Building substantially on a previously funded NSF Networking Infrastructure for Education grant (Union City Online: An Architecture for Networking and Reform), CCT conducted a longitudinal research study of a district-initiated project to supply a cohort of 40 incoming freshman and 20 teachers and administrators with network-enabled laptop computers for use at school and at home. The district has committed three years of funding to this endeavor, known as Project Hiller, and will add 40 students and 10 teachers to the project in years two and three. CCT investigated differences between students and teachers who have been given laptops and their counterparts at the same high school who have more limited, school-only access to technology.
The Union City School District, with its initiatives to build a community-wide networking infrastructure, designed to support a comprehensive program of educational reform, offers an exemplary context in which to examine the potential of new technologies to support teaching and learning. The setting for Project Hiller offers a unique opportunity to deeply investigate the role that ubiquitous technologies can play in a context where many of the initial challenges associated with urban school reform and technology integration have been overcome.
The areas of work and the central questions that CCT is examining over the three years of the project include:
- Student learning. What role are these technologies playing in how and what students learn? What role are the district's educational reform initiatives playing? Are students' perceptions of their learning, their abilities, their goals and objectives, and their attitudes toward their teachers changing as a result of their involvement with Project Hiller? Are there observable differences between Project Hiller students and comparable groups of non-Project Hiller students?
- Teacher beliefs and practices. How do teachers make use of and integrate technologies into their classroom practices and their professional lives? Do teachers perceptions of students' abilities change? Do teachers' relationships and practices with their colleagues and with school administrators change? Do differences emerge between Project Hiller teachers and the non-Project Hiller teachers? What observed changes can be attributed to teachers' participation in Project Hiller as opposed to the district's reform initiatives?
- Administrators' roles. Do administrators' perceptions of students and teachers change over time? Are observed changes attributable to administrators' participation in Project Hiller? Do the administrators' attitudes toward and perceptions about students' families change?
- Parent involvement. Do parents' attitudes toward their children's school change over the course of the project? Do parents' beliefs about their children's abilities change? Do parents and other family members make use of the portable technology, and if so how? Does parental involvement in their children's school change over time?
The research will generate findings that can be used by national, state, and local policy makers, local education advocates, and urban community leaders to provide concrete evidence of what is possible - of what students can learn and do, both for themselves and for their communities - when long-term investment in technology is partnered with reform of curriculum and teaching.