OLPC Heads to Charlotte, North Carolina

Thanks to Knight Foundation, OLPC will be providing laptops and training to over 2,500 teachers and students in Charlotte’s Project L.I.F.T. Zone.

Initial Teacher Training: August 14 and 15, 2012

On the morning of August 14, OLPC staff members and support personnel embarked upon three school sites to provide training and development to nearly 150 teachers from seven school sites. OLPC was greeted warmly and the positive energy was contagious; teachers were eager to get their laptops and to begin exploring right away.  It was a thrill to see teachers dive right in opening laptops, exploring new Activities and “friending” one another. The first day, trainers focused on OLPC’s learning principles and project goals. Teachers learned about our work around the world, the theory of Constructionism and the benefits of the SugarLearning Platform. It was a meaningful session of exploration and collaborative learning. By day’s end, teachers were able to present their Portfolios and talk about the various projects they created in Sugar. 

Day two of training was dedicated to curriculum alignment and ways to incorporate XO laptops into daily classroom routines. Teachers were given strategies for implementation and some spent time sharing ways that these machines could transform their classroom cultures. In the afternoon, teachers worked in grade level groups to create aligned lesson plans using Sugar Activities and Common Core State Standards. North Carolina is one of 45 states that has adopted Common Core, a comprehensive K-12 curriculum thatemphasizes 21st century learningskills and real world application of content.  Community leaders, administrators and teachers all believe that these laptops are one tool that will position their students for success in the global economy.

As we closed day two, teachers were given an opportunity to share their lesson plans and discuss the many new options that the XO laptops provide. Student engagement and collaboration will take on a new meaning in the 2012-2013 academic year.

Check back frequently for how OLPC is doing their part to L.I.F.T. up Charlotte’s West Corridor!

OLPC Uruguay Q&As: Miguel Brechner on Plan Ceibal

Christoph D just posted a lovely interview with Miguel Brechner about OLPC in Uruguay and Plan Ceibal.

And a few months ago Karen Cator, Educational Technology Director at the US Department of Education, replied to a question from Miguel at a learning technology conference. She shares a few views from her Department, from Secterary Arne Duncan‘s interest in Uruguay’s leadership in empowering children, to issues of how long it takes to transition to such a program in our world of independent, federated states. Some states are saying that ‘by 2014 they want to be like Uruguay in terms of… laptop access‘.

Update from the Field: Birmingham, Alabama surveys

Earlier this year, Shelia Cotten and coauthors HaleMoroneyO’NealBorch published an overview of their data from surveying 27 schools during the first year of the city-wide OLPC project in Birmingham, AL.  In the 2008-2009 school year, 1st – 5th Grade students and teachers, in every public primary school in the city, received XO laptops via this program. — amounting to over 15,000 students and teachers. and every public primary school in the city.

The paper, ”Using Affordable Technology to Decrease Digital Inequality“, appeared in Information, Communication & Society Volume 14, Issue 4.  From the summary:

[F]ourth and fifth grade students at 27 Birmingham City schools were surveyed just prior to receiving the XOs and then again about 4.5 months later. A total of 1,202 students were matched between the two surveys… students who used a computer to do homework before receiving the XO, tended to make greater use of the XO and felt it helped them in their education. Teachers’ use of the XO was also an important factor. Students who reported their teachers made greater use of the XOs in the classroom tended to use the XO more and felt that the XO had a positive impact on their education.

These findings highlight the importance of training teachers to make effective use of new technology and the need to develop curriculum to integrate computers into the classroom.  Dr. Cotten is currently leading a National Science Foundation funded project that helps… teachers receive training which builds technology-teaching capabilities so that students develop the attitudes and the skills necessary to succeed in a technologically advanced society.

Their research has continued since then, and they will also publish about longer-term results.

Pennsylvania’s Charter School success

The Chester Community Charter School in Chester, Pennsylvania, with roughly 2500 students, is the largest pilots of XOs in a charter school, and one of the largest single-school pilots in the US. They began in 2008 with 1400 students in 6th through 8th grades, and have since added over 600 more students in 3rd through 5th grades.

They planned their infrastructure and teacher preparation carefully — adding a high-bandwidth network connections within their school to handle the dramatic increase in Internet usage they expected, and running regular workshops with the head teachers from their 3 initial grades to develop new materials to make use of laptops in and out of the class.  And they have engaged city and state policymakers and other potential supporters in their area from the beginning.

I helped them with the initial deployment and a school-wide demonstration we gave to the students — and I still remember the joy with which they glommed onto the new machines; the teachers full of ideas after some brainstorming, and the students pepped by our demonstration of a competitive two-player Maze session.  They recently asked to test out the 1.5 and future tablet models, and seem to be growing their student body steadily at over 10% a year.  I hope to visit with their teachers again soon to see how this has changed their views of teaching.