Surprising field studies suggest cell phones could be effective learning tools
In most schools, cell phones are checked at the door -- or at best powered off during school hours in a tacit "don't ask, don't tell" understanding between students and administrators. This wide-spread technology ban is a response to real concerns: if kids have unfettered instant access to the Internet at school, how do we keep them safe, how do we keep out inappropriate content, how do we prevent real-time cyberbullying, how do we even keep their attention in class when competing with messaging, gaming, and surfing?
there is a growing sense among education thought leaders and policy leaders that not only are cell phones here to stay but there seems to be interesting potential to use these small, connected computers that so many students already have. I've been insanely fortunate over the past year to work closely with Wireless Reach (Qualcomm's strategic social initiative) and real innovators in education who are finding that cell phones in classrooms don't have to be a danger or a distraction but, in fact, can help kids learn in some surprising ways.
During the 2007-2008 school year, Wireless Reach began funding Project K-Nect, a pilot project in rural North Carolina where high school students received supplemental algebra problem sets on smartphones (the phones were provided by the project). The outcomes are promising -- classes using the smartphones have consistently achieved significantly higher proficiency rates on their end of course exams.
Beyond just computing in the classroom, cell phones give the students in Project K-Nect access to the Internet and their learning communities 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, whether they are at school, at home, on the bus, at after-school activities, or in the case of one chronically ill student, at the hospital.
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