OLPC Birmingham Survey Results: More Teacher Training Needed for XO Laptop Classroom Usage


With a milti-million, multi-year National Science Foundation grant, Shelia Cotten, an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is implementing the Integrating Computing Across the Curriculum (ICAC) program to empower XO laptop usage in the OLPC Birmingham deployment.

And the survey says...

Her first action was to survey the usage of XO laptops by students and teachers to set a benchmark from which she could work. Her findings as reported by AL.com, are about what I would expect - a bell curve of XO laptop usage:

about 20 percent of students reported using the laptops "a lot" in class, about 60 percent reported using them only "a little" and about 20 percent reported never using them. Just 31 percent said they learn more in class with the computers.

Digging deeper on how the XO's are used, we find out why so many children are not using the XO much in the classroom - teachers are not incorporating it into their lessons and activities:

What she found after surveying more than 1,700 fourth- and fifth-graders in 26 elementary schools is that most students were using them little, if at all in class. Of those surveyed, 27 percent reported using them in reading; 24 percent in math; 21 percent in technology classes; and 16 percent in English, history and science. Fewer than half of students surveyed -- 48 percent -- said the XO helps them to learn. Not surprisingly, almost 78 percent of the students reported playing games on their computer.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. With less than two hours of training on average, teachers were clueless as to the benefits of XO usage in the classroom or even how to integrate them if they did know the benefits.

More teacher training on the way

Despite all the XO funding being cut from the Birmingham city budget, Shelia's NSF grant for ICAC is allowing her to develop and implement a series of teacher training workshops with g8four, lead by Julian Daily. As The Journal reports, They're going to train teachers on XO usage, lesson plan creation, and classroom management with laptops.

The workshops start with the fundamentals of using the XO, said Cotten, and emphasize "getting teachers familiar with the computers' capabilities and functions." Teachers break into groups and create lesson plans, which are then presented to the entire class on the final day of the workshop.

For the 2010-2011 academic year, the ICAC will rollout training to seven schools with XO-centric lesson plans and teacher training - they already have 45 lessons plans developed using the XOs, and aim to create 30 more over the school year. The end goal: train every teacher in every olpc school, so the next survey results will be an even tighter bell curve.


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