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Featured Signature Projects

Narrowing the Digital Divide by Building Computers

Narrowing the Digital Divide by Building Computers

Donovan McLean

Donovan McLean is a second-year technology teacher at Jeremiah E. Burke High School. Donovan's involvement in teaching with technology began in Jamaica West Indies where he used computers and other technology tools to create real life learning for adult students.

Donovan, a committed life-long learner, continues to broaden his knowledge of instructional technology through courses he takes at Northeastern, Cambridge College, and Xintra computer learning center.

Project Information


Jeremiah E. Burke High School


Information Technology


A+ Computer Repair


Grades 11-12


Key Questions:

How can students narrow the digital divide? How can students determine if a computer is upgradable and what steps can be taken to upgrade a computer? How can students build computers to distribute in order to help others in the community to be better able to compete in a technological world?


This project includes students in grades 11 and 12. The primary goal of the project is to teach the students how to upgrade and build a computer from recycled parts in order to bring the computer home, thereby raising the number of computers found in inner city homes and narrowing the digital divide. A large percentage of city students are not able to work at home on classroom projects or assignments because they do not own computers; this project addresses that problem.

Participating students produce a video of the computer upgrading and building process. The video is used to teach others and reinforce skills taught throughout the project.

Academic Rigor

What Learning Standards and School to Career Competencies are used in this project?


  • Choose procedures, software applications, tools and equipment needed
  • Apply appropriate technology to complete and enhance work
  • Troubleshooting application and software problems
  • Use video and computer technology to solve real real problems that face real people today


  • Formulate and solve problems that involve collecting and analyzing data
  • Apply math skills to construct, read and interpret data
  • Use computation and estimation procedures to solve problems

English Language Arts

  • Use various applications and software to complete and enhance work
  • Make effective presentations
  • Understand and use writing effectively
  • Share knowledge and skills with others
  • Research, analyze, and evaluates related sites
  • Clarify and define use of terminology

School to Career Competencies

 Communicate and understand ideas and information
 Collect, analyze and organize information
 Identify and solve problems
 Use technology
 Initiate and complete entire activities
 Act professionally
 Interact with others
 Career and life choices

Applied Learning

How do students apply what they have learned and researched to a complex problem (e.g.: designing a product, improving a system, creating an exhibit, organizing an event)?

Students apply their skills and knowledge in order to upgrade or build computers using recycled parts. The final products are computers that can be taken home and a video that can be used by others to learn how to upgrade or build a computer. Students present their video to members of the school community and STC and PIC staff.

Active Exploration

Classroom Activities

  • Learn how computers work by identifying parts and learning hands-on the function of each part
  • Problem solve and trouble shoot actual problems that are set up on a demo computer
  • Test parts and return unusable parts to the Enabling Center for appropriate recycling
  • Students catalog parts
  • Students collect needed parts to build their computers
  • Students assemble computer
  • Test computer
  • Complete a PowerPoint presentation of the steps involved in both upgrading and building a computer
  • Form groups for video part of project
  • Write script
  • Assign parts
  • Practice with consultant
  • Produce and edit final version of video

Community Activities

  • Visit the Recycle Center/ Extras for Education - Enabling Center, Dorchester to collect used equipment and parts
  • Develop action plan for distributing extra computers to other students or community organizations
  • Present video to Roxbury YMCA After School Program
  • Present to school community and other interested community groups

Career Activities

  • Shadow professionals at Computer Warehouse, Dorchester
  • Invite guest speakers: Computer Warehouse, Dorchester
  • Consultants from Deli Video Productions visit four time to plan and complete video
  • Invite all partners to view and critique final products

Adult Connections

Who from the community, workplace or postsecondary or industry partnership do students work with on the project?

Students will shadow professionals at Computer Warehouse, Dorchester, MA. Computer Warehouse employees also serve as guest speakers to help students prepare to upgrade and build personal computers from recycled parts. Students also work with professionals at Deli Video Productions to produce a video that documents the process. Used equipment is received from adults at the Enabling Center (Recycle Center). In addition, students display the computers and present the video to school staff and community members.


How do you and the students know the project is a success?

The students will upgrade and/or build an operating computer to take home. Student use task descriptions, checklists, and logs for regular progress review. Teachers and professionals evaluate the video.

Recommended Resources / Sample Products - EXAMPLES

Software or Materials Needed

Windows, Office 97
A+ Certification Computer Repair Program (Books I-VI). CES Industries, Inc., Educational Products Division, N.Y., 1997. ISBN 0-86711-272-7
A+ Certification Computer Repair Program (CD-Rom)
Motherboard, SIMM memory modules, Hard disk drive, Floppy disk drive, Case, Keyboard, Mouse, Video Card, Monitor, Power supply, CPU, Fan

Websites Used


PowerPoints: How to Upgrade a Computer and How to Assemble a Computer Checklists


Script for Video
Upgraded Computer
Rebuilt Computer

Signature Projects

Overview of Featured Projects    Website Project    STC Pathway Video    Westie Water Wars    Business Plan (NFTE)    One in a Million Class Fund    Mary Baker Eddy Library Entryway Structural Design    From pH to Parkland    Books and Bookings    Children's Books    Codman Square Lead Contamination Initiative    Narrowing the Digital Divide    Tech Assist

Characteristics of Signature Projects     AUTHENTICITY - Key Questions
  ACADEMIC RIGOR - Learning Standards    APPLIED LEARNING - Products, services, events
ACTIVE EXPLORATION:  Classroom Activities   Community Activities   Career Activities