Damian Bebell, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor
Newton Public Schools 21st Century Pilot Study (NPS21)
Newton Public Schools' 21st Century Classroom initiative provides a significant opportunity to increase the collective understanding of how traditional teaching and learning can be augmented and improved with the adoption and use of cutting-edge digital learning devices in school. Through the integration of student and teacher wireless laptops as well as additional digital tools (such as interactive white boards) in a pilot classroom, a 13-month research and evaluation study conducted by Boston College's Technology and Assessment Study Collaborative will examine how such new digital resources potentially impact teaching and learning in a traditional middle school environment.
To this end, the BC team will implement a research study whereby student and teacher practices in the pilot classroom will be compared to historic/traditional practices in Newton (as documented by the 2001 USEiT Study) as well as to current practices in traditional middle school classrooms via a "control group" setting devoid of increased technology resources. Both quantitative (student and teacher surveys, student test score analyses, etc.) and qualitative (classroom observations, interviews, etc.) research methods will be used to ascertain how Newton's 21st Century Classroom pilot setting has impacted student achievement, student focus/involvement, and instruction over the course of the year-long study period.
Through this process, district and community leadership will develop a rich understanding of how teaching and learning in the middle school environment may be affected by the application of new technology resources. The evaluation will serve both formative and summative purposes; first providing valuable formative information to the participants and project leadership to guide and meaningfully examine the pilot program during the implementation period. Upon completion of the 2009–2010 school year, the study will also provide empirical documentation of the summative impacts of the program on student outcome measures such as engagement and achievement levels in comparison to non-pilot settings. In summary, Newton's 21st Century Classroom initiative provides an excellent opportunity to investigate a new generation of educational technology, which will yield valuable data and insight not only for local project leaders but also the greater educational and policy communities.