Sunday, April 29, 2012
USA - Schools welcome electronic devices to promote learning
Cellphones and other electronic devices, once banished to school lockers, are becoming part of classroom lessons in some area school districts.
From pop quizzes through text-messaging to lab results loaded onto electronic tablets to looking up information on smart phones, teachers are finding ways to engage students with the latest devices.
"Technology is part of kids' lives. It's here to stay," said Superintendent Robert Scott of Avon Lake, a district in its fifth year of building its wireless network.
In January, Avon Lake High School launched an initiative called BYOD -- Bring Your Own Device.
"Students are allowed to use their wireless devises anywhere in the building," Scott said. "Cellphones, smart phones, iPods, iPads are all considered a resource and are used at a teacher's discretion."
Physics teacher Michelle Gould Burgess, who like many instructors had already been using the school's website to post podcasts of lectures, homework assignments and more, lost no time in integrating students' personal devices into daily lessons.
During a recent physics experiment, Mark Ketterer, 17, entered data on his iPad as one of his three lab partners used a probe to measure the voltage of an electronic field in a pan of water. Another student took notes on her Kindle Fire as the students shared observations.
All the data was being stored in an electronic cloud through Google Docs, Mark explained, and would be available to the four lab partners to access on their personal computers for use when writing their individual reports.
"It's much quicker than paper and you have everything right there waiting for you," Mark said.
Across the room, student George Quinn, 16, was using a stylist pen on his iPad to sketch and write lab observations. "It's all wireless," he said. "You don't have to mess around with cables or hooking things up."
Burgess said achievement has increased with the addition of technology, which has made it easier for students to record and graph information. "I'm devoting more time to teaching kids how to analyze the data," she said.
Students who don't have their own devices can use school computers or borrow one of the 30 iPads the district bought with a grant, Scott said.
To guard against any abuse, students and their parents have to sign a digital driver's license before accessing the school's wireless system. The district has the ability to track when individual students sign onto the system, said Scott Wuensch, the technology director. Firewalls are in place to block access to inappropriate sites.
Avon Lake will extend BYOD to students in grades five through eight in August when network expansion is complete.
At Shaker Heights Middle School, teacher Jeremy Bishko walks around the room of his seventh-grade science class holding an iPad. The information he enters into the hand-held device streams to the electronic white board in the front of the room visible to all of the students. His back is never to the class.
"I can roam the classroom, stay closer to the kids, check their work and answer any question right on the spot. It keeps the students more engaged because I'm right there," Bishko said.
And for those who can't seem to remember their homework, Bishko posts a QR symbol (quick-response code) outside his door each day so students can use their smart phones to scan in the assignment. "They always have their cellphones handy," he said.
Meanwhile, Shaker Middle School Spanish teacher Ellen Roberts figured out a way to use text messaging to boost her students' vocabulary retention. It was part of a research project she conducted while earning her master's degree.
"Vocabulary -- between 450 to 500 words -- is a big chunk of what students learn in the first year," Roberts said. "For students to have an 80 percent retention of new vocabulary words, they need about 20 exposures. My thinking was, what can I do to get the number of exposures up?"
She had two groups of students -- one that received the text messages and one that did not. By giving vocabulary pop quizzes in class the next day, Roberts was able to compare the results of the group who received the text messages and the group that did not.
Roberts sent a text message with one Spanish word to the students asking them to text the translation back to her.
"Retention went up to 31 percent greater frequency of remembering the word on the quiz," she said. "Students had to think about the word, look it up and physically type it back into the phone and push send."
Because students' privacy and security is always a concern, Roberts explained, teachers generally use websites such as classparrot.com for text-messaging activities.
Interested students and their parents sign up through the website. Teachers going on the site via computer see the names or the class designation, not the phone numbers, when sending out the information.
Although electronic devices are among many tools used in the classroom, Roberts said they can make teaching more dynamic.