., & Kratcoski, A. (2005). Teacher–student interactions in a ubiquitous computing environment: Learning within dyads & triads of interaction. Journal of the Research Center for Educational Technology, 1, 48–64.  

Means, B., Toyama, Y.; Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2009) Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. Center for Technology in Learning. US Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service.

Rosso, J. (2010). Disruption in the educational paradigm: notes on 1:1 research. Research watch, K-12 Blueprint.  

Slay, H., Sieborger, I., & Hodgkinson-Williams, C. (2008). Interactive whiteboards: real beauty or just lipstick? Computers and Education, 51, 1321–1341.  

Tedre, M., Hansson, H., Mozelius, P., & Lind, S. (2011). Crucial considerations in one-to-one computing in developing countries. In IST-Africa 2011 Conference Proceedings, Paul Cunningham and Miriam Cunningham (Eds), IIMC International Information Management Corporation, 2011.

Warschauer, M. (2006). Laptops and literacy: Learning in the wireless classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.  

Warschauer, M., Cotten, S. R., & Ames, M. G. (2012). One laptop per child Birmingham: Case study of a radical experiment. International Journal of Learning and Media (IJLM), 3(2), 61–76