Friday, March 24, 2006

Computers and Academic Performance - From the Front Lines

Daniel Howard is an interested parent who helped set up computers at Brandon Elementary in Georgia. By using Linux thin client technology with donated computers (see my explanations of this at, he has been able to increase the number of working PCs from 1 or 2 per classroom to 7 or 8--and he has done so for significantly less time and money than it would have cost to install new computers. Students who were used to getting only a couple of hours a week on the computer are now likely to have an hour a day.

One of the most enthusiastic adopters of this technology at Brandon Elementary is a first-grade teacher, and a letter from her to Mr. Howard is below. Granted, computers in the classroom are not a cure-all, and in this case it is not hard to read between the (articulate) lines of this letter to see that the benefits of additional computers have likely been significantly magnified by this teacher's understanding of how to use them. Nevertheless, Mr. Howard's use of Open Source software and Linux to bring more computers to the classroom has had an amazing effect.


"Dear William and Daniel,

"Thank you so much for all of the time and energy you have put into the technology needs of Morris Brandon this year. I love the Linux software. My students are discovering fun, educational games to play every day.

"Having 7 working computers in my classroom has helped increase student performance in both reading and math. My students are able to access Accelerated Reader whenever they are finished reading a book. The average grade equivalent score of the students in my classroom on the Star Reading Test has jumped from 2.0 at the beginning of the year to 2.7 at the beginning of third quarter.

"I have seen an even larger jump in the mathematics computation scores of the students in my classroom. At the beginning of the year my students scored an average of 40.31% on a first grade computation test. At mid-year the average score of the students in my classroom had increased 48.44 points for a class average of 88.75%. Because of the number of working computers in my classroom, my students are able to access and play the First in Math Website more often than the students were able in years past. My class is now first in the nation for first grade students.

"I believe the academic success of my students is directly linked to the wonderful technology solutions that you have implemented at Morris Brandon. Thank you so much!"


Mr. Howard is most interested in the measurement of academic performance as it relates to the number of PCs in a classroom, as well as the impact of Open Source software in this regard. Please direct any information you might have on this to him at

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