Research reveals inadequate usage of XO laptops

By Ashley Nix

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A UAB Researcher says 2 years of studies yield one thing, that most teachers aren't comfortable with the XO laptops. Therefore they're not used enough in classrooms.

Dr. Shelia Cotten spent countless hours, studying the impacts of the XO's.

After interviewing 1700 4th and 5th graders from 26 different schools, Cotten says one finding was surprising. "They're not using them that much in their actual classes," Cotten says.  "But that's not surprising given that the teachers aren't comfortable using the XO's for the most part."

Specific results show only 20% of students use them a lot, 60% use them a little and 20% never use them. Cotten says the problem is two-fold.  "Teachers are incredibly busy, they don't have time to learn a new technology," she said.  "Second, they don't have lesson plans developed to use the XO's."

At least one parent who has a 6-year old in a Birmingham schools has noticed the lack of use.  "My son has had an XO laptop at least 2 years now," said Michelle Saxon.  "Most of the time his is at home."  Saxon says in her opinion the laptops aren't utilized as much as they should be.  "That's just money wasted if they don't do anything with it."

Dr. Cotten says she's working to get the program amped up again, getting teachers the proper training to make the laptops an integral part of each and every school day.  "If you don't do adequate training with teachers and students and don't give research to manage there's going to be potential problems."

Cotten has also just landed a second grant, $2.4 million over the next 5 years to develop lesson plans for teachers. She believes this will help teachers tremendously.

As for Superintendent Dr. Craig Witherspoon and his intentions for the program, he's still undecided.  

A spokesperson says Witherspoon doesn't have all the information he needs to make a decision about the XO's and they will further learning in the system.

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