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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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Program Description

Overview Project Connect (PC) was a pilot technology program aimed at testing the feasibility of installing computer centers in Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) nationwide. The project was a public/private partnership between the BGCA, Microsoft Corporation, and professional basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. The goals of the project were for participants to: (1) understand how computers work and the types of opportunities they provide; (2) use technology to support and advance intellectual development (e.g., using the Internet as a research tool); (3) use basic productivity applications (e.g., Microsoft suite of applications); (4) be able to use the Internet safely to access information and communicate electronically; (5) use multimedia applications to create projects and communicate complex ideas; (6) develop the interests, skills, and motivation to explore technology-related careers; and (7) understand the value of mastering technology in helping them achieve economic success. Underlying the project was the notion that these opportunities would enable youth to compete academically and economically in an increasingly technology-based society.
Start Date September 1999; completed September 2000
Scope national
Type before school, after school, weekend, summer/vacation
Location urban
Setting community-based organization
Participants kindergarten through high school students
Number of Sites/Grantees 14 in 1999; 10 additional programs in 2000
Number Served average daily attendance of 650 across 13 sites
Components Each PC site received computers with Microsoft Windows NT operating software, Internet access, laser printers, a digital video camera, a scanner, CD-ROM software programs, and technical support and training. Sites also received reference materials and a cash grant to help defray the cost of site preparation. BGCA established a National Youth Technology Advisory Committee to provide direction, guidance, and leadership to the initiative. A full-time technology coordinator, part-time technology teachers, and volunteers staffed most centers. Individual program sites were chosen by BGCA staff based on their digital divide needs and sites were located in diverse areas of the country.
Funding Level $2.4 million in 1999–2000 (original 14 pilot sites' funding)
Funding Sources Microsoft Corporation, Shaquille O'Neal
Other Ten additional PC sites were funded by the Compaq Computer Corporation in 2000. Later in 2000, Microsoft committed five years of funding to expand on PC, which was a pilot; this program is now called Club Tech.


Overview The evaluation was designed to help BGCA determine PC's impact on members, and to describe the circumstances and practices that best facilitated positive outcomes.
Evaluator Andrés Henriquez and Harouna Ba, Education Development Center, Inc.'s Center for Children and Technology
Evaluations Profiled Project Connect: Bridging the Digital Divide – Final Evaluation Report
Evaluations Planned none
Report Availability Henriquez, A., & BA, H. (2000). Project Connect: Bridging the digital divide – final evaluation report. New York: EDC Center for Children and Technology. Available at (Acrobat file).


Evaluation Harouna BA
Senior Research Associate
96 Morton Street, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10014
Tel: 212-807-4226
Fax: 212-633-8804
Program Technology Director
Boys & Girls Clubs of America
1230 W. Peachtree Street, NW
Atlanta, GA 30309
Tel: 404-487-5700
Profile Updated September 10, 2003

Evaluation: Project Connect: Bridging the Digital Divide – Final Evaluation Report

Evaluation Description

Evaluation Purpose To identify factors that foster successful technology implementation at PC sites; to examine the feasibility of installing computer centers in Boys & Girls Clubs; and to examine the impact of PC centers on youth.
Evaluation Design Non-Experimental: Data were collected from program staff, records, and observations at all sites.
Data Collection Methods Document Review: Individual programs' grant proposals were reviewed to understand sites' goals and plans for PC's implementation.

Interviews/Focus Groups: Telephone interviews were conducted with PC staff to learn about PC's implementation and impacts on club members.

Observation: Site visits were conducted at three sites (Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Taunton, Massachusetts) in order to gather information on PC's implementation and the successes and challenges associated with installing technology centers in BGCAs. Sites were chosen based on ease of data collection and the degree to which they were deemed representative of other PC sites.
Data Collection Timeframe Data were collected in 1999 and 2000.

Formative/Process Findings

Activity Implementation Most coordinators developed curriculum modules for basic computer skills instruction through computer classes, Internet access, media literacy classes, and project-based classes.

Coordinators tried to build a curriculum that responded to the needs of their members and volunteers.

Curricula rotated depending on the season (i.e., summer vs. school year) as the focus and resources shifted.

Evaluators found that PC staff were integrating technology into other Boys & Girls Clubs' educational programs, such as youth clubs and homework assistance.

Members were engaged in the following specific activities: (1) using word processing, spreadsheet, database, and presentation software for projects; (2) using CD-ROMs to access information for research and cultural awareness; (3) using the Internet for communications and research; (4) creating webpages; (5) producing newsletters and autobiographies using computer software; (6) videotaping events and creating multimedia presentations; and (7) taking and scanning digital photographs of special events for newsletters, multimedia presentations, and webpages.

The lack of a large diversity of software was identified as an implementation challenge. The small number of CD-ROMs available led to some boredom among youth after multiple uses.
Program/School Linkages The ongoing need to align programming with educational requirements was identified as an implementation challenge.
Program Context/Infrastructure Sustaining Internet connectivity was identified as an implementation challenge. Sites gave little thought to maintaining connections beyond the life of the grant. Also, email access was sometimes difficult because of the presence of firewalls.

Evaluators found that some sites were having difficulty keeping attendance records and measuring program effectiveness through formal assessments.
Recruitment/Participation PC technology centers had a daily average attendance of 50 members.

Young members (ages 6 to 12) seemed to be the biggest user group in most PC centers.

According to phone interviews with staff, PC increased the Boys & Girls Clubs' total membership, as well as participation in other non-PC club activities.
Staffing/Training Site coordinators mentioned an increasing need for well-trained, full-time technology teachers.

Evaluators found that when coordinators and technology teachers' prior experience with technology and curriculum design was greater, so was the speed at which technology was adopted in the centers.

Evaluators concluded that when coordinators and staff worked together on a weekly basis, the development of coherent and well integrated technology programs was accelerated.

Effective leadership from BGCA local sites that supported technology staff and programs was found to be key to successful technology implementation.

Summative/Outcome Findings

Youth Development Evaluators concluded that centers were having a positive impact on youth, specifically in the areas of motivation to participate in new activities, engagement in creative activities, and opportunities to learn new skills, such as computer literacy and peer collaboration.

© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project