laptop learning, mobile computers, classroom instruction, constructivist instruction
The demand for "a laptop in every satchel" (BMBF, 2000) coincides with a recent international debate about the innovation of classroom instruction through information technology. It is assumed that information technology will foster the acquisition of cross curricular and media competencies, of team and cooperation skills as well as of meaningful learning in complex and authentic environments. Mobile computers are seen as particularly beneficial to initiate such a change -- but so far there is little evidence to support this claim.
The present study investigates the role of laptop computers as change agents in the classroom theoretically and empirically. Based on didactic theory and on instructional research a grid of instructional methods is developed. This grid is used to define and differentiate the methodological concepts of classroom instruction predominant in the current discussion (direct instruction, student-centered instruction, constructivist instruction). Subsequently, the role of media as a central factor in instructional design is discussed and it is argued that computers might have the potential to function as catalyst for constructivist change in the classroom. The theory part of the dissertation concludes with an overview of recent empirical findings on methodological changes of classroom instruction attributed to the integration of desktop and mobile computers.
The empirical part of this study investigates in a detailed way how instruction changes when mobile computers are integrated in the classroom. The data for this study were gathered over the course of three years in a pilot project in a German high school. The analysis of instructional changes follows a multimethod approach, which combines qualitative and quantitativ methods in three partial studies (Student and teacher surveys, student and teacher interviews, observation of instruction). It turns out that the introduction of laptop computers fosters constructivist instructional methods on the level of classroom activities and - with reservations - also on the level of social forms of instruction and on the role perception of teachers. Media attributes are shown to be decisive for this methodological shift, they are not sufficient however to cause a consequent realisation of constructivist instruction. A typological analysis of the teacher interviews yielded five teacher types that differed in how they integrated computers in their instruction (subsumption under teacher-led instruction, focus on media competence and technology, focus on curriculum and instructional content, focus on didactics and methods, constructivist integration). The anlysis shows that only a minority of teachers managed to realize constructivist methods on all instructional levels.
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