Broward News

PBC Considers Educational Cell Phone Use; Does It Work for Other School Districts?

Imagine getting a text from your 9th grade algebra teacher: "Ur homework is due in 45 min!!" No, this is not a nightmare, and yes, you are wearing pants.

As part of a revision of the district's technology plan, school technology officials recommended to the Palm Beach County school board yesterday that cell phones be incorporated in teachers' curricula.

They were quickly hit with a flurry of oh-hell-nos. Board members expressed fear that cell phones would prove distracting, that they'd become a tool for bullies, and that the expense would be too much for low-income students .

Superintendent Art Johnson said

he would reconvene the debate at a later date after discussing specific educational uses with his staff. Several public schools throughout the country (and Canada!) have implemented cell phones into the classroom in recent months, with little catastrophe involved. Here's a look at three schools who've given it a go:

  • As part of a study, ninth- and 10th-grade math students at Southwest High School in Jacksonville, N.C., were given cellphones tricked out with Microsoft Windows Mobile software and other special programs. Students recorded videos of themselves solving problems, then posted the clips to a private site where other classmates could see the solving in action. On an end-of-the-year algebra exam, students with the phones performed 25 percent better than those without. However, the teacher guarding the program had to patrol the free text messages provided with the phones, disconnecting them when students used the phones inappropriately. [NY Times]
  • John Mall High School in Walsenburg, Colo., allows its teachers to determine how they want to incorporate the phones into lessons. In one science class, a teacher asked students to use the video recorder on their phones to capture a geology lesson. The students would have to reproduce a diagram from the lesson later on. The principal has also allowed iPod use during lunch, saying it's cut down on problem behavior. [ KKTV ]
  • After a successful pilot project with eighth- and ninth-graders, Craik School in Saskatchewan, Canada, embraced cell phone education. Text messages and alarms alert students to due dates and, in some instances, teachers have students break into small groups, video-record their discussions, then share it with the teacher's phone using Bluetooth networking. [ Scholastic]

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Lisa Gartner
Contact: Lisa Gartner