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This is 100% an education project not a laptop project, was a statement by Jeff Waugh (2008), a board of director member of OLPC Australia . OLPC should in essence be a constructivist ideology because it customizes student learning experiences. To effectively enhance student learning experiences, scaling up constructivist instruction will create a system wide revamp of instructional technology approaches. Australia’s OLPC program has created a constructivist system that enhances student learning by providing children access to laptops, open-source software, and internet connectivity. Dede (2005), a leading academic in the field, is a supporter of the relationship between constructivism and technology. He affirmed that technology is not the object of learning, rather, it supports teaching and learning . Australia’s OLPC initiative combines constructivism and technology to form a platform that augments education. Research performed by Wenglinsky (2005) pointed out that learning consists of three pieces, the teacher, the student, and the medium; and it is not possible to separate one from the other. The medium for this discussion is the XO laptop provided by the Australian Government. Through the constructivism platform, Australia’s OLPC presents to its students the chance to succeed in the classroom.
According to Harvard scholar Clayton Christensen (2008), the proper use of technology as a platform for learning offers a chance to modularize the system and thereby customize learning…student-centric learning opens the door for students to learn in ways that match their intelligence types in the places and at the paces they prefer by combining content in customized sequences. In essence, he is speaking about the application of constructivism as a tool to enhance learning with technology. This is the excerpt from Australia’s OLPC (2009) website that explains how they want this program to work in the country:
"OLPC Australia's mission is to create educational opportunities for the country's disadvantaged children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low power, connected laptop (the XO) whose hardware and software have been designed especially for kids. As in many other developed nations, there are stark differences in the quality of life experienced in Australian rural and remote regions (heavily populated by indigenous people) and metropolitan areas. This has led to an enormous disparity between the life expectancy and achievements of indigenous and non-indigenous people. The 2008 National Assessment Program: Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) study showed that in metropolitan areas 58.8 per cent of indigenous eight-year olds were above the minimum national standard in reading, while in very remote areas this figure was just 12.7 per cent. Clearly, the issue is not race or colour, but environment - the current system of teaching does not engage rural children or their teachers as well as their peers in metropolitan areas. Based on five core principles and decades of research, OLPC Australia has developed a sustainable solution to address this critical issue in our community, and its mission is to see it implemented across the nation."
Australia’s OLPC initiative is exciting and hopeful because they are reaching out to all students by providing access to new technologies that will positively impact their education. The Twenty-First Century learner needs to have access to these technologies because the world is moving in a technological direction.
OLPC started gaining momentum in 2008. The program started working with the Australian authorities to try and find a way to distribute over 300,000 XO laptops to children in remote parts of Australia. An important stakeholder who helped realize this goal was the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The entire community was behind this initiative, from the government to banks. This became a tremendous partnership that was able to provide XO laptops to Australian students. Australia’s OLPC (2009) is currently working with three remote Australian community schools, two of the communities will be fully saturated with one laptop per school child, while the third will initially have enough machines to saturate half the school. In the medium term, OLPC Australia is hoping to use corporate assistance to expand these 1,800 laptops to 5,000, and eventually to as many as are required to reach every remote child. These are steps towards progress that eventually 21st Century students will have had access to technology for learning.
The three Australian schools that have implemented the OLPC program are, the Rawa Community School in remote Western-Australia that received 90 XO laptops. The students in this school fall well below the Australian socio-economic standard. The second school is Newcastle Waters School located in the central Northern Territory and received 30 XO laptops. This school is in a town of 500 people and they also fall well below the national socio-economic standard. The last school is Shepherdson College also located in the Northern Territory with just over 100 XO laptops. Again, the students in this school are in the lower echelons of the socio-economic standard. This initiative is small, but important because the process has begun for providing a laptop to every child.
Technology websites, such as Gizmodo, have articles that support the Australian OLPC project. Australian, Nick Broughall (2009) wrote in Gizmodo, for gadget nuts like you and me, the XO OLPC may not quite have the grunt to be usable, but for the poor, indigenous communities out in the middle of the Northern Territory, it’s fantastic. And a couple of days ago, the first OLPCs were officially handed out to Aboriginal primary school children at Shepherdson College on Elcho Island, Northern Territory. Over the next six months, the plan is to distribute another 5000 of the XO laptops to remote primary school children, with an overall goal of putting one in every one of the 400,000 remote childrens’ hands. This is a fantastic cause, and if you’re looking for a charity to donate to, this one definitely gets the Giz tick of approval. The support is there, it is only a matter of time for every student to have an XO laptop. To support the XO initiative in Australia, Wenglinsky’s (2005) notion is that teaching should be highly customized and this customization should be so extensive that teachers are viewed as facilitating student construction of knowledge.
OLPC Australia has developed a strategy that ensures the sustainability of the project. Three main points that guarantee the existence and effectiveness of OLPC Australia are: teacher training, deployment and evaluation. OLPC Australia runs XO teacher-training workshops at the deployment schools before the laptops are given to the children. This allows for the teachers to familiarize themselves with the XO, its capabilities and functionality and, in turn, understand the added benefit the educational tools have in the classroom. Teacher-training sessions also assist the teacher in integrating the XO into the curriculum . There does not appear to be any continual training for teachers throughout the project, rather a crash course for teachers at the onset of the academic year. The OLPC website does not specify how much time is spent for teacher training or a summative assessment at the end of the academic school year. The teachers convey what they know to their students, but steps should be taken to have a more continuous professional development.
Deployment of the XO’s has to do with students taking ownership of their laptop and making them responsible for the welfare of the XO. To ensure the success of the project, OLPC Australia has chosen entire classrooms, grades or schools to receive the XOs to achieve a level of digital saturation. The key point is choosing the best scale for each circumstance. In this way the whole community becomes responsible for the OLPC program, opening up children and adults alike to new experiences beyond their neighborhoods. Opportunities to improve their own circumstances, and that of the wider community, become evident, and in the end this deployment strategy will help these communities grow together and expand in different directions, outside of what was ever considered possible before . Large scale ownership for the OLPC provides meaningful learning, in that there is a connection between the classroom, the technology and the student.
Evaluation is important to finding the effectiveness of the OLPC initiative. A combination of formative and summative assessment of the program helps create a picture of the impact of the XO laptops. Acer has been involved with OLPC Australia and CBA to develop a framework with which to measure the success of the remote deployments. Having interviewed the indigenous communities prior to the integration of the XOs, Acer will return six months after the deployments to collate empirical evidence on the effectiveness of the devices. Acer will measure differences in student attendance, student morale and the teachers' capacity since introducing the XOs into classrooms .
Children in remote areas don’t lack the capacity to learn, only the opportunity . This statement best illustrates what is a world-wide unfortunate phenomenon. Students are capable of learning, it is up to the governments to provide access to 21st Century education. Australia’s OLPC program is starting to provide students equal access to modern education. OLPC is also effective because it allows for constructivist education. The use of technology in the constructivist classroom is easier to facilitate, which results in deeper understanding for students. Wenglinsky (2005) indicated that point by implying, if technology is used in a constructivist fashion, it is a useful tool; and if used in a didactic fashion, it is worthless, or even destructive, burying students in the drill-and-kill model that turns all but the greatest or automatons off learning. This notion helps to transcend technological and instructional applications that address the needs of the 21st century learner. Constructivist techniques that introduce technology as a basis for learning are steps in the right direction. Australia is moving in that direction.
- Waugh, J. (2008). OLPC Australia: XO targeting education and definitely NO Windows. http://www.itwire.com/content/view/18143/1023/1/0/
- Dede, C, Honan, J, & Peters, L (2005). Scaling Up Success: Lessons from Technology-Based Educational Improvement. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
- Wenglinsky, H (2005). Using Technology Wisely: The Keys to Success in Schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press
- Christensen, C (2008). Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
- OLPC Australia. (2009). Mission. Retrieved June 29, 2009. http://www.olpc.org.au/vision/mission/
- OLPC Australia. (2009). Mission. Retrieved June 29, 2009. http://www.olpc.org.au/vision/mission/
- Broughall, N. (2009). OLPC Hits Indigenous Australia. Found in Gizmodo. Retrieved June 29, 2009. http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2009/05/olpc_hits_indigenous_australia/
- Wenglinsky, H (2005). Using Technology Wisely: The Keys to Success in Schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
- OLPC Australia. (2009). Deployment. Retrieved June 29, 2009. http://www.olpc.org.au/vision/mission/
- OLPC Australia. (2009). Deployment. Retrieved June 29, 2009. http://www.olpc.org.au/vision/mission/
- OLPC Australia. (2009). Deployment. Retrieved June 29, 2009. http://www.olpc.org.au/vision/mission/
- Srikhanta, R. (2009). OLPC Australia uses education to help remote communities. Retrieved June 29, 2009. www.watterson.com.au/news_uploads/OLPC/OLPC_Aust_launch_release_final.pdf
- Wenglinsky, H (2005). Using Technology Wisely: The Keys to Success in Schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Birmingham City Schools Laptop Initiative
Birmingham City Schools services a total of 26,500 students in 57 schools consisting of 29 elementary schools, 12 middle schools, 8 K-8 schools, 7 high schools, and one alternative school. The district is 80% economically disadvantaged and ethnicity breakdown is 97% black, 1% white, 2% Hispanic, and .2% Asian/pacific islander. Nine Board members that are elected by the city’s different districts govern the district.
Initiative and Importance
In late 2007, Birmingham mayor, Larry Langford, announced that every first through eighth grader in the Birmingham City schools would be provided an XO laptop. This would be the first large scale implementation of XO computers in the United States. In early 2008, Langford was given permission by the city council to purchase 15,000 XO laptops for distribution in the schools. The approved budget for this program was $3.5 million and was proposed to come from a fund that provided scholarships to high school seniors with a C-average or better. This budget would cover the $200 cost per XO laptop. The city also sought private donations. In February 2008 an additional $500,000 was added to the costs to make improvements for internet access. Langford also proposed the "Right Spot" initiative for Birmingham which would give local churches wireless internet.
In the laptop initiative the students would own the laptops and would be able to take them home. The school board hesitated at the offer and “said they had not been consulted on the program and had concerns about the district's ability to integrate the machines into instruction.”  Board member Dannetta K. Thornton Owens also had reservations about "stigmatizing Birmingham students with computers made for "poor" children". In April 2008, 1000 laptops were approved for a pilot program in Glen Iris elementary school. The outcome of this pilot would help the district to decide on accepting the other 14,000 laptops that were purchased. The first laptops arrived at Glen Iris on April 21, 2008. Tala Professional Services, who was hired to oversee the implementation, found the existing infrastructure in Glen Iris to be insufficient to support the computers. Improvements were made at a cost of $37,000. This gave a projected cost of $1.3 million for system wide implementation. On July 8, 2008, the school board voted to accept the remaining 14,000 laptops. During the summer of 2008 a workshop for the new computers was held at the Birmingham Public Library with a few students attending. An "XO eXpO" was also held in August to highlight the XO computers and early implementation experiences from Glen Iris.
By the end of the 2008/2009 school-year, laptops had been distributed to students up to sixth grade with a pilot running in seventh grade. The laptops are considered the students’ property and are utilized at home. Laptops are currently being purchased for next year’s first graders. Wireless networks are also being installed in Birmingham schools, and all schools will have wireless access by Fall 2009. Currently there is no scheduled district evaluation of the program, however University of Alabama at Birmingham has conducted small evaluations of the initiative.
Mayor Langford initially said that this program “will give many inner-city children their first access to a computer”and that "We live in a digital age, so it is important that all our children have equal access to technology and are able to integrate it into all aspects of their lives." Langford also referenced eliminating the 'digital divide'. Stan Mims, the district's superintendent said, "Our students will have access to global thinking now." This is a big step in a district that has a high poverty rate and is seeing declining enrollment. The laptops are a way of extending curriculum in the district and giving students exposure to current technology.
Follow this link to watch a video that outlines initial reactions about the implementation in Birmingham. Click Here
Successes and Problems
The biggest success that has resulted from the Birmingham City Schools laptop initiative is the student response. The students greatly enjoy working with the computers and have taken on a sense of ownership with the machines- “The kids love them.” The laptops are being integrated into the regular classroom curriculum and the students are responding positively. The open source software is helping to extend learning and motivate students. There has also been an increase in peer learning due to the laptops. One example of how the laptops are being used to extend learning is in the Glen Iris elementary school. This past year the school had a Scratch festival that focused on using the laptops to explore science concepts. Students worked in small groups to produce cartoons or commercials using Scratch that demonstrated a science concept. An independent panel then judged the projects.
While there were obstacles to overcome, and future hurdles, the school district is working hard to make sure the laptop initiative goes smoothly and carries its effectiveness in the future. The first major problem encountered in the project was distributing the laptops. Since the initiative was started on the city level, the school district had not prepared to handle the distribution of 15,000 laptops across the district. While this was a “big job”, the district was able to accomplish the first step of the initiative and overall it went well.
The next obstacle the district took on was teacher training. With the implementation of any new technology in schools, there will be teachers that are not comfortable. To make sure the laptops are used effectively, there needs to be a variety of training methods utilized to prepare teachers. Glen Iris elementary used federal money to hire consultants to help with their training. Teachers participated in focus groups, and received individual and group training. Across the district there was a large push to make sure teachers were ready and willing to use the laptops in their classrooms. 
While the XO computers do not need a wireless network to function, it can allow for more flexibility and enhance the use of computers. Initially the Birmingham schools were not wireless. Since the adoption of the XO computers schools are being converted for wireless capabilities. The first round of schools to receive a wireless network were chosen by Board members, however it is hoped that all schools in the Birmingham City schools will be wireless by Fall of 2009. The costs associated with this plan were not part of the initial laptop initiative. Becoming wireless is a push by the school district to make sure students can get the most out of the new technology.
Other problems that the district has encountered are software differences and laptop repair. Since the XOs open source software is not usually found on PCs and Macs, teachers and students are getting use to using the new programs. This has been a minor problem, however it does create more of a stretch to integrate the computers into the curriculum. Also since the laptops belong to the children, there are the inevitable repairs that will need to happen. As of right now repairs are handled locally. Some of the repairs can be costly, which adds a greater expenditure for the school district.
Overall the Birmingham Schools initiative is proving to be a success. While the implementation had hurdles such as distribution, teacher training, and inadequate infrastructure, the laptops are now in the classrooms. The greatest response has been from the students who now have access to their own computer. Open source software is used to extend learning and help prepare students for the future, while keeping operating cost at a minimum for the district. With an emphasis on staff training, schools have developed teachers that are able to effectively use the machines and implement them in the classroom. With continual training, teachers will become more proficient with the machines. It appears that the Birmingham initiative has forward momentum and will continue to provide students with tools they need.
- Wilson, Dr. Michael, Principal Glen Iris elementary. (Phone interview, June 25, 2009) Invalid
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- Moxley,B. IT Department BCS. (Phone interview, June 25, 2009) Invalid
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OLPC in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is one of the oldest African countries with a population of 85 million. About 16 million are in-school students (Hollow, 2008). The majority of schools in Ethiopia are located in Addis Ababa province. This case study is describing One-to-One Laptop Initiative in Ethiopia that follows the successful trials of 60 laptops used in class in Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia’s OLPC initiative is a result of a Get One Give One (G1G1) 2007 American and Canadian promotion. The program’s promotion concluded in December 2007 and described that participants who donated $399 would cover the cost of one laptop to be distributed by OLPC to one of its least-developed partner countries. The participant would also get to keep one of the laptops (G1G1, 2007). Today the OLPC initiative has projects in over 30 countries and the 2008 G1G1 program supports the production of 150,000 XO laptops. More information regarding the G1G1 initiative can be found at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/G1G1
The OLPC's mission is to provide a child with a laptop. So "Why give a laptop to a child that may have no electricity or running water?" (One Laptop Per Child on 60 minutes, 2007). The answer to that question becomes clear when you replace the word "Laptop" with "Education". According to Nicholas Negroponte the answer is to "Eliminate poverty and create world peace by providing education to the poorest and most remote children on the planet by making them more active in their own learning, through collaborative and creative activities, connected to the Internet with their own laptop, as a human right and cost free to them" (OLPC Foundation).
The Ethiopian’s OLPC initiative is led by the project manager Eskender Andualem. Eskender and the ECBP team (Engineering Capacity Building Program) use the Ethiopian engineering capacity building as a primary distribution and teaching building of XO laptops. The development phase of OLPC initiative included the awareness of the project, teacher training and content distribution. In order to successfully prepare the program implementation the project team had to demonstrate the value of XO Laptop in education. The team met with OLPC experts and educational bureau to discuss and share their experiences with the program. The team also participated in Information Communication Technologies exhibitions where students would demonstrate the XO laptops and their success in education.
The professional training included more than 220 teachers from the Addis Ababa region. For many it was a new experience learning and teaching with computers.
Ato Ashenafi, an 8th grade math teacher has expressed that he wished he had the teaching opportunity with a computer long time ago. Many traditional instructional materials have been converted to support the new teaching opportunity. The project guidelines called for collection of regional text-books and conversion to a digital format compatible with XO. Because of the costs and limitation on instructional copies it was concluded that all references should be compatible with XO. The project has collaborated with Eduvision and Macmillan to produce interactive teaching materials.
The first OLPC in Ethiopia implemented a 60-laptop initiative on a one-year test phase in two schools in Addis Ababa. The second and current implementation includes a 5000-laptop program in four primary schools of Ethiopia. These schools include Atse Naod, Menelik II, Rema and Mullo Sayyoo.
Atse Naod is an elementary rural school and has 40 teachers and 780 students. Atse Naod received 800 XO laptops grades 2 to 8. The classes were big, some had around 70 students according to the EECB. Few students already had computers at home. It has been reported that school's electrical socket were broken, on average one per classroom (Drake, 2008).
Menelik II is a larger school in Addis Ababa that has 120 teachers and 2270 students. This school received 2390 XO laptops. Some problems have occurred with teacher training and school management (Drake, 2008).
Rema, in Amhara region, about 6 hours drive from Addis Ababa received 446 XO laptops. Rema has 20 teachers and 424 students. It is important to note that Rema is solely powered by solar energy. Thus some obstacles occurred with charging the XO laptops. Each laptop was provided with personal solar panel charger (Drake, 2008).
Mullo Sayyoo, is located two hours outside of Addis Ababa. This school received 637 laptops grades 2 to 7 and has 17 teachers and 620 students.(OLPC Ethiopia) Each classroom has one power socket. There is no lightning fixtures installed. Students had very poor to no understanding of a computer in this school (Drake, 2008).
XO replacing Books
Eduvision has helped to produce an interactive textbook called Akili. Akili is written in C++ language and uses Quicktime and Webkit an open source browser for content delivery. According to the project Wiki book the format for most Ethiopian curriculum textbooks is in Akili XML file format (OLPC Ethiopia). According to Hollow (2008) the idea behind the Akili text reader was to eliminate the teacher when used XO outside the school and have students be the agents of their own central learning. Students would be the ones to shape and define their own progress in education. The book and other instructional content had to be digitized to Akili's format in order to be supported by XO, however there were some difficulties. The OCR recognition software did not include Ahmaric language.
Professional Training and XO Content
According to Hollow (2008), students were very pleased to hear about the OLPC laptops initiative. Most of the teachers supported the idea as well. The major obstacle was the professional teacher and student training. It has been noted that the students expressed concern about the proper use of educational content by teachers. In other words teachers were not prepared well to carry the instructional lessons using the XO Laptop. Additionally the lack of content for the XO was slowing the program marginally. Hollow (2008) described that students reported that they used laptops mostly at home, but not in classes, and that was due to the poor integration mechanics. Students and teachers had a poor understanding of XO educational capabilities, -- some students treated the laptop as a toy. Some parents expressed frustration that students used laptops for playing rather than spending more time studying. Similarly some teachers complained that students played with laptops in class rather than paying attention to lectures. Sometimes students would play with the audio software resulting in a chaos in class. Other Teachers reported that they had no problems with students using the XO to look up instructions during class. If however they started to distract from the lesson, teacher would appropriately make a remark to those students, and they would pay attention to lecture.
Elements responsible for successful planning
According to Koscev (2009), from the German Technical Cooperation foundation, the most successful aspect of planning process responsible for the OLPC success was the teacher training. Teachers did not know much about the technology. It took over a year for the teachers to get accustomed to teaching methods with XO laptop. Teachers use laptops much more in last few months than they did before, however the use of the laptops in classroom was scaled down. Training include innovative learning to reform the teaching practices and didactics in elementary schools.
The ECBP itself was very helpful with the project. Eskander and 6 people from ICT were leading the project and educating the teachers. They were really helpful with their expertise to promote and manage the project.
So far the students are learning quick, most of the time quicker than the teacher. They have learned how to read, write and draw on XO. A very positive report from a 2nd grade student describes that he first learnt how to open the computer, then draw and then save and open files to read (ECBP, 2008). Some critics have speculated that giving students laptops instead of paper and pencil wasn't a good investment. However, according to Abebe Checkol, a pilot project manager students get much more benefit from the XO laptop that justifies it cost down the road. Each student has a $50 financial support, -- the laptop costs much more. Checkol describes that that schools had problems with getting instructional materials, sometimes that would have different ones at different locations. Checkol said that with XO you have access to the same materials at all schools (ECBP, 2008). According to Wossenyelesh Kassahun, a teacher in Atse Narod primary school "These laptops can be a pen where there is no pen, there can be a book where there is no book. Introducing these kids at the early age will help them attain what others have with better access have attained" (ECBP, 2008).
Elements responsible for problems with OLPC program
According to Koscev (2009), the most problematic issue was the planning. Planning was a very big challenge to Ethiopia's OLPC team. The environment is different, people and their traditions are different. The set out plan included planning, time-line and deployment, but because there was so much else going on in the field that it was virtually impossible to follow deadlines and time-lines. Koscev (2009) said that pushing set project goals does not work. It only angers local people. It was very hard for them to adopt European ways of scheduling and planning.
Another issue related to the problems with OLPC initiative in Ethiopia were the stakeholders. There are many donors in Ethiopia. However it was very hard to get people into supporting initiative and resources at the beginning. Presently there are two people assigned and paid from educational berau in Ethiopia to help with the project. There are also members in various level of administration and steering committees that help lead the movement.
The parents themselves expressed concern regarding the XO laptop. They had a fear of what is going to happen if the laptop breaks. They were unsure who will pay or replace the parts.
Solar charging panels for Rema's school were delayed. The team had to cancel the contract with the solar energy foundation after a while. They did not provide sufficient power wattage. The charger station was only 200 watts instead of 2000 watts.
There were also some technical problems at the beginning phase of laptop deployment. The major obstacle included the laptop running the Linux operating system. Because of that the team had no technical support who understood how the system operates. Daniel Drake a python programmer was invited for 6 months to help with coding patches. He help write the keyboard patch to include Arhmeic language. Additionally the technical support system was non existent. The logistical issues presented themselves when 5000 laptops showed up and there was very little help. The team had to re-flush the operating system to minimize the initial installation bugs. It took them few weeks for all the laptops to function properly. Presently the technical support is located in every school. There is help from local universities, -- college students volunteer to help. They also help with monitoring and evaluation.
Lastly the issue with the School Server was resolved. It provides access to instructional resources for all the laptops. There are 2 school servers in Addis Ababa for students to download books and materials. However the server limits active connection to 15 at the time. Teachers and students take turns to download resources. There is also no access to Internet. It is very expensive to run an Internet connection, even something small like ISDN.
OLPC in Ethiopia has introduced a complete revamp of traditional curriculum. It has changed the way that students and teachers perceive education. For some it was a brand new experience, some never knew the concept of computers. But the focus of the Ethiopian's OLPC team was to overcome all of the challenges and continue the project with set educational goals. Recent press coverage had showed that the program may encounter some financial difficulties. According to Africa News (2009) the OLPC project initiative funding may collapse the project. The future of XO in Ethiopia is uncertain at this point. Recently Crunchgear (2009) reported that the schools in Ethiopia are banning the laptops for being a toy like. Ethiopian curriculum places emphasis on memorization and basic scholastic values, where XO initiative focus on exploration and individual learning. According to Matron Koscev the laptops are not being banned, however their use in classroom is getting scaled back (Koscev, 2009). The Italian government has pledged in 2007 to purchase 50,000 laptops for Ethiopia, however there has been no recent mention of this promise. Because the OLPC in Ethiopia is more than education (Koscev, 2009), the project is looking to expand the use of the program to pilot additional one. Ethiopia's team would like to deploy additional 500 laptops in more rural schools next year.
Africa News (2009). Ethiopia: Lack of funding collapsing OLPC RetrievedJune 25, 2009 from Africa News: http://www.africanews.com/site/Ethiopia_Lack_of_funding_collapsing_OLPC/list_messages/23495
Crunchgear. (2009). OLPC banned in many Ethiopia classrooms for being toylike. Retrieved June 25, 2009 from: http://www.crunchgear.com/2009/06/17/olpc-banned-in-many-ethiopia-classrooms-for-being-toylike/
ECBP (2008). OLPC in Ethiopia. Retrieved June 26, 2009 from Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj3DSCwfOfs
Ethiopia. (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2009 from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s first OLPC deployment (2008). Retrieved June 25, 2009 from dsd’s weblog: http://www.reactivated.net/weblog/archives/2008/09/ethiopias-first-olpc-deployment/
Drake, D. (2008). OLPC in Ethiopia. Retrieved June 25, 2009 from dsd's weblog: http://wiki.laptop.org/images/b/b5/OLPC_ETHIOPIA_PRES..pdf
G1G1. (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2009 from The OLPC Wiki: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/G1G1_2007
Hollow, D. (2009). Africa Gathering: The $100 laptop in Ethiopia. Retrieved June 25, 2009 from David Hollow at Africa Gathering: http://www.africagathering.org.uk/2009/06/05/david-hollow-at-africa-gathering/
Koscev, M. (2009, June 30). Telephone interview.
OLPC Ethiopia. (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2009 from OLPC Ethiopia: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Ethiopia
OLPC Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2009 from Mini Laptops and Notebooks: http://www.mini-laptops-and-notebooks.com/one-laptop-per-child.html
One Laptop Per Child on 60 minutes. (2007). Retrieved June 25, 2009 from OLPC Talks: http://www.olpctalks.com/nicholas_negroponte/olpc_60_minutes_interview.html
Henrico County Public Schools Laptop InitiativeEdit
Initiative and DemographicsEdit
Henrico County Public Schools is home to more than 50,000 students in 72 schools. Its diverse ethnic and socioeconomic population is drawn from high density urban areas, rural regions, and high-tech suburban communities. Over forty five percent of the students are minorities.Henrico County Public Schools is located in Henrico County, Virginia, near Richmond.
In the 2002-2003 school year, Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) launched the second phase of its Teaching and Learning Initiative. The largest such district wide technology implementation in the nation, the program has enabled the distribution of wireless iBook computers to every middle and high school student and teacher in the public school district. Thus, all (HCPS) students will have equal access to powerful digital learning tools, while teachers are creating an entirely new instructional paradigm for the twenty first century. (HCPS) chose Apple's iBook computers for several reasons, says Dr. Mark Edwards, superintendent of the district. "We considered other companies for this initiative, but selected Apple because of its long time commitment to education," Edward says. "Plus, our analysis showed us that we'd be able to service and use the Mac platform much more inexpensively than with any other systems. Most importantly, we felt that the iBook laptops offered a toolset that would be ideal for our educational environment."
The phase one of this laptop initiative targeted high schools in 2001. Twelve thousand iBook systems with AirPort Wireless Cards were distributed to all middle and high school teachers and one for every high school student in the district. The phase two of this laptop initiative reached the middle school students. Every middle school student in the district received one iBook. AirPort Base Stations were installed in every middle and high school classroom. In phase two of this initiative, when parents of middle school students came to pick up their child's iBook, they were required to attend a ninety minute training session.
Value and ImportanceEdit
As a result of the laptop initiative, (HCPS) officials have the utmost confidence that their students will become competent and educated members of the twenty first century society. Today over twenty seven thousand middle and high school students along with teachers are equipped with a laptop for use at home and in school. The one to one laptop initiative allows each student equal access to twenty first century tools. Since the program's onset, school officials have taken note of student's rising grades, but most importantly their rising interest in school. "It is incredible the change laptops have created in our students," says Principal Aaron Spence. "Today our students are much more organized and have access to a wealth of educational content from their laptop and from teacher created web pages to assignments." Teachers and administrators have also noticed that since the program started, school attendance has risen and students are more engaged in the classroom because in addition to traditional teaching materials, they now have dynamic and interactive educational experiences as well.
Challenges of the Laptop InitiativeEdit
When school officials decided to implement the laptop initiative, their goal was to provide a twenty first century learning environment while maintaining student safety, complying with CIPA laws and ensuring that students would use the laptops in an appropriate and educational manner. During the preliminary parents discussions, some parents voiced concerns about the potential for students to be exposed to inappropriate web content and/or online predators. "Since we use Mac iBooks for grades 6 to 8, and Dell laptops for grades 9 to 12, we needed a solution that supports both platforms," added Lloyd Brown, Director of Technology for (HCPS). In addition, like most schools with limited IT resources and overburdened staff, (HCPS) were concerned about how much time and effort it would take to implement and maintain a remote laptop filtering solution. "The key is centralized administration," says Brown. The solution to this challenge was to address the growing use of laptops in schools, Marshal8e6 developed the 8e6 Mobile Client to filter and secure off-site students from accessing inappropriate and malicious web content. As a software-based application that works in conjunction with the R3000 Mobile appliance, the Mobile Client has a centralized configuration and remote administration. The auto-network detection allows for a seamless internal and external web filtering experience, making it completely transparent to students and tamper-proof. Finally, the Mobile Client has the same advanced filtering options as the R3000 Internet filter, including:
- Google and Yahoo Safe Search enforcement
- Search engine and URL keyword filtering
- Configurable user lockout
- Anonymous proxy blocking
The 8e6 Mobile client also works in conjunction with the Enterprise Reporter, a dedicated appliance that processes and displays Internet filtering logs without compromising filtering speed or performance, or impacting network functions. With cross-referenced and customized reporting that details reports by user name, machine name, IP address, or MAC address, the Enterprise Reporter helps IT administrators cut down on the amount of time they spend creating reports. "The 8e6 Mobile Client has integrated seamlessly into our network and works perfectly with the R3000 Internet filter and Enterprise Reporter. We are now able to monitor, filter, and report Internet activity throughout our schools on-site or off-site," says Lloyd Brown. "We first started using Marshal8e6's Internet filtering solution in 2002 and we have been pleased with it ever since. The 8e6 Mobile Client has increased our sastifaction," Mr. Brown says. "Marshal8e6 has proved to stand behind its product and service. (HCPS) staff appreciates the fact that there is only one number to call for support. But the best thing of all is that the Mobile Client simply does its job well. It has saved the school considerable expense and our students are protected, our network is secure and parents are informed that their kids are being filtered."
"The bottom line is that our children are ready. The world is moving forward and our purpose is to do everything possible to ensure our children will thrive in that future world with the experience they receive today. The future is now. Our children can't wait," (Henrico County Public Schools Superintendent Mark Edwards). The impact on student achievement as a result of this laptop initiative has been a great success. In eleven core curricular tests, students improved on nine, remained on level on one and lost two points on another. The greatest one year gains on the end of course tests came in three subjects, History, Reading, and Writing content areas where laptops were used the most. Also the state test results showed even the greatest skeptics of one to one laptop use to take another look due to the lowest ever dropout rate in Henrico's history of 1.52%. (HCPS)'s commitment to professional development gave teachers the skills and tools to be effective. Staff development included curriculum writing workshops, summer institutes, site-based institutes, a full time trainer in each high school and middle school, and training CDs and videotapes. (HCPS) implemented the following principles instrumental to the success of a laptop program:
- Think big
- Find a business partner
- Sweat the details-network capability is a key issue
- Listen to and train the teachers
- Enlist the broadest possible support-administration, principals, teachers, students, PTA, business, and community leaders.
- Reach out to parents-provide parent resource centers and offer parent training
(HCPS) have shown great strides and success with their laptop initiative. When implemented correctly with the instrumental principles that make a laptop initiative successful any school district in the world can be remarkably successful with a one to one laptop initiative. (HCPS) had an effective plan in place to overcome the challenges of the one to one laptop initiative. They also had educational goals and a future vision of what they hope for their students to achieve in a twenty first century society. (HCPS) are a role model of a victorious one to one laptop initiative.
American School of Bombay - One to One ProgramEdit
BackgroundEditThe American School of Bombay, is an American overseas school located in Mumbai (Bombay), India. American overseas schools  are institutions that have U.S. sponsorship through private businesses, churches, parent groups and/or government agencies. These schools serve eligible U.S. students in foreign nations but are not limited to just US citizens; anyone seeking a US based curriculum may send their child to a US overseas school. Some of these schools are governed by the Office of Overseas Schools in Washington D.C. and their mission is to promote quality educational opportunities at the elementary and secondary level for dependents of American citizens carrying out our programs and interests of the U.S. Government abroad.(state.gov). American schools can range from small primary schools to larger institutions housing kindergarten (or pre-kindergarten) through grade twelve classes.
The student body at the American School of Bombay (ASB) has 47 different nationalities currently attending. Only twenty five percent of the students are from the US. Ten percent of the students are English as a Second Language (ESL). Most of the parent community within American overseas schools comes from a business or a diplomatic community. Since Mumbai is the financial capitol of India, the majority of families come from the business side. These families tend to move from one country to another so the American overseas schools provide American standards of education to them. In general, ASB has a very transient population. One third of the student and parent population moves every year plus faculty and staff tend to move every 3 years, so there is always turnover.
Initiative and ImportanceEdit and ASB was one of the first schools to join this one-to-one program. At this time, all students from grades 7 to 12 were asked to buy tablet PC’s. If the student already had their own laptop, the school offered to buy them back so students could all buy the school approved and required Toshiba tablet to be on the same page. Now in its 7th year, the American School of Bombay’s one-to-one program has grown considerably to include all students in grades 6 through 12. In addition, all students in grades 3, 4 and 5 are in a one-to-one program. However, the Elementary School laptops are provided by the school and remain on campus. Students in grades 1 and 2 share one laptop between every 2 students, Kindergarten has a three to one ratio and Pre K has a four to one ratio.
Dr. Shabbi Luthra  became the Director of Technology at the American School of Bombay in 2005. Previously she had been the IT director at the Dubai American Academy and the Tech Coordinator at the American Embassy School in New Delhi. This is in addition to being an adjunct professor at the State University of New York, Buffalo and Boston University. During the course of her four years at the school, she and Dr. Paul Fochtman, the Superintendent of ASB, led several systemic changes in technology use at the school. Their forward thinking and the ASB leadership team’s dedication to meaningful professional development is continuing to ensure the success of the one-to-one program at this institution.
ASB is one of the only American overseas schools to have a Pre-K-12 tablet and laptop program. Many schools begin a one-to-one program in the middle school but few offer programs that include the lower grades, much less Pre-K. ASB recognized that rapid changes in technology are constantly shaping the world and changing the way students learn. The school leadership and the technology department foster the one-to-one program at this institution by setting goals that do not just keep pace with these technological shifts, but encourage the teachers and students involved to take ownership and look forward to what is coming many steps ahead. Providing an environment where students can engage in the lessons they are presented using valid technology required for success in the future is why one-to-one programs are growing in popularity.
Successful EngagementEditDr. Luthra cited the greatest success of the one-to-one tablet program at ASB as the high level of engagement in learning that has emerged for students through integrating the tablets into the classroom. True engagement occurred for teachers, parents and students at ASB. This was achieved by ASB’s extensive approach to professional development and by providing a sense of inclusion and ownership for all parties involved.
Dr. Luthra observed that students in many schools are more comfortable with technology than the teachers are; most times the students and teachers use technology in different ways. However for successful integration to occur, the teachers must become the innovators while exploring and engaging with new technologies. ASB has set up a wikispace listing a handful of appropriate, approved tools for secondary school teachers to use in the classroom. These tools are listed by subject areas and include research on tech integration in each area and offer ideas on how to integrate. Teachers are encouraged to explore these tools and choose which ones they want to use. Some of these tools include blogs, wikis, podcasts, discussion forums, E-portfolios for English or Language Arts departments and Dyknow, Geometer’s Sketchpad, Math Type, Diigo, and Graphing Calculator for Math departments, among others.
Another way teachers engage with the technology is through "Tech Cafés” held every Monday where many teachers come together and discuss technology integration or other particular technology topics. These meetings are informal and do not focus on how to use the technology but provide more of an open idea forum for teachers to discuss different tools and where it may or may not be appropriate to integrate technology into their lesson plans. Interacting with their peers in this format has proven successful as teachers gain new insight and stock their bag of tools with fresh, proven ideas.
ASB has adopted the ISTE  standards and devised a plan to allow each division (Upper, Middle, and Lower) to choose one standard, then write up a plan on how they would like to implement the professional development for all the teachers to achieve that standard. For example, this year the Middle school chose standard 5; Engage in professional growth and leadership. The goal of this standard is to build professional leadership as a community/faculty giving every person the opportunity to become a technology leader. Each division will be evaluated every year to see how successful they were with their professional development plan implementation. Each division will choose another tech standard for the next year so in five years, each department will have implemented all five ISTE standards. Each school principal is also required to present a yearly technology goal to the superintendent. In fact, the superintendent also sets a yearly technology goal ensuring that technology integration is totally embedded in the school culture.
Challenges and LimitationsEditAccording to Dr Luthra, there were a few factors that hindered the immediate success of the one-to-one project at ASB. One was the lack of available educational software for the tablets at the time the project was rolled out. There simply were not many educational packages in production that assisted teachers in integrating the tablets into their lesson plans. The tablets were once only used with programs like Microsoft Office, OneNote and Windows Journal. Another hurdle related to the hardware end of the program. The Toshiba tablets were first generation and tended to be clunky and problematic for the students. The tablets were different from the PC’s and laptops the students may have been used to working with in the past. In addition, the school infrastructure at ASB proved to be inadequate.
One issue with the program early on was that the focus was initially on the technology itself rather than on technology integration. Just having the latest and greatest in tablet technology does not guarantee a successful program with true integration and support. The shift was made to invest time and money into the people responsible for making the one-to-one program work. ASB invested heavily in human resources to support the school infrastructure. The school sought to hire technical support professionals from outside corporate environments rather than those with educational backgrounds to change the dynamic and knowledge base of the support team. All six people in the main support team were trained to handle each other’s job responsibilities to ensure redundancy. ASB committed to reducing network downtime to ensure the teachers and students remained engaged with the technology.
When she arrived in 2005, Dr. Luthra believed ASB was doing a fine job of integrating the tablets and laptops into the classroom, but things were not running at an optimal level. So as a result, teacher buy-in was not 100%. She believes that a teacher’s belief system will not change until they have had a series of experiences that are successful with using technology. Strengthening the backbone and building faith in the integration of technology was an ongoing process but proved successful as time progressed. Keeping parents, students and teachers invested in the technology integration process truly forms important connections and innovations that might not exist if not for the Technology Leadership Team. Providing freedom to share and explore, ensuring optimal operating conditions, and valuing the input of the end user are all reasons why the one-to-one program, has proven successful at ASB. This institution is attempting to stay ahead of the technology curve and to provide their student, parent, and teacher communities with the tools required for success.
The Maine Initiative and its DemographicsEdit
The Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) is an ongoing effort to put in the hands of every student (and teacher) in the state of Maine, grades 7 through 12, a laptop and Internet connectivity, with the ultimate goal of enhancing their learning and training them in the practice of skills many believe will be necessary to succeed and excel in the 21st century. The initiative was the thought-child in the year 2000 of, then governor of Maine, Angus King. Gov King, an established business leader, successful politician, and someone known for forward-looking thought, wrestled with how to stimulate his own economy and create jobs (Carvin, 2006). He observed other states at the time cutting taxes, encouraging R&D and international trade, but he also saw those steps as too halting (“with Maine 37th in per capita income nationally, we had to do something much more far reaching”) (Carvin, 2006). He proposed that an unforeseen 70 million dollar surplus in the state budget be used for this large-scale undertaking that, in his mind, would equip the “next generation to ask the right questions and identify the issues” instead of stuffing them with facts (Carvin, 2006). The renowned educational thinker Seymour Papert, a resident of Maine, was also a key influence on his thought: Papert believed that only when every child has his/her own tool will the deeper kind of (i.e., constructivist) learning become a reality in schools.
Thus began one of the most ambitious educational endeavors ever undertaken and the first such statewide laptop initiative. Whatever else might be argued for or against Maine, no one can deny that it was characterized by incomparable planning from the beginning. In 2000, a Task Force was established to report to the legislature and it discussed in extraordinary detail virtually every aspect of the initiative, from estimated costs, to teacher training, to evaluation, to timeline (Task Force on the Maine Learning Technology Endowment, 2001). The Task Force also laid out clearly the goals of the initiative. Expanding upon the ones Gov. King had enunciated—equity of access to technology, thorough integration with Maine’s learning goals and curricula, and economic development—it added a) teacher preparation and ongoing professional development, b) sustainability, c) developing a bold vision” of integration, d) lifelong learning for Maine citizens, e) “fostering the equitable sharing of costs” (among public and private sector, taxpayers, and philanthropists, and f) local participation and flexibility (“enabling local school units and communities to determine how the MLTE plan will” in their specific district) (Task Force on the Maine Learning Technology Endowment, 2001).
Preceded by a piloting program in nine districts that involved, among other things, the creation of a vast network of teacher mentors and content specialists, the plan rolled out to 7th graders in the fall of 2002 and 8th graders in the fall of 2003. A total of 37,000 Apple 12 inch iBooks, with a full complement of software and infrastructure for wireless networks, were distributed (Muir, 2003). Teachers received their machines in the summers before each rollout and attended training conducted by Apple and later by teacher mentors (Muir, Knezek, & Christensen, 2004). Middle school students were targeted first because the planners reasoned that they were still the most open to the excitement of learning, and at the same time would have more responsibility than younger children when it came to the care of the laptops (Muir, Manchester, & Moulton, 2005). In the fall of this year (2009), the program will expand to all high school children and teachers (grades 9 through 12), with a deployment of over 100,000 leased Mac Books (MLTI Project Team, 2009). The demographics of the state of Maine are rather diverse: they break down into generally poorer northern counties (median income at $39,000 in 2005), with less Internet penetration (15% Internet access at home in 2005) to wealthier southern counties (with median income between $50,740 and $56,999, 2007) and Internet access at 68% of homes (2007) (Task Force on the Maine Learning Technology Endowment, 2001). Primary industries in Maine are agriculture, textile, marine, shipping, and tourism. Technology, nevertheless, is well penetrated in some firms in both the north and the south (Muir, Knezek, & Christensen, 2004). Computer penetration in Maine’s schools in 2002 was anywhere between a 10 to 1 ratio and a 5 to 1 ratio, many schools had rolling computer labs, most had wireless networks already, and teacher comfort and degree of use of technology in classes was low on both counts. Difficulties teachers expressed before the initiative first rolled out had to do with not having enough time to integrate fully technology, technical problems not being resolved in a timely fashion, and lack of technical support with software (Task Force on the Maine Learning Technology Endowment, 2001).
Maine’s Value and ImportanceEdit
What is the value of the MLTI project for K-12 education in general? One benefit will certainly be the accumulated knowledge about how to integrate technology into classrooms and specific content areas. Much of this is being cataloged at MaineLearns archives where for the last 7 years, Teacher Leaders, Content Mentors, teachers, and students have been posting software tutorials and tips, lesson plans integrating technology, blogs on how to use technology in classrooms and the field, and student projects, each broken down into specific content areas and grade levels. These resources, now in the thousands--tested and honed in the fires of real classrooms--should prove valuable for educators everywhere. The resources are publicly accessible by anyone on the Internet.
Of course, another value of MLTI will be what it tells educators about the one-to-one proposition. Does it truly enhance learning? What gains were seen for student achievement and in what areas of the curriculum were they seen? What downsides were there to the initiative and how severe were they (cost of replacement cycles has been one area where more than one school has seen prohibitive costs) (Hu, 2007). Then, are there other mixes of technology that might present a more cost-effective way of doing things? (Appel, 2006). Chris Toy, principal of the Freeport Middle School in Maine, discusses many of the things he learned from the MLTI, but the one thing he emphasizes over all else is the example the principal of each local school sets for using technology, for supporting it, and for championing it (Toy, 2008). The Initiative can also be held up as one excellent example for how to do training and professional development.
Planning or Process Responsible for Greatest SuccessEdit
Before talking about the process responsible for the greatest success in MLTI, we might want to ask what is the greatest success of MLTI? One can still only look at middle school results since the high school program is just getting ready for deployment this fall. There is still a great deal of data that one can consider when looking for the successes. Examples are data on student achievement such as test scores, observations of teachers about student work and motivation, the actual work of students, their attendance and their observations of their own work and motivation, the satisfaction of certain equity goals, and the ability to keep cost reined in for the laptop program. Studies point to significant reductions in student absenteeism, and a combination of teacher observation and student reaction report greater student motivation across subjects and grades (Maine Education Policy Research Institute, University of Maine Office, 2003). As for the data on student achievement gains, one is first of all largely reliant upon the evaluation work of certain bodies that appear to have close relationships with the planners and shapers of the MLTI, namely the Maine Education Policy Research Institute of the University of Maine. This, indeed, has been a criticism of MLTI (Jackson, 2004). Furthermore, the criticism has been made that when it comes to the impact of laptops upon student achievement test scores, the description of the tests conducted as well as the meaning of the scores collected have been couched in vague terms (Appel, 2006).
When one considers MEPRI Research Briefs such as the studies done on student writing skills, the mathematics skills, and the studies on laptop use by learning disabled students, one comes away with mixed feelings concerning what is really demonstrated. In the area of writing, 70% of students and teachers report that they felt laptops helped them write better, by enabling them to revise and make drafts easier. However, test scores on the MEA writing scale proficiency assessment (itself not explained very well) were insignificant when year 2000 was compared with 2007(Silvernail, & Gritter, 2007). In the area of mathematics, the MEA mathematics test on the two clusters “Numbers and Operations” and Patterns” point to significant gains between 2002 and 2004: the report states that students, after working with their teachers using certain digital mathematics modeling tools (but we are not told which ones), improved in their ability to use causal modeling techniques and hierarchical linear modeling (Silvernail, & Buffington, 2009). In the area of the special education program, teachers observed that some students were greatly helped by laptop use: their writing skills, concentration skills, and organizational skills all improved. Others were over-stimulated by the laptops and recommendations were made they not use them (Maine Education Policy Research Institute, University of Maine Office, 2004). The bottom line of this discussion seems to be that the court is still out on test achievement improvements under MLTI and, furthermore, there is a need for research from firms more distanced from the Maine initiative.
When it comes to the equity goals of MLTI, many would agree that there is definitive success here. The initiative has reached the stage where the laptops can be taken home (with parents picking up a low cost insurance claim), and this will continue in the high school program. As for Internet access at home, a $5 million gift has been earmarked to provide wireless access through the Middlemaine server at each local school district, and something like this will continue at the high school level. By accessing Internet through the Maine server, proxied or restricted access can also be maintained (MLTI Project Team, 2009). In the high school initiative, the laptops will also be loaded with links to Maine’s Career Center resources so that parents can use the machines to pursue job opportunities and career advancement (MLTI Project Team, 2009).
In the opinion of many, the greatest success of MLTI thus far and the process that lead to it must be considered the coordination of the contract for purchase and ongoing support made with Apple. In reading about other OLPC programs in the U.S. that are now defunct, one hears again and again that it was excessive maintenance costs that lead to their demise (Hu, 2007; also Jackson, 2004). From the start, the MLTI planners made good decisions about the hardware-software mix: they chose software for the machines that leaned heavily on open-source, but which also closely served educational purposes. In this way, they could afford to ask for more in certain critical areas, like a maintenance plan lasting between three and four years and online and phone support from Apple, both to target past complaints from educators. Of course, they emphasized wireless connections to keep down network infrastructure costs. They also coordinated a sharing of costs between federal government entities, the state of Maine, and the local school districts. The cost per local school district for the upcoming high school deployment is $242/seat, quite cost-beneficial by all accounts (MLTI Project Team, 2009).
A close second when it comes to a process involved in success has to be the way that technology integration was conceived and, as a result, the training of teachers conducted. Not only did the planners of MLTI and the designers of teacher training never appear to become enamored with technology apart from learning goals, but the placing of technology to the service of curricular goals and not the other way around was and remains the focus of the initiative. The Maine’s Learning Results document was held up as the focus throughout (as well as during the RFP process) (Task Force on the Maine Learning Technology Endowment, 2001). O’Donovan (2009) states: “laptop programs have to support the standards that students are expected to learn.” Even if the laptops enhance innovation, creativity, and research, this does not go far enough. Toy (2008) also states that “it is difficult for teachers to change practices without extensive staff development.” The planners of Maine’s training programs, evidenced by the many sessions, tutorials, and others resources one sees listed on their Mainelearns websites, kept their eyes securely on the right goals. If Toy’s (2008) comments and other blogs are any indication, MLTI seems to have excelled in the area of creating the right culture, the right support level, and the right vibe.
Thus, one concludes under this section that more research is needed into student achievement as well as more independent research. Also, it will take even more time to see gains made due to the need to train teachers on practices they are not used to; thus, an OLPC program will never be a quick fix (e.g., a school pressing to make NLCB gains should not opt for a OLPC).
Planning or Process Responsible for Most Serious ProblemsEdit
Problem areas in MLTI would have to relate to the failure to choose more independent research firms and more thorough research in general and also to a failure to get the private sector more involved in funding. MLTI was diligent about having research—formative and summative analyses—done on the initiative from the very beginning. They recognized that without research into the effects of the initiative on student learning and achievement, they would likely not be able to get renewed funding for it (Muir, 2003). However, the avenues they pursued to do research should have been less closely connected with the state school system. The documents one reads about the mandate of the Maine Educational Policy Initiative state that it is “an institute jointly funded by the Maine State Legislature and the University of Maine System” and has no financial or conceptual interests in endorsing any particular policy or initiative in the education of Maine’s youth See here. However, many of the research briefs come off as though they support MLTI efforts a little too often for one’s comfort. Another problem in the research done is lack of concrete detail about what the tests employed in the studies actually measure. (The writing and mathematics Research Briefs referenced above are particularly good examples). There is also a greater need in these studies to control for other factors that may be affecting outcomes (Appel, 2006).
When it comes to funding the initiative on an ongoing basis, MLTI has done an excellent job spreading the funding around both in 2002 and today. The new deployment once again draws upon e-rate funds, State Fiscal Stabilization funds and state recovery funds as well as title funding used by the local school districts. One can’t help but admire the creative ways the shapers of MLTI have worked the initiative, allowing the local districts to decide on actual participation in the program and them assisting them in finding all available funding However, the one thing missing from funding still seems to be the influence of the private sector. We hear of nothing in the documentation after Guilford Industries enters the mix back in 2001 (MLTI Project Team, 2009). One would think that with that example and all business has to gain from such a program, there would be greater interest and greater pursuit of that dollar on the part of the planners of MLTI.
MLTI was an enormous undertaking and a risky one at that, but one that in the final analysis ought to be applauded for its calculated daring in its concern for the future of Maine’s youth. Without any models to emulate, it also did an extraordinary job of keeping its focus on curriculum goals with the technology serving those goals and not the other way around, and also left a comfortable amount of room for local control. The exceptional training and background support (technical and personal/emotional) available to teachers created the right culture for success. It was also creative in its funding strategies. However, to answer the questions about student achievement gains more satisfactorily, the initiative needs more independent and well thought through research. Gains in increased student attendance and motivation are both very positive signs and may be precursors to gains in other areas more closely related to curriculum, but we need more evidence of this. The initiative has taught us all a number of very important things about the OLPC proposition; we look forward to better research (and more of it) and which focuses on content areas or curricular goals.
- With plans to continue through 2012-2013.
- Some of the material in this section comes from a perusal of Chris Toy’s article, where he discusses, quite candidly, both successes and failures of MLTI from his perspective at Freeport (Toy, 2008).
- See the 2009 Participation Packet for information on the software mix then and now (MLTI Project Team, 2008/09).
- The online database tools like inventory and trouble ticket reporting did not hurt, but one is not sure how well they work in actual practice. See them all linked in the educator technical and policy manual here: http://maine.gov/mlti/resources/manuals.shtml
- Also, Bette Manchester, a top project director of MLTI, made the following astute and eye opening remark about the planning of the initiative: “There needs to be a leadership team that looks at things through three different lenses: the lens of curriculum and content; the lens of the culture of the building; and the lens of technical needs (O’Donovan, 2009).
- See specifically this document under 2009 deployment FAQ’s (MLTI Project Team, 2009).
Appel, J. (2006). School laptop debate heats up. ESchoolNews, 126. Retrieved June 28, 2009, from http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/top-news/index.cfm?i=41305&CFID=16191675&CFTOKEN=36251520
Carvin, A. (2006, June 22). Angus King: a brief history of Maine's laptop program. Message posted to http://www.andycarvin.com/archives/2006/06/angus_king_a_brief_h.html
Hu, W. (2007, May 4). Seeing no progress, some schools drop laptops. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/04/education/04laptop.html
Jackson, L. (2004). One-to-one computing: lessons learned and pitfalls to avoid. Education World, 27. Retrieved June 25, 2009, from http://www.education-world.com/a_tech/tech/tech197.shtml
Maine Education Policy Research Institute, University of Maine Office. (2003). The Maine learning technology initiative: teacher, student, and school perspectives mid-year evaluation report. Retrieved June 10, 2009, from http://mainegov-images.informe.org/mlti/articles/research/Mid-Year%20Evaluation2003.pdf
Maine Education Policy Research Institute, University of Maine Office. (2004). The Maine learning technology initiative: laptop use by seventh grade students with disabilities: perceptions of special education teachers. Retrieved June 8, 2009, from http://maine.gov/mlti/articles/research/MLTI_SpecEd2004.pdf
MLTI Project Team. (2008/09). MLTI 2009 deployment participation packet. Retrieved June 20, 2009, from http://maine.gov/mlti/deployment/2009MLTIParticipationPacketv2.pdf
MLTI Project Team. (2009). MLTI 2009 deployment faq. Retrieved June 20, 2009, from http://www.maine.gov/mlti/deployment/dfaq.shtml
Muir, M. (2003). Maine’s learning with laptop initiative. Edtechnot. Retrieved June 8, 2009, from http://www.edtechnot.com/notarticle1203.html
Muir, M., Knezek, G., & Christensen, R. (2004). The power of one- to-one. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ695898). Retrieved from ERIC database.
Muir, M., Manchester, B., & Moulton, J. (2005). Special topic: learning with laptops. Educational Leadership, 62, 1-7.
O’Donovan, E. (2009). Are one-to-one laptop programs worth the investment? District Administration, 149. Retrieved June 8, 2009, from http://www.districtadministration.com/viewarticlepf.aspx?articleid=1883
Silvernail, D. L. & Buffington, P. J. (2009). Improving mathematics performance, using laptop technology: the importance of professional development for success. Retrieved June 11, 2009, from University of Southern Maine, Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation Web site: http://www.usm.maine.edu/cepare/pdf/Mathematics_Final_cover.pdf
Silvernail, D. L. & Gritter, A. K. (2007). Maine’s middle school laptop program: creating better writers. Retrieved March 22, 2008, from University of Southern Maine, Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation Web site: http://www.usm.maine.edu/cepare/Impact_on_Student_Writing_Brief.pdf
Task Force on the Maine Learning Technology Endowment (2001). Teaching and learning for tomorrow: a learning technology plan for Maine’s future. Retrieved June 8, 2009, from http://maine.gov/mlti/resources/history/mlterpt.pdf
Toy, C. (2008). Ten lessons learned: considerations for school leaders when implementing one-to-one learning. Meridian, 11(1). Retrieved June 27, 2009, from http://www.ncsu.edu/meridian/win2008/tenlessons/index.htm
XO Laptop Pilot Project in New York City
In February 2008, a pilot project began in New York City, NY, to integrate laptops into an urban sixth-grade classroom. A non-profit organization called Teaching Matters ran this project. Teaching Matters partners with schools to help add or improve the use of technology in the classrooms. This particular project used XO laptops, which were developed by One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), an organization created with the original purpose of giving low cost computers to children in third world countries. The XO laptops were chosen for this project because of their low cost, high quality, and easy maintenance that even a child can handle.
The school in this pilot project was Kappa IV, a middle school in Harlem. Kappa IV has approximately 300 students in grades 6-8, 80% of whom receive free lunch, which indicates the socioeconomic level of the student body.  This school has three sixth-grade classes; only one class had the laptops initially, but at the end of the semester all three classes had them. These classrooms used a literacy curriculum developed by Teaching Matters prior to receiving the laptops. The laptops were integrated into the last three units of the curriculum.
Kappa IV was chosen not because it was lacking in technology, but because the environment in the school was favorable to implementing a successful pilot project, in terms of leadership, organization, and morale among teachers. The school also had a previous relationship with Teaching Matters because of the literacy curriculum they were already using.
State of Technology
Before the XO implementation, classrooms shared laptop carts, and often students had to share computers because some laptops were broken. This increased the student-to-computer ratio, which in turn affected the educational value of the technology - a one-to-one ratio is preferred to maximize the educational potential of a computer. Teachers also had to schedule to use these carts, so the computers were not always readily available. Once students received the XO laptops, each student got their own, so there were no issues with availability or sharing computers. Students also never had to worry about losing their work, since they would always use the same computer and could save their work on it. The XOs allowed both students and teachers to save class time because the laptops were always available for each student, and ready to use when needed. 
Value and Importance
The XO laptop implementation pilot project at Kappa IV put computers into the hands of students in an urban school that may not have had the opportunity to have computers of their own. It allowed them to develop skills that will benefit them in the real world – Internet use, online research, and word processing, among others. It reduced the student-to-computer ratio from what was in place previously, which helps to make the technology more effective in education. Some of the special sharing functions on the XO laptops allowed for increased collaboration in the classroom and even from home. Aside from the educational benefits, it gave the students a sense of responsibility and ownership. They realized how fortunate they were to have the opportunity to use an XO laptop on their own, and took the ownership seriously.
Successes and Problems of the Project
The XO pilot project was evaluated through focus groups and surveys administered to students and parents, and interviews with teachers and Teaching Matters staff. Overall, this project was viewed as being very successful by everyone involved – teachers, students, parents, and staff members of Teaching Matters. Because there was one XO for each student, as opposed to sharing the laptops on the carts, the students used the computers more. They had more time and opportunity to read, write, revise, and research. Students liked it for composition because it was quicker to type in their work than to handwrite. They also liked being able to take it home and use it to access the Internet.
A common theme that teachers and Teaching Matters staff noticed was that the kids shared more with each other – both physically by turning their screens to each other or virtually with the chat function. The students were also enthusiastic to share their laptops with their families when they were able to take them home. Parents got a better glimpse of what their children were doing in school, and noticed that their children were doing their homework more. Eighteen out of nineteen parents surveyed said they would advise the New York City Department of Education to supply all students in the city with XO laptops.
The main complaints with this project were technology related. The XO laptops often froze and had slow load times. Some students thought they would prefer a computer with the more familiar Windows operating system, and said they didn’t need a “childproof” computer, but other students liked the XO because it was made for kids. The sharing function of the XO laptops did not always work so teachers couldn’t rely on using it for lessons. Also, teachers preferred to use a projector during class, but the XO was not compatible with projectors, so teachers were not able to use the laptops themselves during lessons. Some students had trouble accessing the Internet at home, and both students and parents needed to learn more about how wireless networks function.
Where Are They Now?
The XO laptop pilot project in Kappa IV’s 6th grade classrooms concluded at the end of the school year in 2008. Kappa IV received 15 additional XO laptops in March 2009 and there are currently a total of 32 working computers at the school. While the 6th graders in the initial study have moved onto the next grade level, the computers are still being used in the school as part of a “technology club” and are available for any teacher that is interested in using them. The school and staff members at Teaching Matters are interested in using the laptops for electronic textbooks in the future. Also, a technology lab is planned for next year to house the laptops. Everyone involved with the initial project was excited with its outcome and are optimistic for the future of the XO laptops at Kappa IV.
The XO laptop pilot project at Kappa IV in New York City was a successful implementation of computers in the classroom. Students were excited to have their own laptops, to chat and share schoolwork with each other, and to have increased access to the Internet. An observer in one of the classrooms noted that, “…learning had become playing and the kids couldn’t wait to get started.”  Parents were happy that their children were more enthusiastic about their schoolwork, so they were quick to accept the project. Teachers had a way to more effectively teach their curriculum, and benefited from the students’ enthusiasm. A project like this can only succeed if everyone involved is committed to and excited about it, which is likely why this project was such a success.
- Lowther, D., Ross, S., & Morrison, G. (2003). When each one has one: The influences on teaching strategies and student achievement of using laptops in the classroom. Educational Technology Research and Development, 51(3), 23-44.
- S. Brujan, J. Clemente, L. Guastaferro (personal communication, June 2009)
Portugal’s Magellan Initiative: Preparing the children for a knowledge-based worldEdit
According to Intel (2008b), there are one billion students enrolled worldwide. This company advocates the preparation of students for a fast-changing world, a knowledge-based society and a global economy. They are trying to create learning environments to free the confidence, ingenuity, and potential of those one billion eager minds looking for the chance to learn and contribute the world. They also stated that research shows a strong correlation between education and economies. Just one more year of schooling can increase personal income nearly ten percent. In addition, studies show national returns on education as high as twelve percent. On the other hand, technology gives teachers new resources for engaging and effective education. They believe that technology sparks the joy of discovery, joins students with a wider world, and builds skills that build the future. However, only five percent of the world’s children have access to a PC or the Internet. They acknowledged that innovative learning tools are now available to allow children to collaborate, bring technology to the classroom, and meet their local needs. For Intel and Portugal, all children deserve the chance to dream, grow, and prosper.
Educational priorities in PortugalEdit
One of the educational priorities in Portugal is to improve the relevance and quality of education. Intel (2008a) maintained that Portugal’s priority to make technology accessible to schools and children is a model for governments and corporations working together to prepare future generations for long-term opportunities. According to The Portugal News Online (2008a), the Prime Minister José Sócrates reaffirmed the commitment that the current administration wants Portuguese schools to be "at the frontline of technological change". In addition, they reported that the Prime Minister would like to see citizens who join the labour market 15 years from now to be prepared to use new technologies. The Prime Minister contended that by equipping the schools with state-of-the-art computing technology and Internet connectivity, the government of Portugal hopes to hasten the transition to economic models that benefit their citizens (Intel, 2008a).
Another educational priority in the country is to prepare future Portuguese generations to learn English. The Portugal News Online (2008a) reported that in the 2008-2009 academic year, the Ministry of Education introduced the teaching of English as of the first grade in all primary schools in the country.
The World Bank (2005) recommended countries to ensure access to relevant and quality education for those strata of society that have been excluded because of poverty, ethnicity, gender, and other related factors. Evidence of the relationship between education and economic growth points to the importance of a balanced expansion of access to quality education. According to The World Bank (2002), the poor quality of teacher training programs has detrimental effects on the quality of learning in primary and secondary education.
Portugal’s commitment is to advance quickly toward a knowledge-based economy. The World Bank (2007) contended that a knowledge-based economy is one in which knowledge assets are deliberately accorded more importance than capital and labor assets, and where the quantity and sophistication of the knowledge pervading economic and societal activities reaches very high levels. It is an economy in which knowledge is acquired, created, disseminated, and applied to enhance economic development. ENTERWeb noted that technological developments in the 20th century transformed the majority of wealth-creating world from physically-based to knowledge-based. They contended that technology and knowledge are now the key factors of production.
Steffen (2006) contended that new thinking, trade, and collaboration yield economic growth and innovation. Moreover, he recognized that people need better tools, models, and ideas for changing the world. In effect, the more people that know about these tools, models and ideas, the better their own ideas will get, and the more ideas will become available. According to The World Bank Institute (2007), well-educated and skilled people are essential for creating, sharing, and using knowledge effectively. Utne (2006) claimed that sharing the power of knowledge among vastly greater numbers of people is not only more essential than ever, but also more possible than ever.
According to Publico (2009c), the Prime Minister, announced that the Government would investment 400 million euros (563,274,942 USD) in the area of the Education in 2008, for the installation of Internet in all the classrooms.
Educational needs in PortugalEdit
Matthews, Klaver, Lannert, Conluain, and Ventura (2009) contended that mainland Portugal is a country of demographic contrasts. The density and number of the population is much higher in the northern of the Tagus river, which includes the North and Central Regions and Lisbon, than in the south – Alentejo and the Algarve. They reported that Portugal has a tradition of isolated primary schools with isolated teachers. In the school year of 2005/2006 there were 7,400 schools with first cycle education and approximately 416,500 pupils. From these schools, 1,570 of them had fewer than 10 pupils, 1300 had between 10 and 20. In addition, there were big differences in provision between the rural and urban areas. Rural areas were dominated by small schools with poor facilities and urban areas had overcrowded schools with double shift education. This network was very inefficient, the retention rate in the second grade was very high, around 15%, and the mobility and fluctuation of quality of teachers, particularly in the rural areas, resulted in poor and frequently disrupted educational provision.
It had been decided to rationalize the primary education system and to close down small schools having less than 10 pupils in 1984, but the essential political will was not definitive enough to make more than gentle progress in implementing this policy. By 2005/06, research had confirmed that pupils in smaller schools were making slower progress than their peers in larger schools. The decision to close smaller first cycle schools was made two years ago after ‘several feasibility studies’, which by 2005/06 indicated a direct relationship between the size of school and student success. The reasons for the relative ineffectiveness of smaller schools are not hard to find. The social conditions in Portugal have contributed to two related phenomena, low population densities due to the declining birth rate and the depopulation of rural areas, for example, in Alentejo. This has led to a sharp drop in attendance in rural schools over the last decade. In the last few years, therefore, first cycle schools have seen their student numbers fall, which has led to closures.
On the other hand, schools were unattractive to many teachers, with the result that teachers did not stay long, were hard to replace and had to work in professional isolation. The decline in teaching standards is reported to have been accompanied by a decline in the physical condition of school buildings. Students were taught in mixed age groups, often experiencing similar work year after year. Moreover, since they failed to make the expected progress, retention rates were high. Thus many children left the first cycle underprepared for the ensuing stage of their education.
To increase the effectiveness and the quality of first cycle schools, the government determined that small schools showing higher rates of retention than the national average must be shut down during 2005/06 and ‘fostering’ schools must be identified to receive the pupils from the schools which were discontinued. This was part of an urgent reorganization and redeployment program.
The Classmate PCEdit
Intel (2009a) contended that their vision is to connect people to a world of opportunity by driving adoption and designing the right kinds of technology in education. This company has invested in comprehensive ethnographic and human factors research in real classrooms to design purpose-built solutions for education. In addition, their vision is to design technology for classrooms and "micro-mobility" which increases potential for computer use at desks, in small groups, sitting on a floor, sitting at a bench, or standing, typed and written, alone and shared, seamlessly moving between all of these conditions.
While driving costs down is a goal for Intel, they also focus on adding innovation throughout the product development and evolution process so that students, teachers, administrators, and parents can integrate technology into their lives. Their first designs, the Intel-powered classmate PCs, are rugged, affordable, child-friendly netbooks. Furthermore, Intel's Learning Series Alliance is brought to life by local technology companies that customize the products and services for their market. Intel collaborates with vendors worldwide to ensure the right infrastructure, external accessories, and software for school settings, optimized for Intel Learning Series products.
The Magellan InitiativeEdit
According to Nagel (2008), the Magellan Initiative is similar in some ways to the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative in that its aim is to deliver low-cost, mobile systems to school children around the world. Intel (2008) contended that the Magellan project is one of the most comprehensive educational technology programs in the world. It is a global and pioneering initiative from the government of Portugal to provide 500,000 laptops to all primary school children from their first to their fourth year of schooling. That means 500,000 children between the ages of six and ten, in basic education, will have access to their first laptop through Portugal's Ministry of Public Works, Transportation and Communications (MOPTC).
In addition, they informed that the Magellan Initiative complements Portugal’s e-Escola project, which provides educational notebooks and Internet access to teachers and students for the secondary level of school education. Just like the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan, the Magellan laptop will bring people of the world together by expanding the concept of e-inclusion to citizens of other countries who have had little access to information or technology. The Portugal News Online (2008) reported that Portugal's Socialist government plans to invest some 400 million euros in the next few years to equip the country's primary, middle and high schools with broadband and IT technology.
According to e.escolinha (2009a), the initiative results from a set of partnerships between the Portuguese Government, Intel, the principal operators of telecommunications – Optimus, TMN, Vodafone, Zon –, Microsoft, the Caixa Mágica (Magic Box) and the autarchy followers. The Portugal News Online (2008b) reported that the Education Minister, Maria de Lurdes Rodrigues, informed the Lusa News Agency that the programme was financed by telecommunications companies through a fund that was established when 3G licences were attributed. Taylor (2008a) echoed that these machines are expected to be delivered over a period of three years. There are 3 scales for the acquisition of a Magellan laptop. For students who qualify in the first scale, that is those who are poor, the laptop is free of charge. In addition, the computer is also sold to others staring at 20 Euros (28 USD) in the second scale and 50 Euros (70 USD) for the third scale.
In addition, Taylor (2008b) reported that through a protocol signed by the government and Intel, a largely Portuguese consortium will be established to develop and manufacture laptops in Portugal. The Portuguese PC maker called "JP Sá Couto" set up a plant in the Freixieiro zone of the town of Matosinhos. He also stated that this factory is expected to produce 4 million cheap computers for both the domestic and international markets, starting in early 2009. This pioneering project will make this company the first one in the European Union to manufacture its own computers.
e.escolinha (2009b) contended that the distribution of the Magallan computer for the present school year has practically concluded. There are currently 404,600 pupils in basic education enrolled in the program. The deadline for enrolling for the next academic year ended on June 26. Currently 370,000 Magellan computers have bee delivered to students from public and private schools. There are still 3,000 laptops in transit, to be deployed to students who have already payed for them. In addition, e.escolinha reported that there have been 31,600 enrolled students in the program to whom the Magellan laptop has not yet been issued mainly because of incorrect registration data (basically the telephone number of the contact person in charge or receiving them) or for absence of payment. Parents and people in charge of students who have not received the laptops because of data issues are encouraged to contact a call center at 707 102 526 to receive further instructions. In addition, the date for payment of the registration fee or correction of data is July 15. The Regional Education Office has ensured that the laptops will be delivered until the end of July to all the students. Finally, e.escolinha informed that there have been around 50,000 students of the first cycle that have not been enrolled in the program. Most of them are students in fourth grade whose parents have opted to enroll them the following school year when they will receive laptops in their basic education cycle.
In addition, according to e.escolinha (2009c), the Magellan Initiative is being supported by a Web site (http://www.dgidc.min-edu.pt/eescolinha/) that contains resources, examples and support materials for the teachers in the first cycle. This site provides teachers with Information and Communication Technogy (ICT) solutions for their classes, specially for those who use the Magellan laptop. Teachers are encouraged to select materials and use whatever they consider is relevant and appropriate for them and their schools. In addition, the Ministry of Education carries out workshops which may last for two days for the ICT Coordinators in charge of schools in the first cycle. These training sessions focused on managing the Magellan laptop in class, and using the Internet safely without-parental control. The workshops were organized by the Ministry of Education and the partner-businesses like Intel, Microsoft and Caixa Mágica.
Characteristics of the Magellan laptopEdit
According to TMN (2009), the Magelllan laptop features Intel processors, an 8.9" (1024x600) screen, a 30 GB hard drive, 1 GB of RAM, webcam and Wi-Fi. In relation to the software, the laptop has both Windows XP + Office and Linux + Open Office. Taylor (2008a) reported that the Magellan is a second generation Classmate PC, based on the Celeron 900 unit. He added that the laptop comes completely full of privacy protection tools as well as a “pay-as-you-go” internet access and a rather original games module that is unlocked if the student has done his homework. The Magellan comes with the necessary software so the children can do their school work and develop projects. The Magellan allows teachers and students to be connected in a network and share knowledge, during school hours and beyond. It avoids excessive waste of paper and ensures the children are always updated. The Magellan was designed to encourage youngsters to develop a thirst for discovery.
According to Intel (2009b), the full-functional classmate PCs are designed for young students; the systems are compact, simple to use, water and shock resistant. Education-oriented software for classmate PCs is currently available in Portuguese and other languages.
Publico (2009c) reported that the cost of production of the first Portuguese portable computer will be around 80 million Euros (112,545,138 USD) and each of the 500,000 portable computers will have a cost of production of 180 Euros (253 USD).
Nagel (2008) reported that Microsoft had launched its Magellan Learning Suite, a package of software solutions and services designed to support the Magellan laptop. He added that the suite would initially support Portuguese initiatives aimed at infusing technology into the Portuguese education system and delivering technology and training to disadvantaged youth in the country. In addition, he stated that Microsoft's involvement with Magellan includes the development of a Magellan-specific desktop and providing productivity and educational software for use on the systems, including Office 2007, Microsoft Student Learning Essentials, Microsoft Math(s) and Microsoft Encarta Online. Get Real Weekly (2008) added that the agreements signed represent an investment from Microsoft in the Magellan project by way of the Microsoft Unlimited Potential programme.
Advantages of the Magellan InitiativeEdit
According to Publico (2009b), the Canadian specialist in technology Don Tapscott pointed Portugal as an example to follow in education, praising the investment in individual computers in the classrooms. In the opinion of Tapscott, Portugal is to become a world-wide leader to rethink the education for the XXI century.
Nagel (2008) reported that Microsoft will be investing in student, parent and teacher training, as well as providing education resources through the Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum and Security Curriculum and providing collaborative services via Microsoft's Live@Edu. According to Microsoft Presspass (2008), through Microsoft Live@Edu, the following collaborative services will be made available for students, parents and teachers: Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Spaces, Windows Live SkyDrive, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Mesh and Microsoft Office Live Workspace. Furthermore, with this service suite, all Magellan users will be able to communicate with each other in a security-enhanced and collaborative environment. He also reported that the government of Venezuela ordered 1 million of the devices from Portugal.
According to Taylor (2008a), the Mistress of Education, Maria de Lurdes Rodrigues, claimed that the current PC-to-Student ratio is 5:1, and plans are on course to reduce that to 2:1 putting it ahead of the rest of Europe. He also reported that the cunning plan to boost computer literacy and school achievement levels has no specific agenda except raising the bar on education. However, he also believes there is a secondary target in mind, which the Portuguese government is working on: providing cheaper internet access at home.
e.escolinha (2009) contended that the Magalhães can be used by the whole family. It will be available gratuitously or at reduced prices, in accordance with the economical conditions of the families. In addition, the families in less advantageous economical conditions will receive support from companies that provide Internet access. The service is not compulsory, but it is important to guarantee that they all have access to the Internet at home.
Microsoft Presspass (2008) reported that training and technical support through the National Teacher Training Program is aimed at fostering a richer and more productive usage of Magellan, in and outside the classroom. At the training plan level, special focus shall be given to parents in what concerns a more secure usage of technology, to empower them to give support and be able to answer their children’s queries.
According to Magellan (2009), Portugal intends to become a technology advanced country where training and learning represent important development pillars. Intel will serve as the government's technology advisor, providing support and advice in managing, promoting and implementing the Magellan Initiative, as it did with Portugal's existing e-Escola subsidy program for older students. They are also planning to create a “Competence Centre” in Portugal to expand the use of mobile PCs and Internet access and use that knowledge to replicate pilot projects in other countries. In addition, Intel reported that they would be providing advice on needed infrastructure and training, as well as designing the student laptops that will form the bases of the program.
Finally, Intel asserted that the umbrella plan is to increase the use of computers and the Internet to provide Portuguese citizens with the latest technology and support them to participate in a knowledge-based economy. The Magellan initiative will help to stimulate the Portuguese economy in the area of new technologies, an area which is crucial to the future of Portugal, by exporting Magellan computers and access to information for everyone.
Barriers to the Magellan InitiativeEdit
The Magellan Initiative is devised to follow the guidelines of two major companies like Intel and Microsoft. This causes great dependancy in terms of the applications and classroom solutions that are provided to the teachers and students.
Publico (2009a) reported that there are still many problems to solve in terms of reducing the dropout rates in schools. The newspaper stated that Ana Bettencourt, presidente do Conselho Nacional de Educação (CNE), informed that many children abandon school due to school failure or simply because they do not learn.
According to Publico (2009c), the Portuguese Society of Oftalmologia (SPO) alerter that the use of the Magellan computer can increase myopia cases amongst the children due to the size of the portable device and to the very small letters. Other concerns are related to the possible theft of the Magellan laptops in various locations. The newspaper also reported some serious errors of Portuguese spelling in some applications. For this reason, the government requested the company to make corrections before deploying the laptops.
Another major problem is the delay in the deployment of the Magellan laptops to the schools. According to Publico (2009c), from the 354,000 enrolled students to receive the Magellan through the e-escolinhas program, only 200,000 have the portable computer so far. The Confederation of the Associations of Parents have reported the delays and allegue that the process is run badly. The fact that only certain students in some classrooms have received them, may force them to keep them at home to ensure that all students work under the same conditions. Many of the problems are originated due to the incorrect information filled by the parents or failure to complete the whole application with important information.
Portugal has set an example to the whole world. Technology is a means to providing greater opportunities for learning and communication. In the hands of the small Portuguese children, the Classmate PC will allow them to become technologically savvy and gain better preparation for the future decades. The shift to a knowledge-based economy has been graciously adopted by the socialist government of Portugal. The changes in educational outcomes will take years to develop. There needs to pertinent preparation of local teachers and local educational technology specialists that can provide just in time assistance in every school in the country. The Magellan Initiative is receiving support from major technology corporations who have an interest in the development of the initiative. My recommendation is to form a high level committee in the government that supervises local deployment and implementation of the program. They should be in charge of assessing every situation and find adequate mechanisms to solve problems. This team should be represented by policymakers, educators, and representatives of the communities such as parents.
There are still a few things that need to be corrected basically in the process of registration for the laptops. It seems to be a bit difficult for parents to fill out the form. Sample forms could be sent to the schools so that the people responsible for receiving the computers (the contact person) can train parents in filling the form with the required information.
Teachers must always be taken into account and given the opportunities to test and get familiarized with this new technology. In terms of assessment, teachers must learn to evaluate not just the product of students' work but also the process that they had to go through to achieve their work. This requires a shift and accommodation of school assessments with support from the Ministry of Education. Workshops for teachers should focus on how to evaluate the new work that students will begin to do. I also want to believe that teachers have seen and embrace the true potential of these laptops. They need to be the first ones to believe in the project and work hard to change the gears of education so that they move at the ideal pace.
The success of the Magellan Initiative is also in the hands of the telecommunications companies. They have the responsibility to ensure Internet access in all the homes of the children who use the Magellan laptop. There may be complications at the beginning, but I want to believe in their commitment to invest in building a robust and reliable communications network.
Finally, I hope this initiative does not fall in the game of being categorized as one more "big deal" from the major technology companies and local private interests. Let's all hope that it truly serves its purpose, which is to bring people together and provide them with tools to become better citizens.
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Alway-on Learning: The one-to-one laptop initiative in San DiegoEdit
The San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) serves over 130,000 students at 187 different sites. This makes SDUSD the eighth largest district in the United States. It is an urban district with close to 70% of its students receiving free or reduced school lunch. The student community is very diverse with large percentages of both Hispanic and Asian students.
For the last few years, SDUSD has been developing plans to give each of their students access to a computer on a regular basis, an arrangement that is known as one-to-one computing. This initiative is an effort to improve student engagement and motivation and also to foster higher level thinking skills. One-to-one initiatives also act to bridge the digital divide that separates lower income students from higher income students, as the latter often have computers and high speed Internet access at home which gives them an obvious advantage over their less wealthy classmates.
At one time, one-to-one laptop initiatives were big news in education circles. One-to-one programs were once considered controversial because of the high expense of purchasing the equipment. There was also controversy about whether a laptop for each student will necessarily result in improved learning. Today, the controversy continues about the power of one-to-one programs to revolutionize learning, but educators today barely raise an eyebrow when an announcement is made about a new one-to-one initiative because they are becoming so common. San Diego’s one-to-one initiative stands out for the sheer size of the project and also for the fact that the District plans on allowing the students to take the computers home with them after school for more effective completion of homework assignments. There are other aspects of this ambitious project which make it stand out which will be explained later in this study.
The San Diego School District’s one-to-one initiative is called the Always-on Learning Initiative and District IT personnel are proceeding at a slower pace than other LEAs that have already implemented programs in an effort to avoid the problems that emerge with initiatives like this. Like most school districts today, SDUSD must watch their expenses, and an aggressive initiative like this is quite costly. For that reason, IT personnel have chosen as an operating system, Novell’s SUSE Linux . District personnel knew that Novell’s version of Linux works well with the District’s systems that are already in place. Linux makes sense for the district because it is open sourced and freely distributed. It is therefore much less expensive than Microsoft Windows or Apple’s OX operating systems which was another important consideration of IT personnel . Expenses were also reduced by utilizing Firefox as a Web browser, and a freely distributed, robust suite of productivity tools called Open Office. The District is also making available some Web based Google tools and implementing a learning management system hosted by Moodle.
The first phase of the Always-on Learning initiative was rolled out in March of 2007. According to a deployment journal kept by District IT personnel and made available online, five secondary teachers, two middle school teachers and one elementary school teacher were each selected to pilot the new program. Computer carts containing Lenovo R65 Thinkpad computers loaded with Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop also known as SLED were deployed to each of these teacher’s classrooms. Each cart had one wireless access point for the whole set of computers which proved to be a mistake. This was due to the fact that bandwidth is divided up between all computers that feed in to the access points and performance was seriously compromised as a result. The District now uses two of these access points per cart as their standard as more carts are brought on–line. This kind of issue is exactly why the District has chosen to move slower in their deployment. Correcting an oversight like this would have been a much more complicated and lengthy undertaking if it had to be done to several thousand computers. Another issue which became apparent during the phase one rollout is that students had trouble with the Thinkpad trackpoints which are used for navigation on the computers. Students also had trouble adjusting to the rather sensitive trackpad that the Thinkpads have. To address these issues, IT personnel merely removed the small red ball, and lessened the sensitivity in new deployments .
Phase two of the program was initiated in February of 2008. Twenty more teachers were selected to each receive a cart containing twenty machines. The district used a newer Lenovo computer, the R61 which were priced at $697 each. Also, a district policy was enacted which states that schools who want to purchase these machines will need to sign up for professional development which is crucial for the success of any rollout like this. Surveys administered by SDUSD technology personnel indicated that slightly over half of teachers that completed the survey felt they were “somewhat prepared” to use technology (computers/internet) in the classroom and almost 60 percent of the respondents indicated a need for training on integrating technology into the curriculum but the Always-on Learning program was soon to make a dramatic change in direction .
A new directionEdit
After Phase two was enacted, it became apparent that the current model the District was following would not be sustainable in the long run. According to Dan Wolfson, project manager of Always-on Learning, the SDUSD would be unable to meet the goals of their one-to-one initiative due to the prohibitively high cost of the Lenovo R61. For that reason, beginning in fall of 2009, the District will be deploying the Lenovo S10 E to three middle schools . These machines are a different kind of computer known in the industry as netbooks. Machines like this are a newer development in the computer industry. They weigh 2 to 3 pounds, have a slightly smaller keyboard and a 9 or 10 inch screen. The machines are somewhat weaker then the multimedia computers that the school was initially planning to deploy through the original one-to-one plan. They do not have the power to run Windows Vista and Apple OS X is not made available for machines in this price range. The operating system most of them use is Windows XP home edition or a generally less familiar version of Linux 
Because netbooks lack the computing power of the other machines deployed in the previous phase of the program, they do not have similar capabilities, especially in the area of multimedia applications. Multimedia capability for all students at all times however is not crucial for the District. Few netbook computers have any serious multimedia capacity, but they are good with the basics that a student would need such as word processing and Web research and this is what makes netbook style computers ideal for San Diego. It is the District’s plan to utilize a mix of computers by having available in the classrooms up to four higher performance, multimedia computers and also carts filled with 25 to 30 multimedia machines which teachers can sign out to use for special projects at school. This blended model will satisfy the need for multimedia machines in the District’s classrooms.
While these machines lack some computing capacity, there are other aspects about them which make them particularly attractive for SDUSD and this is especially true in the area of cost. While no specific per machine price was available from the District, the Lenovo Website, lists similar computers which can be purchased from the manufacturer for a price of $399 . This obviously compares quite favorably to the almost $700 per machine the District was paying for the Lenovo R61. This lower price point allows District IT personnel to meet the goal of deploying an inexpensive machine for each student in the San Diego District. The machines also have a longer life, lasting five to seven years, longer than more expensive multimedia machines. The hard drives of these machines can be easily wiped clean and reset for new students as older students graduate.
These new machines that the San Diego District is deploying will be running Windows but IT personnel still feel strongly about Linux. They are continuing to explore Linux and it may eventually replace Windows as the operating system on the District’s netbook computers. Open Office, Moodle and several Google tools will available on the new netbooks as they are accessed through the Web which is the same model pursued as part of the previous phase of SDUSD’s one-to-one program. Also some applications will be made available through thin client technology as well .
Wireless access at homeEdit
Most one-to-one programs provide a computer for each student to use in school. The SDUSD program goes farther because they allow the students to take the machines home with them when school is done. This is a crucial step because many students from less affluent households have no access to computers or the Internet when school is out leaving them at a disadvantage compared to other students from more affluent families. Poorer students are also unable to complete homework assignments in the same fashion as those who own a computer with Internet access. There were no details available about insurance for the machines, or carrying bags for the netbooks, but information was available about the wireless access that each student will enjoy. Through a strong relationship that the school has cultivated with Lenovo, the manufacturer has committed to adding to the computers a built-in 3G card for wireless so the machines will be about to pickup a wireless signal without a bulky and impractical wireless device that used to have to be attached to the outside of the machine. Through another strong relationship that was developed with another of the school’s suppliers came wireless access throughout the entire 211 square miles that make up the area which is served by the San Diego School District. AT&T, the supplier of this service has configured the wireless access to effectively utilize the school’s firewall and other Internet restrictions providing a save computing environment for the students to work in even if the computers are being used off campus which is truly a valuable aspect of this wireless service.
Servicing a large, urban region, the San Diego Unified School District faces many challenges when it comes to the establishment of an effective, safe and cost effective one-to-one computing initiative. This District however has an excellent chance of being successful for two distinct reasons: One is the thoroughness of the planning that was put into the initiative. Other LEA’s who have set up one-to-one programs seemed to have jumped directly into their initiatives with a less than necessary amount of planning put into crucial aspects of the program like sustainability. In some situations, one-to-one programs have been established, but then have run short of needed money to maintain and replace machines as they grow obsolete. The second reason SDUSD has an excellent chance of success is the strong partnerships they have developed with several of their suppliers especially Lenovo and AT&T. Partnerships like this are built in the business world all the time, but it seems that LEAs often miss out on the opportunities that come from building strong relationships with their suppliers.
The San Diego Unified School District is on its way to creating a truly unique and powerful learning system which after full deployment will include computers which the students can take home for the completion of school assignments. At home or at school, the computers will be able to access the wonders of the Internet through wireless access made safer because it is configured to use existing District firewall systems. This one-to-one program has the potential to change learning through the utilization of technology in the classroom and also to truly bridge the digital divide that currently exists between wealthier students and their poorer classmates.
- Devany, L. (June 21, 2007) San Diego rolls out laptops with Linux. E School News Retrieved June 25, 2009 from http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/top-news/index.cfm?i=46376&page=2
- D.Wolfson (personal communication, June 24, 2009)
- SDUSD IT Department(2007) Phase I Pilot Deployment Journal . Retrieved June 20, 2009 from http://moodle.sandi.net/mod/resource/view.php?inpopup=true&id=21813
- Cavallaro, M., Lugo, D., Rolon, A., Suranofsky, M. (2008) San Diego City Schools (SDCS) Technology Plan 2005-2010. Retrieved June 30, 2009 from http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Technology_Planning/Appendix#San_Diego_City_Schools_.28SDCS.29_Technology_Plan_2005-2010
- Horowitz, M. (2008) What is a Netbook computer? . Retrieved June 24, 2009 from http://news.cnet.com/what-is-a-netbook-computer/
- Lenovo (2009) Retrieved June 23, 2009 from http://www.lenovo.com
South Carolina is not a stranger to using technology or experimenting with laptops in the classroom. In 1997 South Carolina provided 300 middle school students in Beauford County with laptop computers for use in the classroom. The equipment and software was provided by Microsoft and Toshiba. In January 1998 an article about their experience was published in Learning and Leading with Technology. Although the article does not report specific statistical results it appears as though the laptops were received very enthusiastically by teachers and students. The focus on their usage appears to have been in expediting the writing process from the brainstorming stages to the final product. It is also interesting to note that the role of the teacher seemed to change in the classrooms participating in the program. The author reports "Teachers' roles in technology-rich classrooms can be flexible and interactive - and change constantly. Teachers may start out acting solely as instructors, giving students the required information for their assignments. But then they most quickly switch to other roles, such as facilitators, passive managers and active managers".
Fast forward a decade. In 2007, a five million dollar state-funded program provided ninth-grade students at six high schools with laptops. The goals of the program included improving student achievement and training students for a competitive workplace in which most jobs require working with technology. In addition South Carolina hoped that test scores, grades and graduation rates would improve as well. The students in the program kept their laptops throughout their high school years.
In South Carolina's 2008 K-12 Technology Initiative progress report they explain that currently two classes have received laptops as part of this pilot but additional funding is needed to continue the program. They describe the use of an independent company hired to evaluate this initiative. The evaluation will look at grades, teacher’s use of technology and district costs for technology and professional services.
The 2008 report also shows that South Carolina's progress in providing computer access to students has steadily dropped from 1999 to 2006. However, in 2008 a new initiative was undertaken. South Carolina launched a “one laptop per child pilot” distributing 500 XO Learning Laptops to elementary school students. From there, the laptop program has grown to distributing 2,300 laptops in fourteen schools across the state.
In the Spring of 2009 they secured a $500,000 donation from Blue Cross & Blue Shield . They plan to order five thousand more laptops over the Fall of 2009 and possibly up to 50,000 laptops by the Spring of 2012 although it is not reported where further funding will come from for the project expansion.
2008 Initiative - Project BackgroundEdit
The XO laptop program got off the ground in South Carolina when a Charleston technology entrepreneur was inspired by the laptops he saw during a 2005 United Nations World Summit on Information Society hosted in Tunisia. In 2007 the State of South Carolina teamed up with a local non-profit organization (The Palmetto Project) to begin their initial pilot. Just two short years later, Blue Cross & Blue Shield joined their partnership with their half million dollar donation. Blue Cross & Blue Shield is hoping that this donation will help to better train the next generation of the South Carolina workforce to have a strong knowledge of technology.
About the TechnologyEdit
The "XO Laptops" were developed by One Laptop per Child which is a non-profit organization. Their goal in developing this spill-proof and drop-proof laptop was to get technology into the hands of children all over the world. This equipment allows children to connect to modern education and to each other.
Despite the fact that the laptop program is in a very early stage, South Carolina has begun to track results which look very positive. After the initial pilot of 500 XO laptops distributed to Marion School District Seven they were used by students in the classroom and at home during the 2008-2009 school year. During this time the teaching staff was given support by a district level technology coach and a technology coordinator. At the end of the 2008-2009 school year the students took South Carolina's Technology Proficiency Test. A staff member of the South Carolina Department of Education took the time to provide some of their successes and surprises as they analyzed their evaluation results from the initial pilot. The following results were submitted via email correspondence.
- Student Enthusiasm
- "Teachers reported that 86% of students exhibited enthusiasm at the thought of and when actually using the XO Laptop."
- Increased Usage
- "In school year 2007-2008 teachers reported they had from three to 10 computers in the classroom. In school year 2008-2009 every student in the classroom had a laptop. During the school year 2008-2009 student use of computers was estimated by teachers to be 50% more than the previous year ."
- Academic Achievement
- "Based on teacher professional opinion, 75% saw some to a substantial gain in academic achievement that can be contributed to the use of the XO."
- Social Interaction
- "Based on teacher professional opinion, 68% saw some to a substantial gain in student social interaction in the classroom that can be contributed to the use of the XO."
In addition, teachers saw improvements in motivation and test results show substantial gains in student technology skills.
When asked about the practices in the pilot which failed to produce the expected results, the South Carolina staff member indicated that while the laptops were used for science, social studies, math and music they were largely used for research. South Carolina plans to brainstorm and develop other ways to use the XO laptops in the classroom.
Early success, community support and corporate participation are excellent early indicators that the South Carolina one-to-one laptop program will be a program to watch and learn from!
- Gottfried, J., & McFeely, M.G. (1997-1998, December/January) Learning all over the place. Learning and Leading With Technology, 25, 6-17.
- South Carolina Pilots iAm Laptop Program (2007). Retrieved June 20, 2009, from http://www.k12blueprint.com/k12/blueprint/story_south_carolina_pilots_iam_laptop_program.php
- South Carolina K-12 Technology Initiative 2008 Progress Report (2008). Retrieved June 20, 2009 from http://www.sck12techinit.org/documents/2008AnnualReportFORWEB.pdf
- One XO Learning Laptop Per South Carolinian School Child (5/7/2009). Retrieved June 20, 2009 from http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/usa/olpc_south_carolina_school_child.html
- One Laptop per Child/SC Receives $500,000 from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina (4/23/2009). Retrieved June 20, 2009 from http://www.southcarolinablues.com/bcbs/bcbs_redo.nsf/ASC/abou_Nws_CrrntPrssRlss_177?OpenDocument&Start=1&Count=1000&Expand=2&1=1
- One Laptop per Child/SC pilot project gives personal computers to state’s youngest students (5/12/2008) Retrieved June 20, 2009 from http://laptopsc.org/?p=17
- M. Ruzga (personal communication, June 16, 2009)
iPod Touch Initiative in Mansfield, Texas
In spring 2009, Mansfield Independent School District (MISD) in Mansfield, Texas introduced the Apple iPod Touch, a popular touch-screen handheld computer, to its pre-K students. Mansfield Independent School District is located in a suburban area near Dallas, Texas. The school district has 39 schools, and enrolled over 31,000 students in 2009 (MISD Schools, 2009). MISD strives for a safe and comfortable environment for its culturally diverse student body, and aims to give students the skills necessary to succeed in real world situations, where technology is a critical element (About MISD, 2009). The iPod Touch initiative is in line with these goals.
The primary objective for creating the iPod Touch initiative at MISD was to help pre-K students achieve the goals outlined in Texas pre-K education standards (Texas Education Agency, 2009). These guidelines explain the importance of introducing technology to young students and the specific skills they should have at the pre-K level in Texas schools. Introducing technology skills early in the students’ education is vital to preparing them for a future that is certain to be rich with technology. MISD decided to implement the initiative in order to increase students’ knowledge of basic concepts in a fun and interactive way that would also teach technology skills. The district also viewed the initiative as a way to help reduce language barriers for the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students, so that they can progress at the same rate as their English-speaking classmates. MISD has created a short YouTube video to promote their new and unique program.
For the initial implementation of the iPod Touch initiative, each pre-K classroom at MISD received 3 iPod Touches, along with other accessories like docks and cases. The teachers take advantage of the many free iPod Touch applications that are suitable to this age group, such as games that teach students about the alphabet, shapes, and counting. The interactive touch-screen interface of the device benefits students with different learning styles, such as visual or tactile learners. The district has also found that students learning English benefit greatly from iPod Touch applications that connect pictures to words (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 2009).
The planning process for the iPod Touch initiative is ongoing; plans are developed as funds become available to purchase new iPods (Personal communication, 2009). Pre-K teachers received training on the iPod Touches prior to the implementation. They learned the basics of using the devices, along with the many options for classroom use, like applications and podcasts. The applications they used focused on early childhood learning. The day of training generated excitement among the pre-K teachers, who quickly felt prepared to introduce the devices to students. Ongoing support is available for these teachers as the initiative continues (MISD Blog, 2009).
Importance of the Initiative
The iPod Touch initiative at MISD introduced new and innovative technology to young students who are at an ideal age for acquiring new skills. This will help to prepare them for the remainder of their education and beyond, as schools and workplaces continue to include technology, requiring everyone to keep up with constant changes. Additionally, people of all ages today constantly use mobile devices such as cell phones and MP3 players. Since even young children are using such devices, they may already be comfortable with how to use them, which can help to reduce technical training time in the classroom and allow teachers to focus their time on lessons instead.
The Internet also plays a significant role in education today, giving students access to resources worldwide and encouraging collaboration and communication among each other and with peers in other schools. Wi-Fi enabled devices like the iPod Touch allow schools to provide Internet access to students without having to invest in expensive desktop computers. While the iPod Touch is not a replacement for a computer, it does offer many of the same features for a fraction of the cost. This can help to put computers into the hands of more children than ever before, giving today’s students constant access to information regardless of their economic situation.
Recent research has shown the possible impact of mobile devices in learning today. Researchers for a 2009 report on this topic, which is entitled “Pockets of Potential,” believe that since mobile devices have become so ubiquitous for students today, taking advantage of them for education only makes sense. They reported that the number of children ages 4-14 who own mobile devices has grown rapidly since 2005 – this includes cell phones, iPods, and pocket gaming devices. Providing opportunities for students to also use these devices in the classroom closes the divide between home and school. It also shows students how what they learn in school corresponds with the real world (Joan Ganz Cooney Center, 2009). In the case of the MISD initiative, the iPod Touch is both a music/video player and a pocket gaming device, so the implementation at the pre-K grade level makes perfect sense.
Successes and Problems
Since the iPod Touch initiative at MISD has only been in progress for about 6 months, it is difficult to quantify success in terms of educational achievement or test scores. The greatest achievement of the initiative so far is the success of the implementation in the pre-K classrooms. Teachers have found that the pre-K students are naturals at using the iPod Touch and are having fun with the classroom activities that involve the devices. There was some hesitation to giving iPod Touches to such young students but they had no trouble learning to use them. Teachers also learned new technology skills and were excited to introduce the iPods to their students. This success led to future plans for implementation in other grade levels throughout the school district (Personal communication, 2009).
The majority of the problems with the initiative so far have been technical. Not every school in the district has wireless Internet access, so the iPod Touches cannot always be used to access the Web. The devices also need to be synced regularly with a desktop computer, and depending on the number of devices being used in a classroom, this can take up a lot of a teacher’s time, which would be better spent on educational tasks. Another problem standing in the way of a more widespread implementation across the school district is funding. MISD used grant funding to purchase the iPod Touches they have today, and will continue to purchase more iPods as more funding becomes available.
Soon after the iPod Touches were implemented in the pre-K classrooms at MISD, they were introduced to 5th and 8th grade science classrooms. Each class received enough devices for every student to have one to use. The teachers in these classrooms have used the iPod Touches to share videos and Web sites with the students, along with PowerPoint presentations and iPod Touch applications related to science topics. Again, using these touch-screen devices will appeal to different styles of learning and may help to increase students’ science knowledge. The next implementation will be at the high school level, where the devices will be used for podcasting, collaborative activities, and online research. MISD hopes to continue to increase the usage of the iPod Touch across the district, as funds become available. Instructional technology staff members at MISD have also created a social networking community for teachers involved in the iPod Touch initiative, to make it easy for teachers to share their successes and struggles with the devices (Personal communication, 2009; MISD Blog, 2009). 
The iPod Touch initiative at Mansfield Independent School District is the first of its kind for the district, pairing innovative hardware and software to provide new and exciting learning experiences for its students. The project overall has been a successful one, and the district will continue to add iPod Touches to more of its classrooms as often as they are able to do so. One of the school administrators involved in the initiative said this of the pre-K students: “There's no fear. It's just endless what they can do.” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 2009). This quote perfectly demonstrates the reason that the initiative will be successful at MISD as it continues to grow.
- http://www.mansfieldisd.org/schools.htm accessed on October 13, 2009
- http://www.mansfieldisd.org/aboutMISD/welcome.htm accessed on October 14, 2009
- http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/technology/techapp/teks/prek.htm accessed on October 13, 2009
- http://www.allbusiness.com/education-training/curricula-foreign-language-education/12946254-1.html accessed on October 2, 2009
- Personal communication with MISD staff, October 2009
- http://yourmansfieldisd.blogspot.com/2009/06/misd-minutes-apple-ipod-touch-for-pre-k.html accessed on October 2, 2009
- http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/pdf/pockets_of_potential.pdf accessed on October 16, 2009