August 28, 2001

Center for Children and Technology Publishes Evaluation of Mindsurf Networks Solution

Largest Study of Wireless Handheld Technology in Schools

Solution Found to Enhance Student Writing, Improve Collaborative Work, and Allow Teachers to Customize Instruction and Increase Individual Student Attention

MCLEAN, VA - August 28, 2001 - Mindsurf Networks, a leading provider of wireless computing solutions for the K-12 market, and Center for Children and Technology (CCT), the nationally-recognized leader in studying the roles that technology can play in teaching and learning, announced today the release of CCT's formative evaluation of Mindsurf Networks' technology solution in more than 80 pilot schools across the country. The evaluation represents the largest study to date of the use of educational technology involving handheld computers. CCT analyzed the application of Mindsurf Networks solution that encompasses more than 3,400 students and 95 teachers, and a diverse range of locations and school types.

The evaluation found that the Mindsurf Networks solution benefited teachers and students in several significant areas of instruction:

  • Allowing teachers to conduct frequent assessment of student work and provide immediate feedback.
  • Helping teachers tailor their instruction to students' needs.
  • Allowing teachers to more readily offer consistent, high-quality instruction.
  • Providing teachers and students with effective tools to improve classroom management.
Specifically, teachers reported enhancements in student writing with 88% of teachers surveyed reporting that the Mindsurf Networks solution encouraged students to write more and noting that student writing quality improved. Seventy-five percent of teachers surveyed also found real and immediate benefits with their ability to customize lessons and assignments to individual students.

The Mindsurf Networks solution is designed to put powerful computing and educational resources in the hands of students and teachers at any time. The Mindsurf Networks solution includes: wireless handheld computers for all participating students and teachers; a powerful software platform for lesson delivery, assessment, and content management; educational content and resources; an extensive professional development program; and multitiered user support and technology maintenance.

CCT conducted site visits, interviews, classroom observations, and a Web-based survey to identify the impact of the technology on teaching and learning, as well as to identify the most likely benefits to schools that adopt the technology. CCT also identified challenges faced in the pilot program and recommended enhancements and additions to the Mindsurf Networks solution, including recommendations concerning technical infrastructure, hardware management, and classroom practice. The results paint a picture of schools, teachers, and students that become comfortable with the technology and need very little time to find immediate uses and achieve learning gains. In fact, most teachers were using the handheld computers in class more than three days a week within a few weeks of receiving the technology and training and were using the technology for a significant portion of the class time.

"Mindsurf Networks has undertaken an ambitious plan to transform the way that schools use technology, moving from a lab of limited wired, desktop computers to one-to-one computing where every student and teacher has immediate and individual access to computing power and rich information resources," said Margaret Honey, executive director of CCT. "Our evaluation found that the Mindsurf Networks solution offers many important potential benefits to the quality of the instruction that teachers offer and to the level of student engagement." said Dr. Honey.

Benefits of Frequent Assessment/Feedback
Seventy-two percent of the teachers who responded to the survey reported that assessment and evaluation were more convenient and 70% said that the handheld computers increased the frequency of their feedback to students. CCT found that the networked nature of the Mindsurf Networks solution allowed teacher feedback to be more frequent and tailored to student learning styles.

Benefits of Tailored Instruction
Nearly 75% of survey respondents agreed that the handheld computers helped them tailor instruction to better suit individual students' needs. CCT found that the Mindsurf Networks solution provided the benefits of greater flexibility in tailoring instruction, providing a means for giving greater individual attention to students and improving learning opportunities for special needs students.

Benefits of High-Quality Instruction and Interaction
Most teachers found that the Mindsurf Networks solution provided them with greater access to a wide range of resources, allowing them to improve and upgrade lesson plans as well as teach higher-level research and analytical skills. CCT also found that the Mindsurf Networks solution enhanced student achievement by: increasing motivation; increasing sense of responsibility; helping students conduct close textual analysis of all types of material; and improving student writing and organization. In addition, 88% of the surveyed teachers found that the technology encouraged students to write more and to better organize their writing and do revisions, leading to improved writing and a deeper understanding of the writing process.

Improved Classroom Management
Teachers reported that the Mindsurf Networks solution made their classwork more efficient as a result of their ability to reduce paperwork and to automate assessment, scoring, and record-keeping. In addition, the electronic distribution of assignments and lessons increased class time for discussion and work. Teachers also reported that electronic lessons and materials improved student organization, as did the calendar and scheduler functions.

Strengthened School Community
CCT also identified potential benefits of the use of the Mindsurf Networks solution in reshaping administrators' technology vision, encouraging professional development, and strengthening the school-to-home connection. The use of the Mindsurf Networks solution encouraged many teachers to seek out further training on technology in general and to do additional research into the use of technology in the classroom.

The schools that were included in the study were those taking part in the Mindsurf Networks Schools of Innovation pilot program across the country, as well as a middle school and high school that serve as development sites. The Schools of Innovation are a demographically and geographically diverse group of 84 schools that agreed to partner with Mindsurf Networks to use the technology in typical classroom use and in a wide variety of classes. As a result, the CCT study team evaluated typical classroom uses of the Mindsurf Networks solution to understand its use and potential benefits across school types, demographics, pedagogies, grade ranges, class sizes and lengths, and subjects.

Call 973-762-8683 for a full copy of the evaluation overview.

About Center for Children and Technology
Founded in 1980 by Bank Street College of Education, CCT became a division of the nonprofit Education Development Center (EDC) in 1994. Based in New York, CCT has worked in collaboration with schools, museums, libraries, cultural and community organizations, after-school programs, and corporate foundations. Past and present partners include AOL, Intel, Boys and Girls Club of America and IBM.