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Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School

Technology Goes Home at Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School

By Debra Socia

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Founder and Principal of the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School
Dorchester, Massachusetts, United States of America.

On a recent evening at the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School, parent's joined with their children to learn from the school's teachers. The content of the evening's training - how to sign up for and use g-mail and g-chat and how to access the school's on-line grading software. At "The Frederick", parents come out in huge numbers to attend events, they communicate freely and regularly with teachers, and they become full partners in their children's education. This is a school where the parents comfortably use technology to stay in communication with teachers, to check on their child's school success, and to encourage their child to participate in enrichment/acceleration activities that can improve academic achievement.

The Frederick is moving into year two of a groundbreaking 1-to-1 (one laptop for every student and teacher) wireless learning initiative. Located in the Grove Hall neighborhood of Boston, this area is considered a hot-spot for gang violence and has been targeted for intervention by the Mayor's office through its Violence Intervention and Prevention program (VIP). Because of the physical risk to students, school-based laptops cannot leave the building. The Frederick's students have anywhere/anytime access during the school day, but from the start of the planning, the building leadership, community stakeholders, and neighborhood leaders were unsatisfied with the inequity - simply put, they wanted to ensure that 1:1 would extend the learning time and provide truly ubiquitous access both in and out of school.

USA-EDUCATION/TECHNOLOGYTo solve this critical equity and access problem, LGF turned to Mayor Thomas M. Menino's award winning Technology Goes Home @ School Initiative. Through Tech Goes Home, students and their family members participate in 25 hours of after-school "training" and receive hardware and home access upon graduation from the program. While a typical Boston city school might serve two to five percent of their families through Tech Goes Home, LGF is now serving over 1/3 of all families each year with the intended goal of providing true anywhere/anytime access for ALL families by 2010. Imperative to ensuring that everyone can access the resources is the school's ability to provide the instruction in the home language. Currently, the program is offered at LGF in English, Spanish, and Somali.

TGH offered opportunities for families to feel more comfortable engaging in school-based efforts as well as developing skills in the use of a variety of communication tools. As a result of this effort, parent participation has dramatically increased. Parents, children, and teachers at the Frederick communicate regularly through the readily available technology. Chatting in real time with a teacher or administrator, emailing concerns, checking grades and attendance, and encouraging students to use appropriate applications to enhance learning has become typical and expected.

The training experience helps to improve the parents' technical skills -- but more importantly -- gives parents a sense of comfort, ease, and trust with the staff at the school. Parents, through their exposure to the school, the teachers, and the technology, were able to use the training as a means of breaking down barriers. As parents and children and teachers work together to master the tools, the relationships developed allowed for much more meaningful interactions and a much deeper level of trust.

The Frederick is on the leading edge of exploring what it can look like when parents have a safe environment and a solid platform for communication. Empowered by the experience, parents are deeply committed working in partnership with the school and the community to ensure student success. As a team, parents, teachers and students are building a platform on which trust and communication become the norm.

Deb Socia is Founder and Principal of the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School, and has previously held positions as Dean of Curriculum and Program at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, as a district level Curriculum Director, as a Professional Development Consultant/Coach, and as the Program Director for the Coalition of Essential Schools - Massachusetts. Her passion in education is specifically in ensuring equity of access and parity of resources for those families living in urban settings.

The Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School accommodates students from grades six to eight, and is located in Dorchester, Massachusetts. It launched its 1-to-1 wireless initiative in March, 2007. The students of the Frederick school neighborhood were the first to utilize Boston's new Wi-Fi system, allowing them to continue their learning at home.