LAPtop (Learning Assistance Program) at Jordan Middle School in Palo Alto, CA, has provided Apple iBooks to approximately 50 students in one 6th grade team. The students will participate in a three-month laptop “immersion test” this spring.
During the “immersion test,” lots of info that the participants would normally keep in notebooks will be stored in the Apple portable, which they can take home. Of course, they’ll be able to use the iBook for research or homework help.
A chief goal of the program is to see how students use the machines and how well laptops hold up with regular use from students in the move from home to school each day. The school will be looking at issues surrounding the network and how well it services the pilot group. And school officials want to know what the teachers, students and parents think of LAPtop — its strengths, impediments and potential.
If the results are positive, project LAPtop will continue next year and would include all the school’s sixth-graders. Results will also help district officials decide whether the program should be extended to other grades and schools, according to the
San Jose Mercury News. If the program does grow, Wintel notebooks may also be an option for students.
At Jordan, approximately 70 percent of core subject area teachers and 50 percent of elective teachers use technology with their students during the school year. Their usage would increase if access were not an issue, according to school officials. Lab signups are limited and very few classrooms have multiple computers.
“We hope we can prove that ubiquitous computing — anytime, anywhere — will motivate and engage students,” Leslie Goldman, one of Jordan’s technology mentor teachers, told the Mercury News.
Jordan will have $20,000 to use toward staff development next year. About half of this money will be devoted to the teachers with laptops. Each teacher will receive five days of all-day workshops, the first of which will be in August before school starts. Then during the year, each 6th grade teacher will attend two, two-day sessions to explore, plan and develop techniques for using their laptops with students and to enhance their own workflow. Additionally, Jordan has both technology mentors and tech coaches to help with technology integration issues and ideas.
Part of the pre-program research included interviews with teachers, parents and students at other districts that have tried the one computer/one student approach, according to the newspaper. Among them: Clovis Unified near Fresno, where 3,000 of its 32,000 students use district-supplied laptops.
What the Palo Alto teachers heard during their research was, “It works.” “We can’t say it improves test scores. There’s not enough data on that. And middle school is always a difficult time as far as test scores are concerned … but we think in this community, we should be very successful.”
The pilot program’s cost, which includes laptops, backpacks, software and insurance, comes from a combination of corporate contributions, grant funding and private donations, organized in part by the school’s PTA. If the program is deemed successful, the per-family cost for next year’s sixth-graders is anticipated at $50 a month, PTA President Barbara Mitchell told the Mercury News, with scholarships available to make it affordable for all.
“Schools in general need program funding — and there’s no interest here in competing for dollars by eliminating needed program funding to buy computers,” she said.