Public Release: 

UAB wins NSF grant

UAB wins grant to train teachers to use XO laptops

University of Alabama at Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has won a two-year grant of nearly $1 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help Birmingham City School teachers incorporate XO laptop computers into the math and science curriculum.

The goal is to extend XO laptop use beyond word processing and Internet searches and to help increase the number of minority students entering the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) career pipeline, said UAB Associate Professor of Sociology Shelia Cotten, Ph.D., the principal investigator.

In 2008, the City of Birmingham and the Birmingham City Schools jointly provided each child in grades one through five an XO laptop computer. The XO laptop computers developed by the One Laptop Per Child program at MIT feature child-friendly computer programming activities and open source software.

The UAB researchers will work with fourth- and fifth-grade teachers to develop STEM curricula for use with the XO laptops and evaluate the effect on student learning and teacher and student confidence in using the computers. Researchers also will assess the change in students' interest in STEM careers. The project will reach 160 teachers and 8,000 students and their families, Cotten said.

"The research project has the potential for broad impact by leveraging this unique opportunity to decrease the digital divide in Birmingham and influence more than 8,000 children in the Birmingham area," Cotten said. "By targeting fourth- and fifth-grade teachers and students, we expect to impact students' engagement and preparedness in science, technology, engineering and math before they move into a critical educational and career decision-making process."

UAB researchers involved in the project include Cotten with the UAB Department of Sociology and Social Work; Associate Professor Michael Howell-Moroney, Ph.D., with the Department of Government; Associate Professor David Radford, Ph.D., with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction; Associate Professor Jeff Gray, Ph.D., with the Department of Computer and Information Sciences; and Professor Michael Wyss, Ph.D., director of the UAB Center for Community OutReach Development (CORD). Other partners on the project include the Birmingham City Schools and g8four, a research-based learning design firm in Birmingham.


About UAB

Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center and the state of Alabama's largest employer. For more information, please visit


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