Computers Meta-AnalysisThe literature addressing computers/laptops can generally be divided into three categories -- Internet access and computers at home (Stross, 2010), one-to-one initiatives in the k-12 environment (Hu, 2007), and the use of laptops in higher education classes. Vigdor and Ladd (2010) found a negative relationship with low-income students (5-8 grade) between the adoption of home computers and Internet access (broadband), and student performance (math and reading). Additionally, Malamud and Pop-Eleches (2010) found a similar trend in low-income households in Romania for children who were given a computer without Internet. The data suggest that providing universal home Internet access and/or a computer would not narrow the achievement gap, but rather widen it (Vigdor & Ladd, 2010). However, lower performance scores are not universal for all students (Battle Juan, 1999), as the negative relationship appears to depend on how the computer and/or Internet access is utilized -- studying, research, gaming, social networking, etc. Many k-12 schools implemented a one-to-one laptop program hoping to increase student learning and performance. However, after a few years of using computers in class, teachers and administrators realized that there was not an increase in learning as they had hoped. Overall, the data suggest that one-to-one laptop initiatives have little or no positive impact on learning (Goodwin, 2011; Grimes & Warschauer, 2008; Hu, 2007; Lowther, Strahl, Inan, & Bates, 2007; Shapley et al., 2009; Silvernail & Gritter, 2007). Additionally, using laptops in higher education classes are also negatively associated with learning (Fried, 2008; Hembrooke & Gay, 2003; Sana, Weston, & Cepeda, 2013; Truman, 2005) and are often a distraction to others. It is possible that using laptops in class promotes multitasking (Hembrooke & Gay, 2003; Ophir, Nass, & Wagner, 2009; Sana, Weston, & Cepeda, 2013; Tugend, 2008), which distracts from learning. Overall, providing Internet connected computers in the home where activity is unmonitored, in k-12 schools, and higher education classes, appears to have little to no impact, and at times, a negative impact on learning.


  1. Monitor home computer use to help ensure that students use it appropriately.
  2. Given the cost of one-to-one initiatives and the little to no positive impact on learning, these type of programs should be avoided.
  3. In-class laptop use is associated with poorer performance, and therefore computers should not be allowed in class.

Additional Reading

Brooks, D. (2010). The medium is the medium. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Fuchs, T., & Woessmann, L. (2004). Computers and student learning: Bivariate and multivariate evidence on the availability and use of computers at home and at school. Munich, DE: CESifo. Retrieved from


Battle Juan, P. A. (1999). Home computers and school performance. The Information Society15(1), 1-10.

Fried, C. B. (2008). In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning. Computers & Education50(3), 906-914.

Goodwin, B. (2011). One-to-one laptop programs are no silver bullet. Educational Leadership, 68(5), 78-79. Retrieved from

Grimes, D., & Warschauer, M. (2008). Learning with laptops: A multi-method case study. Journal of Educational Computing Research38(3), 305-332.

Hembrooke, H., & Gay, G. (2003). The laptop and the lecture: The effects of multitasking in learning environments. Journal of Computing in Higher Education15(1), 46-64.

Hu, W. (2007). Seeing no progress, some schools drop laptops. New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved from

Lowther, D. L., Strahl, J. D., Inan, F. A., & Bates, J. (2007). Freedom to learn program: Michigan 2005-2006 evaluation report. Memphis, TN: Center for Research in Educational Policy.

Malamud, O. & Pop-Eleches, C. (2011). Home computer use and the development of human capitalQuarterly Journal of Economics, 126, 987–1027.

Ophir, E., Nass, C., & Wagner, A. D. (2009). Cognitive control in media multitaskers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America106(37), 15583-15587.

Sana, F., Weston, T., & Cepeda, N. J. (2013). Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. Computers & Education62, 24-31.

Shapley, K., Sheehan, D., Sturges, K., Caranikas-Walker, F., Huntsberger, B., & Maloney, C. (2009). Evaluation of the Texas technology immersion Pilot: Final outcomes for a four-year study (2004-05 to 2007-08). Austin, TX: Texas Center for Educational Research.

Silvernail, D. L., & Gritter, A. K. (2007). Maine's middle school laptop program: Creating better writers. Portland, OR: Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation, University of Southern Maine.

Stross, R. (2010). Computers at home: Educational hope vs. teenage reality. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Truman, G. E. (2005). An empirical assessment of student computer use behaviors in the classroom. In Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (Vol. 1, pp. 6a-6a).

Tugend, A. (2008). Multitasking can make you lose ... um ... focus. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Vigdor, J. L., & Ladd, H. F. (2010). Scaling the Digital Divide: Home computer technology and student achievement. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.