Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Can Technology Use In The Classroom Improve Learning?

Is this possible? Here is 10 Innovative Schools that are offering the use of Smartphones and other technology gadgets in the classroom as a means to improve education in the classroom.

Growing up; there was always something that wasn’t allowed in the classroom. It was usually due to distraction, always something that you just got and was really eager to show off as to gain some popularity. Last week I did a story on a really cool teacher, Mr. Daniel Downs of Winchester High School in Winchester, MA. My story mentioned that technology had come a long way as he is teaching a class on Android app development. I have found 10 schools that are allowing smartphones in the classroom.

Cell phones, like all of the other latest gadgets have always been a real no-no in the classroom. It is because of its distraction, that some have even been banned altogether from some school districts? There is however a new trend developing, some schools  are lifting this ban and allowing students to use them as learning tools, even encouraging such use. Some have been very critical to this new trend though; others however have found that it helps students to become interested in learning. This has even resulted in increased performance levels in some students.

As you may know, there is always going to be those who may oppose of this idea. I would however encourage you to read the following examples of these schools that are offering this service.  These schools are leading the way and making examples. For someone as myself who is a technology enthusiast, I found it to both informative and inspiring. After reading this, I hope that someone in the teaching field finds it to be inspiring to them as well.

 Onslow County Schools:  This North Carolina school district found a way to be innovated with the use of smartphones. This enabled them to close the math achievement gap on some of their schools that are economically challenged. With the use of smartphones they have seen an improvement in standardized test scores. These students are participating in a program called Project K-Nect. They use the phones in Algebra, Algebra II, and Geometry. The students have the ability to use the calculators, look up information on the web, watch math videos, and play educational games. These students have said that they feel more confident about their math abilities, were more motivated to take more math courses and some are even considering a career in math.


Cimarron Elementary School   The students in the 5th grade at Cimarron Elementary School are using the phones to do their homework. They have the messaging and calling capabilities disabled, however this hasn’t curtailed learning. They can connect to the internet, schedule assignments, and send emails to their teachers. They are also using the phones to do web quests, scan QR codes linked to vocabulary and reading websites, make excel spreadsheets, create quizzes, and even use them for their science labs. With the use of the phones, there has been an improvement of both math and science from the previous year.

Watkins Glen School District

 The students at this school district are participating in a program called Learning on the Go. This program has been in use for two years now, and has recently expanded to include netbook usage and all grade levels. This program was started because not everyone has the internet in their homes. With this program they are able to prepare students for an increasingly globalized digital world, enabling them to become familiar with using the web for a wide range of educational tasks.
  St. Mary’s City School 

This school in Ohio is leading the way with innovation in the classroom. In 2009, they provided more than 2,300 third, fourth, and fifth graders with their own PDA’s for use in school and at home. These devices have been pre loaded with educational programs that allow students to anything from write an essay to study math with flash cards. Educators at this school have embraced the idea of using mobile devices as learning tools. These students have become very enthusiastic about receiving their own mobile device for learning.
Edmonton School

Most of the schools on the list are providing with their own mobile devices, however Edmonton has taken a different approach. They aren’t providing their students with phones or any other device, but encourages the student to bring their own. They are allowing the student to use everything from a smartphone to an iPad for class use. Students have the ability to use their devices as calculators, dictionaries, planners and even sketchbooks. They have employed a technology coach, who works with teachers to employ technology use into their curriculum. Students enjoy the ability to be able to bring their favorite tech device to class.
Crosby-Iron High School 

Teacher Bob Kuschel is different from most teachers. He allows students to use their smartphones in his classroom. He says that they are effective learning tools. He has allowed such use for the past three years now. They are allowed to use smartphones while working on labs or class assignments, but doesn’t allow use during lectures. Kuschel says that it’s important for the student to easily access information. He has not only seen improved grades, but improved interest in their class work as well. Southwest High School
 This is another North Carolina school that is participating in the Project K-Nect program. This program is sponsored by Qualcomm, who are providing Smartphones for a few trial classes, with the hopes of expansion in coming years. School administrators are hoping that smartphone usage will not only improve scores, but help the student learn using new technology. Students with phones have performed 25% better than those who did not.Mounds View High School

 This school located in the Twin Cities gave students the opportunity to bring their technology to class starting this fall. They are able to use Smartphones, PDA’s, and tablets. Some have been critical of this, while other are encouraging the educational opportunities. This school is leading the way as another Minneapolis school in the region just approved of bringing technology in the classroom.Lincoln Middle School

 Sixth grade students at this school are participating in a trial program and have been given phones by donation from Sprint. Calling and texting features on these phones have been disabled and internet usage is limited and closely monitored. Students are using these phones in science classes to graph, write essays and look up information on the web. A study of phone usage at this school showed an increased level of of engagement and students were more motivated to complete assignments. Teachers even say that they would like to see the program expand.

Byron High School

The students at this school no longer have to hide their technology use. They are now allowed to use phones, MP3 players, laptops, and iPads in the classroom, upon the teachers approval. This program has been in use for five months now. They haven’t noticed any increase in students cheating or misusing the technology. There is hopes of expanding this program. This has helped to reduce the cost of maintaining a computer lab and made it easier for students to learn as well.

I know that there are more schools out there who are participating in technology use. Where do we go from here? What do you think? 

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