Every fifth grader in Cimarron Elementary School in the Katy (Texas) Independent School District has been using MLDs since October 2009. The suburban district west of Houston has about 58,000 students. Six general education teachers and one special education co-teacher are participating. Students are using their MLDs for more than half of the school day in science, reading, language, social studies and math. They are using their MLDs at home, as well.
Experience with MLDs
We have seen an increase in "time on task" in our fifth-grade students. Students who would normally write a few words or a sentence on paper are now writing paragraphs and beyond on their smartphones. GoKnow's Sketchy program, for example, has enabled students to be more willing to complete character Webs, which are storyboards about their novels, because of the program's animation capabilities. The lessons we designed using GoKnow's Mobile Learning Environment exploited the MLDs and helped us address students' different learning styles and students with special needs, especially. We are seeing more in-depth writing from our students with special needs and from boys. The MLD is more private than writing words on a sheet of paper on your desk. We are also seeing teachers planning together more and sharing their experiences about the MLDs, which we feel has resulted in greater quality of the lessons that teachers give to students.
We have also seen a marked gain on the state-mandated TAKS Benchmark tests: In comparing fifth-graders at Cimarron in the past four years, this year's (2009-2010) MLD-using students scored 10 to 29 percent higher in math and 18 to 35 percent higher in science than Cimarron fifth-graders from years past.
Complimenting the academic impact, we have seen an increase in students interacting with each other. Students are readily teaching each other and their teachers about how to use the MLDs, and some students—not necessarily the ones with the highest grades—are stepping up to become the "go to" device specialists. Finally, we have not lost a single device in the program.
The key to our success has been preparation, preparation, preparation.
For example, we have:
- involved parents thoroughly from the start;
- given teachers access to the devices for two weeks before training began;
- involved district and campus personnel in planning and implementation;
- provided technical support during the pilot program;
- given teachers step-by-step guides to each segment of the project;
- strategically planned the lessons;
- held periodic checkpoint meetings;
- and had realistic expectations about what a pilot program is and is not.
Indeed, based on the pilot's outcomes, Katy is planning on expanding the use of MLDs during the 2011-2012 school year to as many students as possible based on the funds available.
Mindy Dickerson is the principal of Cimarron Elementary School, and Lenny Schad is the chief information officer at Katy Independent School District.