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Schools incorporating smart devices in learning

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

For years, schools worked to keep cell phones turned off and out of the classrooms. But now, instead of fighting it, some districts are welcoming this new world of mobile learning. Katy ISD Is leading the way.

Whether it's a smart phone or an iPad, mobile devices are part of our daily lives. And it's the world our children our growing up in. So four years ago, administrators in Katy ISD started planning for the future.

"For us it was not about the device, it was changing instruction. That was our goal. We wanted to philosophically change how we were instructing in the classroom," Katy ISD Chief Information Officer Lenny Schad said.

In 2011, 'Project: Bring Your Own Device' became reality.

"I think we have seen phones evolve from just the phone that maybe you had 20 years ago to just being able to make calls to where it was a useful thing within the classroom, to where you can look up that information instantaneously," third grade teacher Teri Howerton said.

All at once, nearly 60,000 students from second to 12th grades would have access to a filtered WiFi network.

"When you start bringing in devices and web 2.0 tools, the roles start changing. Now you have students in front of the class telling the rest of the class and teachers, here's how you do something in this device or here is how you do something on this web 2.0 tool," Schad said. "So you have teachers actually learning from the students and the beautiful part about that is they're comfortable with this."

"I think they're definitely more engaged and I think what's cool as the teacher is that the author hasn't changed the words. You have just changed the medium. And the kids are way more excited about looking at something through an e-reader, an iPad or something like that than they might be a book," Howerton said.

And while teachers were excited about the change, parents had some concerns.

"My first thought was there's no way these children are ready to take on the responsibility of these devices, much less get any kind of benefit from having them at school as a distraction," mother Rebecca Cortez said.

"It's like your playing on a phone kind of but you have lots of math things, social studies, readings, stuff like that," sixth grader Micah Cortez said.

"It kind of slapped me in the face where they started learning more responsibility with them," Rebecca said.

For now, the district will not be supplying the devices; that's up to parents. And for those students who don't have a smart device, they can team up with a classmate.

"There were a couple things that we were concerned about, equity being one of them and we never approached bring-your-own-device as an equity solution," Schad said.

Ultimately, Katy ISD hopes to become a model for mobile learning. As they move toward the future, they're confident this is quickly becoming the way kids learn.

Katy ISD is not alone. There are other school districts in the area moving towards mobile learning, including Spring ISD. They're asking for donations of old smart phones, to be used in a pilot program this year.

-- See if you would like to see if your school district is using mobile learning.

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