This is a “project blog” to help document our experiences with the XO laptop in NYC public school classrooms.
Teaching Matters, an educational non-profit, is donating XO laptops to target NYC classrooms and will work with the Department of Education to track the success of integrating these low-cost machines in NYC. This is part of our larger effort to promote LOW COST COMPUTING in schools.
Here’s our “formal” plan to date:
Teaching Matters will run a collaborative pilot with the Department of Education to test One Laptop Per Child mobile computing devices in connection with our Writing Matters content in a middle school ELA classroom. The purpose of the pilot is two-fold. First, we want to determine if the OLPC device can significantly lower the cost of technology access for schools by lowering the total cost of ownership (hardware and ongoing maintenance.) Second, we will test this environment in conjunction with a curriculum designed to improve teacher practice in the teaching of writing. The curriculum has been designed to take best advantage of one to one computing environments.
Many laptop programs have failed to increase student achievement and purposeful learning because teachers have been provided with devices and training but no meaningful redesign of the instruction and curriculum now possible with the technology.
Goal 1: Lowering Total Cost of Ownership
Currently schools pay up to $1300 for laptop devices and comprehensive managed support. This price makes it difficult for Teaching Matters to scale the technology enhanced curriculum it is designing for social studies and literacy. Through this project we will document the number of laptops that require outside maintenance to identify a total cost of ownership. Teaching Matters will purchase one additional laptop for every ten students as replacement laptop allowing the cost of ownership to be 10% above the initial cost of the laptop. This will be tested over one full year. Our test school uses the current managed care services extensively, thus the DOE has exceptionally good data on the amount of tech support that has been provided to this school offering useful comparison data.
Goal 2: Improving Instruction
To increase the purposeful use of the one to one computing environment, Teaching Matters began by observing traditional learning environments. We selected writing classrooms as this was one area where technology combined with effective instruction has demonstrated measurable gain, specifically with struggling learners. We observed two major constraints that could be improved through effective application of technology.
First, new teachers often lack the knowledge and experience needed to effectively implement research based practices for teaching writing. While schools offer coaching and institutes to prepare teachers, teacher turnover reduces the scalability of these important professional development models. In addition, we found that teachers needed on going information and specific strategies for teaching the craft and mechanics of writing.
Second, middle school students, especially boys, demonstrate significant declines writing performance and motivation levels from elementary to middle school. Research has demonstrated that technology, in combination with effective instruction, can increase students’ writing performance. Moreover, the gains among under-performing students are even more significant than those of average and high performing students.
Writing Matters uses technology to address both of these concerns. First is uses the technology to scale the distribution of a structured, flexible, curriculum that helps new teachers advance their knowledge of how to teach writing. Our curriculum is scaffolded to offer additional supports, teaching narratives, sample texts, animated content explaining key skills and student exemplars, that can be utilized by new teachers to learn effective practice. It also organizes the teaching process making the various stages clear to both teachers and students. Second, Writing Matters offers online tools and visual resources designed to engage struggling and middle school learners, as well as, clear embedded instruction on when and how teachers should use the technology within the context of rigorous, research based practices in writing instruction.
The objectives of this pilot are to:
- Test whether OLPC laptops are viable on the NYC school network
- Test whether the device can support middle school core and new literacy objectives around research, writing, revision, and publishing.
- Determine if the device can support Writing Matters and Voices and Choices digital content.
- Identify modifications required to the laptop or to the content programs to ensure compatibility.
- Determine whether device is accepted by middle school students and teachers as an acceptable to higher end devices.
- Observe improvements around motivation for writing, quantity of writing, and meaningful use of technology.
- Document the number of technical support issues encountered by students and the degree to which they can be resolved without outside intervention.
** Note. The Center for Children and Technology is conducting a larger research project on Writing Matters impact on student achievement.