Pennsylvania Ed Tech Initiative Shifts Students to Project-based Learning


Pennsylvania's three-year Classrooms for the Future (CFF) initiative has borne fruit, according to a recent study conducted jointly by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and education IT provider CDW Government.

CFF, launched by Gov. Ed Rendell in 2006 to bring education technology to classrooms statewide, currently benefits 447 high schools. The program's goals include putting 140,000 laptops into participating schools by the end of the 2008-09 school year and providing professional development to teachers and administrators to aid them in implementing technology-based education.

The annual evaluation, conducted by researchers at Penn State University, Ohio University, and Towson University, has indicated that CFF is succeeding in shifting to student-centered classrooms, increasing use of project-based learning, and improving student instructional pace and quality of student work.

"Students are engaged from three-fourths to 90 percent of the classroom time.  They are dialoging, creating and collaborating.  They are analyzing to a much higher level and to a greater extent," said one school project manager. The study also revealed that 64 percent of the teachers using CFF methods have come to expect the "highest quality of work" from their students.

Another favorable result is that CFF has broadened the spectrum of tools with which teachers can evaluate students. While written tests have their place even in a technology-dominated learning environment, with the expanded tools for learning and analysis the emphasis has shifted to oral reports, projects, and presentations.

CDW-G worked with the state Department of Education to develop the CFF program, and the company oversees technology implementation and professional development for schools on the PC platform. "The teachers and students in the CFF classrooms are part of a paradigm shift in secondary education--from desk-based learning to collaborative, student-paced education enabled by technology tools," said Bob Kirby, CDW-G senior director, K-12 education.

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Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.