Laptop learning gets top marks from Notre Dame PhD graduate

Dr Steven Males is conferred a Doctor of Philosophy for his research
on the effective use of the one-to-one laptop program at a WA boys’ school.

29 July 2015

The use of laptop computers can enrich educational experiences, improve technological capabilities and boost motivation in school students, according to Dr Steven Males from The University of Notre Dame Australia’s Fremantle Campus.

Dr Males, Head of Junior School at Aquinas College, was conferred a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at the University’s Graduation Ceremony on Friday 24 July 2015. His research is titled: ‘One-to-one Laptop Program: Effect on Boys’ Education’.

The research drew on the experiences of 196 students at primary and secondary levels, their families and associated teachers to examine the implementation effects of a student-owned one-to-one laptop program in a boys’ school in Perth, Western Australia.

Despite finding that the novelty factor of laptops for learning quickly abated for both primary and secondary students, the literacy and numeracy outcomes of students were favourable compared with national standards.

With the role of information and communications technology becoming increasingly prevalent in the Australian classroom, Dr Males said it was important for teachers and parents to gain a better understanding of the learning benefits digital tools can provide students.

“A two-pronged approach of providing targeted professional learning for staff, coupled with confronting the obvious distraction that a one-to-one device can be for primary and secondary school students, yielded positive outcomes,” Dr Males said.

“Although teachers reported that laptops were important for the teaching and learning program, there was a wide variation in the way teachers harnessed the one-to-one laptop environment for the benefit of student learning. “Despite the many positives of laptop use in the classroom, there were some tensions identified. These included: the 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.

“I hope that this study can assist educational policy-makers, school leaders and teachers who are contemplating how to best integrate one-to-one laptop devices into the fabric of their schools.”

Dr Males is one of more than 250 students to graduate at the July Graduation Ceremony. He acknowledged the support from his supervisors in the School of Education, Fremantle, Associate Professor Jean MacNish and Dr Frank Bate, in completing his PhD.

“From all ends, being my supervisors, the research office, library and the various people I have met whilst at Notre Dame, I express my sincere appreciation for a fantastic and rewarding experience,” Dr Males said.

To enquire further about courses in Notre Dame’s School of Education, please contact the Prospective Students Office, Fremantle, on +61 8 9433 0533 or email

Leigh Dawson: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093;