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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 Background
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 Technology
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)