|FROM ||From: "Inker, Evan"
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [hangout] Laptops for All
|From owner-hangout-desteny-at-mrbrklyn.com Wed Aug 20 19:40:50 2003
Received: from www2.mrbrklyn.com (LOCALHOST [127.0.0.1])
by mrbrklyn.com (8.12.3/8.11.2/SuSE Linux 8.11.1-0.5) with ESMTP id h7KNeo87024596
for ; Wed, 20 Aug 2003 19:40:50 -0400
Received: (from mdom-at-localhost)
by www2.mrbrklyn.com (8.12.3/8.12.3/Submit) id h7KNeo6l024595
for hangout-desteny; Wed, 20 Aug 2003 19:40:50 -0400
X-Authentication-Warning: www2.mrbrklyn.com: mdom set sender to owner-hangout-at-www2.mrbrklyn.com using -f
Received: from mail9.messagelabs.com (mail9.messagelabs.com [188.8.131.52])
by mrbrklyn.com (8.12.3/8.11.2/SuSE Linux 8.11.1-0.5) with SMTP id h7KNen87024582
for ; Wed, 20 Aug 2003 19:40:49 -0400
X-StarScan-Version: 5.0.7; banners=-,-,-
Received: (qmail 29090 invoked from network); 20 Aug 2003 23:44:42 -0000
Received: from unknown (HELO w2gw-ldn01.gam.com) (184.108.40.206)
by server-5.tower-9.messagelabs.com with SMTP; 20 Aug 2003 23:44:42 -0000
Received: from ntas-ldn15.gam.com (unverified) by w2gw-ldn01.gam.com
(Content Technologies SMTPRS 4.3.10) with ESMTP id
for ; Thu,
21 Aug 2003 00:44:42 +0100
Received: by ntas-ldn15.gam.com with Internet Mail Service (5.5.2653.19) id
; Thu, 21 Aug 2003 00:44:42 +0100
From: "Inker, Evan"
Subject: [hangout] Laptops for All
Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2003 00:47:57 +0100
X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2653.19)
Reply-To: "Inker, Evan"
List: New Yorker GNU Linux Scene
Admin: To unsubscribe send unsubscribe name-at-domian.com in the body to hangout-request-at-www2.mrbrklyn.com
Laptops for All
November 1, 2001
A sixth grader lowers a temperature probe inside a beaker full of hot water.
Two of her classmates stare intently at a laptop computer screen, watching
as a graph dynamically changes when a chip of melting ice gradually lowers
the water temperature. Another student sits poised, pen in hand, ready to
record every detail of the science lab on a procedure sheet.
"It's melting!" exclaims one student.
"The temperature is going down, alright," agrees another.
"When the ice is gone, we'll hit stop," directs one boy who has been given
the job of data collector for the group.
This popular science lab activity at The Mott Hall School is the culmination
of several days' worth of study and exploration into the heat of fusion, or
the amount of heat required to melt a solid substance into its liquid form.
Throughout the room, the sixth graders are working in groups of five
students, each team responsible for setting up its station, conducting the
experiment, and then analyzing the results. Their tools comprise a mix of
standard lab equipment (a beaker, a triple beam balance, and the like) and
some decidedly high-tech additions, including a temperature probe connected
to a laptop computer and software that records, graphs, and displays the
changing water temperature in real time. In addition to the temperature
probes used by Mott Hall students, there are similar probes for gauging
pressure and sound. All of these devices provide students access to the same
tools scientists use.
Sixth-grade science teacher Mercedes Diez had begun the class with a quick
refresher on phase-change operations but had quickly turned the activity
over to her students. They troubleshoot when one of the probes isn't working
properly, consider possible causes when they get unexpected results, and
brainstorm ways to present their findings to their classmates. For her part,
Diez serves as a facilitator. She responds to the occasional question or
poses one of her own, always encouraging her students to take their analysis
just a little bit further.
Mott Hall is a math, science, and technology academy in New York Community
School District Six. This fourth- through eighth-grade magnet school has
425, primarily Hispanic, students. And it's one of a growing number of
schools in the country where every student and every teacher has his or her
own laptop computer.
Mott Hall opened in 1986, and for the first 10 years of its existence, the
school offered a rigorous but fairly traditional approach to education. But
everything started to change in 1996. That's when a class of fifth graders
and their teacher became pioneers in the use of laptop computers in schools.
"We saw the introduction of laptops as a wonderful opportunity to reexamine
our curriculum and to confront the Digital Divide," says Principal Mirian
Acosta-Sing. The parents agreed. Together, parents and staff developed
policies to ensure the safety of students traveling to and from school,
created a payment plan that relied on the contribution of families and the
school district, and began troubleshooting everything from curriculum
delivery to basic repair and maintenance.
Over the next five years, Acosta-Sing and her staff built upon that first
pilot project, slowly adding classes and grade levels to the growing
contingent of laptop pioneers. Finally, in the fall of 1999, the last class
received its laptops.
A Focus on Projects
Visitors to Mott Hall don't have to look hard for evidence of how laptop
computers have changed teaching and learning. While sixth graders are
conducting experiments with temperature probes, fifth graders are creating
scale models of kites in Excel spreadsheets and reading poems about Harlem,
inspired by digital photographs the students took at nearby St. Nicholas
Park. Seventh graders are creating business plans as part of a project on
entrepreneurship. And the eighth graders, who will soon be graduating and
moving on to some of the city's most prestigious high schools, are creating
a digital photo album and conducting scientific research on methane gas
emissions, coral reef bleaching, and dozens of other topics of their own
Every classroom, every hallway is a showcase for student work. Artwork,
essays, poems, and science posters cover the walls. And everywhere you look
there are laptop computers. In one classroom, students are logging on to an
Internet chess site to play against a faraway opponent. In another, a group
of students is putting the final touches on a multimedia presentation. With
frequent use has come a comfort with technology that many adults have yet to
achieve. Students manipulate temperature probes and swap network cards as
easily as they might replace the lead in a mechanical pencil or verify a
computation on a calculator.
Teachers, too, have come a long way, thanks in large part to the school's
built-from-the-ground-up approach to professional development. From its
first day as a laptop pilot school, Mott Hall has relied on the expertise of
its most experienced teachers to advance the technical and curriculum savvy
of its entire staff. Staff development days are used to showcase exemplary
teaching units. More experienced teachers mentor their colleagues (in Mott
Hall lingo they're known as eLearning facilitators), opening up their
classrooms for observation and taking the time after a long school day to
meet and plan lessons. Partnerships with local universities, businesses, and
other organizations provide yet another level of support and training for
Mott Hall staff.
"We had staff members who bought into this immediately, and we had staff
members who had to be persuaded," acknowledges Marc Briller, Mott Hall's
staff professional developer. He describes an evolution in how Mott Hall
approached the integration of laptops into curriculum. "Here we had these
wonderful laptops and the question that then came up is, 'Well, what are we
going to do with these laptops? How are we going to showcase the
technology?' We had to ask ourselves how we could fit the laptop into the
curriculum, rather than adapting the curriculum to fit the laptop."
It was that epiphany, says Acosta-Sing, that eventually led to a schoolwide
commitment to project-oriented work. "We still lecture when it's important,
and we still use textbooks when they're needed. But as a school community,
we've embraced multidimensional, interdisciplinary projects. And we use
these projects," she adds, ever mindful of the growing accountability
movement, "as evidence that our students are not only meeting, but
exceeding, the state standards."
Go Fly a Kite
A steady rain is falling outside Room 502, where Sandra Skea's class of
fifth graders is putting the finishing touches on a second generation of
handmade kites. At one table, Brandon is attaching a new tail to his kite in
hopes of helping it fly longer and higher. At another, Lisbeth and Vanessa
are working intently on their tetrahedron kite, a three-tier design made of
multicolored tissue paper and straws and held together with lots and lots of
glue. Throughout the room, tables are covered with the stuff homemade kites
are made of -- paper, straws, aluminum foil, skewers, string -- all
contributed by students, their teacher, family, and friends.
By the time we arrive on that wet spring day, students have already spent
several days on the interdisciplinary unit. They've written poetry and
prose, studied such diverse topics as electromagnetism and the use of
kite-flying in celebrations, and developed a keen understanding of
principles of ratios and proportions as they designed and refined their
kites -- on the computer and then by hand.
Room 502's kite project began much like many of teaching veteran Skea's most
successful units: with a conversation with her class. "We had been reading a
story about kites," she recalls, "and I mentioned in passing that it would
be nice to research kites." The students responded to her suggestion with a
Having been somewhat less than successful in their first kite-flying
expedition, Skea and her students are now back at the drawing board,
refining their original designs. As soon as the rain stops, they'll put
their second-generation creations to the test.
But the point of the project isn't to see whose kite flies the highest or
stays in the air the longest -- and that's not how the veteran teacher will
be grading her students. Instead, Skea explains, the rubrics, or criteria,
by which she'll be grading students address how well they work together, the
amount and quality of their research, the thoroughness of their writing, and
how well they planned their first -- and then refined their second -- kite
"The kite falling on the ground is not going to cause them to fail," Skea
adds matter-of-factly, "because that wasn't the purpose of the project."
Assessing Student Work
In Skea's class and throughout the school, students benefit from a clear
understanding of the goals of a project, how it relates to grade-level
standards, and the criteria by which it will be evaluated. Rubrics are
discussed in class and then posted or handed out for all to review. Teachers
and students (who routinely evaluate one another's work) rely on these
criteria when assessing everything from kites to science projects to
"The rubrics are our way of showing how each component of a project is
aligned to standards," says Briller, adding that clearly delineated
guidelines also ensure that projects are not just engaging but are also
leading to a deep and meaningful understanding of concepts.
Because so much of the student work is done on the laptops, Mott Hall is
also in the process of creating digital portfolios for its students.
Although currently in a pilot stage, the goal, says Acosta-Sing, is to
create a portfolio for each fourth grader and then add new work to this
digital archive as students progress through the school. By eighth grade,
each student would have an electronic representation of their work at Mott
Besides the "internal" evaluations, students at Mott Hall routinely
participate in academic competitions where their work is assessed by other
students as well as by outside experts. This real-world evaluation, says
Briller, "gives kids the opportunity to understand where they stand in
relation to other students. Tests are so abstract for kids. These
competitions make it all very real," he adds.
Like most public school students throughout New York state, Mott Hall
students are also required to take a series of standardized tests in core
subject areas. Although students receive instruction in the mechanics of
test-taking, students learn the concepts through projects. "It's one thing
to be able to pass a test," says Briller. "The real challenge (is)
understanding the information and being able to apply it."
Thanks to a standards-based project approach to learning, Mott Hall students
are able to do both.
New Challenges, New Opportunities
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the staff and students
at Mott Hall should feel truly honored. In September of 2001, a new school
-- Mott Hall II -- opened in New York City, building on the philosophy and
methods developed at the original Mott Hall. Based on the success of Mott
Hall's program, all of the schools in New York Community School District Six
are now moving to the laptop model pioneered by Acosta-Sing and her staff.
Indeed, throughout the country, public schools are embracing the use of
laptops to support project-based learning.
For their part, Acosta-Sing and her staff are experimenting with new tools
to take the school's commitment to project-oriented work to the next level.
With the help of a pilot grant, for example, students and teachers are
beginning to investigate ways in which handheld computers can be used to
support the school's project approach to learning. "I'm not sure whether it
will translate into anything useful," says Acosta-Sing with a shrug of her
shoulders. "But we'll experiment with the new tools and then decide as a
community whether they have some value."
Copyright (c) 2002 The George Lucas Educational Foundation www.glef.org
This message contains confidential information and is intended only
for the individual or entity named. If you are not the named addressee
you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail.
Please notify the sender immediately by e-mail if you have received
this e-mail by mistake and delete this e-mail from your system.
E-mail transmission cannot be guaranteed to be secure or error-free
as information could be intercepted, corrupted, lost, destroyed, arrive
late or incomplete, or contain viruses. The sender therefore does not
accept liability for any errors or omissions in the contents of this
message which arise as a result of e-mail transmission.
If verification is required please request a hard-copy version.
This message is provided for informational purposes and should not
be construed as an invitation or offer to buy or sell any securities or
related financial instruments.
GAM operates in many jurisdictions and is
regulated or licensed in those jurisdictions as required.
NYLXS: New Yorker Free Software Users Scene
Fair Use -
because it's either fair use or useless....
NYLXS is a trademark of NYLXS, Inc