Manchester Center, VT - October 25, 2011 - Vermont may be a small state, but it has been the epicenter of a project with the potential to transform modern American learning. For the past three years, Digital Wish, a non- profit on a mission to solve technology shortfalls in American classrooms, has been modernizing classrooms throughout Vermont and carefully studying the process in order to create a model for replicating their 1:1 computing success on a national scale. These tools were used to implement programs in 28 schools, and both teachers and students from across the initiative are reporting a wide array of gains including increased engagement in learning, technological proficiency, and dramatic increases in the understanding of internet safety issues. Planning time has been reduced from 18 months, down to just 6 weeks, saving schools tremendous amounts of time and money. The 2010-11 data report is below.
Digital Wish spent over a year researching successful and failed 1:1 computing initiatives across the country prior to implementing their own strategies. This intensive research period resulted in the identification of eight strands which must be addressed in order to build a sustainable 21st century learning program, such as leadership, community engagement, and curriculum. The absence of just one component creates a much higher risk of the initiative failing downstream.
Pilot Phase - 2009-2010
With endorsements from Vermont’s major educational associations of principals, school boards, superintendents, IT coordinators, teacher’s unions, and six regional training centers, Digital Wish raised over $150,000 to fund four pilot sites in the 2009-2010 school year. Across the pilot classrooms, trainers experimented with sharing computers between students, implementing mobile labs and computer carts, and crafting comprehensive 1:1 computing environments. The Digital Wish team found that learning gains were so much higher in schools with one-computer-per-child that they abandoned shared computing and mobile computer labs, and pledged to only support 1:1 initiatives on a larger scale.
Early results gathered through simple student surveys from the pilot schools show impressive statistics that support the importance of making 1:1 computing a top priority for schools nationwide. Data from the pilot surveys showed:
73% of students agree that schoolwork is more enjoyable when using a computer.
85% of students report that they produce better work and pay closer attention to lessons when they use a computer.
95% of students report that it is important to have their own computer at school.
Technology utilization doubled and even tripled across subjects for students and teachers, with biggest utilization increases realized in English and research.
Within 3 months, comfort level with computing increased in every classroom.
86% of students say they get work done more quickly when using a computer.
85% of students report that having technology in school is important to their future.
**Please note that all statistics were gathered through informal surveys and Digital Wish does not make any conclusive “research-based” claims.
Through these early stages, Digital Wish gathered the resources and support necessary to scale the initiative statewide. According to Heather Chirtea, Digital Wish’s Executive Director, “It’s extraordinarily difficult to develop a successful initiative from scratch, because there are just so many decision points. Every school we enter is facing the same issues, and making the same decisions, and also making the same mistakes in isolation. It’s an incredible waste of resources. We’ve implemented so many sites now, that we can explain the downstream ramifications of nearly every decision and stop schools from taking a wrong turn very early in the process. These hard-won lessons can be scaled across the state.”
Implementation Phase, 2010-2012
After securing $1.125 million from the Obama administration’s ARRA stimulus funds, Digital Wish planned the implementation of their school modernization program in 24 more schools statewide as a partner in e-Vermont: The Community Broadband Project. The trainers constructed six curriculum units based on the NETS standards for education, which were then taught throughout 24 schools. These curriculum units will be made available nationally as online courses and as part of the 1:1 Technology Implementation Kit. In addition to the courses, the kit will include all of the model policies, printable worksheets, step-by-step leadership strategies, press plans, and sustainability resources necessary for any school to adopt the successful strategies.
By replicating their successes and strategies from the pilot program and building upon what they found successful as they worked in the 24 additional schools, Digital Wish’s School Modernization Initiative saved valuable resources and time.
“The first site took eighteen months of planning from our first contact with the school, to passing out computers in the classroom,” said Heather Chirtea, Executive Director of Digital Wish, “Our current deployment will reduce the entire planning process down to just two months.”
Survey data was collected from 719 teachers and students from 24 schools across Vermont. Most of the data reflects the differences in responses between the pre- and post- initiative surveys. The complete data report is attached. Listed here are some interesting reported gains:
Workforce Prep - 93.1% of students say having technology in school is important in preparing them for the future.
Importance - 90.2% of students say that it is important to their education to have their own netbook/computer during the school year.
Comfort Levels - Over 50% more teachers reported they are now very comfortable with Internet research and safety, increasing from 40% to 63%.
Skill - Teachers say that less than half as many students are considered beginners with computers, a decrease of 13% points from 23%. They consider approximately 1/3 more students to be advanced computer users, a 10% point increase from 25% pre-deployment, to 35% post-deployment value.
College - Students who plan to go to college increased from 90.2% to 91.3%, a 1.1% point increase.
Frequency - The number of students who use a computer every day in the classroom more than doubled the pre-initiative levels, increasing from 24% to 52%.
Not all gains are measurable, and teachers commonly reported a wide array of anecdotal gains:
Students are engaged.
In 1:1 computing classrooms, students view the computers as “their own” and therefore take better care of them.
Computer breakage rates are lower and behavioral infractions have been reduced with the threat of their computer being taken away.
Students are becoming technologically fluent 2-3 times faster.
Socio-economic barriers are no longer relevant as students from different wealth classes, who would never previously work together, are suddenly partnering on classroom projects.
A peer-coaching dynamic has emerged.
New student leaders have begun to develop from all levels of the social strata. Some of the largest gains have been made by the low-achieving and special education students who tend to be more visual learners.
“It was a real treat to see the changes in these classrooms firsthand,” said Eric Bird, lead classroom trainer for the Digital Wish School Modernization Initiative, “When we began, most classrooms had only a few outdated computers. I’ve seen enormous gains in student engagement. You really don’t understand how important this is until you find out that the decision to drop out of school is made at the middle school level. We’re raising engagement levels with students in grades 4-6, hopefully before the decision to drop out ever gets a chance to take root.”
Bird continued, “Students and teachers have become technologically fluent very rapidly; learning independently and solving real world issues. We implemented a unit where students would study local businesses before being challenged to create their own business ideas. For many students, this was the first time that they had ever envisioned themselves as entrepreneurs. It’s a real game changer as students plan their future, and we’ve already secured funding to implement a multi-grade mentorship program for the Fall.”
Digital Wish recently won an $80,000 grant award from the Dell YouthConnect program to replicate the Vermont successes in one additional school in Nashua, NH. The guidelines and strategies that were developed across 27 rural Vermont sites are now being tested for replication in a more urban environment at the Nashua School District.
“It’s amazing how rapidly we’ve worked through the planning process at Nashua,” said Sheila Marcoux, Digital Wish’s technology integrator for Nashua. “All of the planning, documentation, usage guidelines, permission forms, and tough decisions were already mapped out. Nashua is avoiding a bevy of common errors that schools tend to make when they implement a new one-computer-per-child initiative.”
After Digital Wish implemented their 1:1 computing initiative across multiple sites, they began noticing the staff, administrators, and community at large rapidly shifting their assumptions about the need for technology in classrooms. Computers were no longer something that “someone else” had to deal with. Instead, they became an assumed part of every learning experience. Each of the 2009-2010 pilot schools scaled up their technology programs within one semester of Digital Wish’s arrival. One town voted to increase their school’s technology budget from $5,000 to $50,000 in the following school year – ten times the original amount originally allotted for educational technology.
“Students were truly engaged with their learning as soon as the computers entered the classroom,” said Chirtea. “Digital Wish envisions a day when every student in America will have access to their own computer for learning. My favorite moment in the initiative was when a student exclaimed, ‘I wish I could stay in 5th grade for the rest of my life!’”
Digital Wish - Nationwide
On a national scale, Digital Wish has granted over 26,000 classroom technology wishes through its online network of over 56,000 teachers at DigitalWish.org since August 2009. By granting these wishes, more than ten million dollars in technology has been placed into the hands of educators. By offering the 1:1 Technology Implementation Kit, as well as many of the most sought-after educational technology products, Digital Wish has become the premier resource for schools and communities looking to implement successful 1:1 learning environments.
“No matter where you live, the combination of ubiquitous technology access and proper training in 21st century skills is critical to bridging the learning gaps and providing equal opportunities for students in every socio-economic class,” said Chirtea. “We have a moral obligation to give every student the skills they need to thrive in the rapidly growing global economy. We’ve done the research and now it is time to replicate our success on a national scale. It’s America’s turn to get involved.”
In response to the rising community engagement, Digital Wish recently added online fundraising to its website in order to give schools a way to reach into their local communities for sustainability funding. Now parent organizations and educators can build a fundraising website for classroom technology that includes credit card processing in just a few mouse clicks.
For more information on Digital Wish’s School Modernization Initiative, visit their website at http://schoolmodernizationinitiative.wordpress.com/ or go to DigitalWish.org today.
About Digital Wish
Digital Wish (http://www.digitalwish.org) is a non-profit on a mission to solve technology shortfalls in K-12 classrooms. They study technology integration in local schools then scale successful programs nationwide through the website at www.digitalwish.org. Their website is designed to help teachers locate much-needed funding for classroom technology. Teachers make technology wish lists, and supporters make those wishes come true. Over 26,000 technology wishes have been granted. Digital Wish provides a host of fundraising ideas and allows teachers to e-mail and print their technology wish lists so that parents and community members can contribute. For more information, please visit http://www.digitalwish.org.
Digital Wish School Modernization Initiative
2010-2011 Survey Results (DRAFT - Data will undergo final review)
Organization: Athena Council (D.B.A. “Digital Wish”)
Contact: Heather Chirtea, Executive Director,
Phone: Dir (802) 549-4571, C (802) 379-3000 F (845) 402-7242
501(c)(3): Approved August 26, 2008
About the Surveys
If you would like to cite data from these surveys, please credit Digital Wish.
All data is self-reported by students and teachers who participated in the initiative. Data was collected from the 24 schools participating in the School Modernization Initiative, collected through an anonymous survey conducted on www.surveymonkey.com. The data is broken into two groups:
Round 1 - 12 schools participated in the Initiative for eight months, from November 2010 to June 2011, covering four to six different technology units.
Round 2 –12 schools started in April 2011 and the data reflects the first two months of participation in the Digital Citizenship Unit.
The same questions were asked in both the pre-initiative and post-initiative surveys. According to the data, the students showed increases in computer literacy, rising comfort levels with technology, and overall increases in engagement. The data reflects the difference in the responses given between the pre- and post- survey data.
26 Teachers surveyed
404 Students surveyed
Pre-survey administered Nov. 2010
Post-survey administered June 2011
Curriculum taught to grades 4-6
19 Teachers surveyed
270 Students surveyed
Pre-survey administered April 2010
Post-survey administered June 2011
Curriculum taught to grades 4-6
Please be aware that the data collected shows anecdotal trends, as reported by the teachers and students participating in the initiative. Digital Wish does not conduct formal research, nor do they make any conclusive research-based claims.
Round 1 & Round 2 - 93.1% of students say having technology in school is important in preparing them for the future.
Round 1 & Round 2 - 90.2% of students say that it is important to their education to have their own netbook/computer during the school year.
Round 1 - Students who plan to go to college increased from 90.2% to 91.3%, a 1.1% point increase.
Round 2 - Students who plan to go to college increased from 89.1% to 90.7%, a 1.6% point increase.
Frequency of Usage
Round 1 - The number of students who use a computer every day in the classroom increased from 24% to 52%, more than doubling the reported pre-initiative usage rates.
Round 2 - The number of students who use a computer every day in the classroom increased from 23% to 54%, more than doubling the reported pre-initiative usage rates.
Round 1 - 83% of students say they enjoy school more when their teacher uses technology to teach lessons, up 3% points from 80% pre-deployment.
Round 2 - 88% of students say they enjoy school more when their teacher uses technology to teach lessons, up 6% points from 82% pre-deployment.
Round 1 - Students who now “pay closer attention to lessons when using a computer” increased from 68% to 70%, an increase of 2% points.
Round 2 - Students who now “pay closer attention to lessons when using a computer” increased from 67% to 77%, an increase of 10% points.
Round 1 - Students who agree that computers make schoolwork easier increased 2% points, from 87% to 89%.
Round 2 - Students who agree that computers make schoolwork easier increased 5% points, from 86% to 91%.
Round 1 - Students who describe their computer literacy as “I can figure just about anything out on my own” increased from 43% to 50%, an increase of 7% points.
Round 2 - Students who describe their computer literacy as “I can figure just about anything out on my own” increased from 42% to 44%, an increase of 2% points.
Round 1 - The number of students who say they “produce better quality work when using a computer” increased from 75.8% to 81.8%, a 6% point increase.
Round 2 - The number of students who say they “produce better quality work when using a computer” increased from 72% to 82%, a 10% point increase.
Round 1 - When teachers were asked to estimate the percentage of their students who are planning to go to college, their responses increased from 59.8% to 63.1%, an increase of 3.3% more of their student body.
Round 2 - When teachers were asked to estimate the percentage of their students who are planning to go to college, their responses increased from 72.1% to 74.9%, an increase of 2.8% more of their student body.
Round 1 - Teachers say that less than half as many students are considered beginners with computers, a decrease of 13% points from 23%. They consider approximately 1/3 more students to be advanced computer users, a 10% point increase from 25% pre-deployment, to 35% post-deployment value.
Round 2 - Teachers say that 1/3 less students are still considered beginners with computers, a decrease of 11% points from 28%. They consider nearly 1/3 more of their students to be advanced computer users, a 9% point increase from 22% pre-deployment, to 31% post deployment.
Round 1 - Over 50% more teachers reported they are now very comfortable with Internet research and safety, increasing from 40% to 63%.
Round 2 - Three times as many teachers report they are now very comfortable with Internet research and safety, increasing from 12% to 36%.
Round 1 - The number of teachers who are now comfortable with collaborating with peers, parents, and/or students using digital tools increased from 83% to 93%, a 10% point increase.
Round 2 - The number of teachers who are now comfortable with collaborating with peers, parents, and/or students using digital tools increased from 80% to 83%, a 3% point increase.
Frequency of Usage
Round 1 - The number of teachers who use technology to teach lessons two or more hours a week increased to 63%, showing a 43% increase over pre-deployment levels.
Round 2 - The number of teachers who use technology to teach lessons two or more hours a week increased from 50% to 56%.
Round 1 - Teachers who use technology to teach English/Language Arts four or more hours a week more than doubled, increasing from 21% to 54%.
Round 2 - Teachers who use technology to teach English/Language Arts four or more hours a week more than doubled, increasing from 20% to 45%.
What gains have you seen in students?
Behavior is much better. Students are much more focused and on task.
They have gained overall confidence with technology. They need less help to learn a new skill on the computer. They are excited to try new things.
Pride in work.
Students are engaged.
Growth in enthusiasm, more risk taking-trying new things, some improved collaborative skills, as well as growth in writing skills and commenting skills.
Comfort level in using the computers. Speed of typing has increased in my students. Their ability to figure things out on their own instead of asking for my help all the time.
More actively engaged and thinking.
Tell us a story…
After the first week of having the computers in the classroom, one student mentioned that they do not leave the classroom very much anymore. I asked what he was talking about. He mentioned that they always had to walk down the hall to get the computers. He then had a very persuasive speech convincing me that they now should have recess for 15 minutes after snack.
Students pitch in and problem solve for one another. A student who spaces out/daydreams is so focused when using netbook.
The room is quiet except for the soft beeps as the netbooks are booted up. Those students who are more experienced with computers are quick to assist others, including the teacher!
A few students this past week were working on the class year book and realized that they all had documents on different computers and it was hard to work on them together. I suggested that I sit down with them and show them how to use Google Docs. It happened that when they asked me I was teaching a small group of students another skill. One of my student experts in the class overheard our conversation and offered to guide the group in Google Docs use. When I checked back in with the students at the end of the day they had successfully shared all of their documents with each other and were going to work on them at home that night. So cool!
What did you like most about the Digital Wish program?
The computers. My grades improved after the computers!
Our class doesn't have to run all over the school trying to find the old, slow, and bad computers.
The learning, the discovering and the creativity and the independence.
Tell us a story…
My story is when I taught my mom how to do Skype and she talks to my sister in Alabama and she talked to my dad when he was in Korea.
I told my parents about the computer and I showed them everything that I learned and how to do it, and they said, "Wow. That little thing can do more than our dinosaur in the other room." It was so funny. Especially they way they said it.
Quotes from the classroom:
Boy - "This is sick."
Girls - "I just love your netbook. Where in the world did you get it?" "Oh, thank you. It's from the computer store. It's brand new." "The color is just fabulous."
Boy - "This is the funnest day I have ever had at school."
Entire Classes - "I can't wait to take the netbook home."
Many students - "This will make our work go so much faster."
Boy – “I wish I could stay in 5th grade for the rest of my life!”
Digital Wish’s classroom trainers share these stories:
Yesterday, I was informed that two previously home-schooled students are now attending the public elementary full time solely based on the e-Vermont Digital Wish program. The technology and training encouraged the parents to enroll their students in public education.
Today, a 4th grader told me her younger brother used his real name for a username on an Internet site and was being addressed by companies with his name included in the message. The 4th grader showed her brother how to change his username so it didn't reveal personal information, and how to stay safer online.
A 5th grader at Poultney took particular interest in the business unit. His family owned a local construction company and had a basic website. Taking what he learned from our program, he then evaluated the company online presence and made recommendations to have a stronger website that would be easier to navigate and attract more customers. This student spent his own time at home with the netbook talking with his family, and he had the solid intention of entering the family business and helping to guide them to be more successful.
Two teachers in the initiative ran side businesses and another wrote and filmed a video reporting journal. All three teachers said what we taught them in the classroom about video editing, audio recording, and business development would help them be more successful in their personal endeavors. I also had multiple parents at the Parent Nights shake my hand and tell me they were thankful we were helping the school and community by modernizing the classrooms and allowing students the opportunity to compete globally with technology skills.
Lead Trainer Eric Bird, shared these insights:
Signs of student motivation and engagement were evident every time we visited the classroom. There were cases of some classroom behavior problems disappearing completely, examples of students working well beyond the school day on projects and taking what they learned many steps further, and examples of students becoming teachers and training their parents, grandparents, and siblings on computer functions and Internet programs. We saw students collaborate and fully plan a future business, detailing how they would earn and save money to buy and build a local miniature golf course. Other students created plans to make their own family business even more successful by using Internet resources. Digital responsibility shined and students took pride in their computers and the programs they were using. Students across the state learned about their town history or community memories and had the chance to vocalize and share what they discovered by using collaborative audio recording. Again and again we heard how students wanted to pursue technology-based professions and Internet-based programs.
It was a common occurrence to see students becoming tech experts and teachers to become mentors. This is something we encouraged. I heard from dozens of students, without prompting them, that they taught family members about programs they were using, shared projects created at school, and helped parents, siblings, and grandparents to use their own computers and the Internet more effectively. Their excitement was natural, as they felt they had specific expertise to offer and could be of great help to the adults around them.