The North Rockland Central School District in Garnerville, N.Y., started its MLD program in January. Eighty fifth graders, along with three teachers, at Haverstraw Middle School have been using smartphones in a one-to-one pilot project.
Haverstraw was built in the 1930s and has not had an electrical upgrade. However, by connecting to the cellular network run by Verizon Wireless, the district has added 80 Internet-connected "computers"— HTC Touch Pro2 smartphones—to a building in which one couldn't even plug in two projectors on the same floor without knocking out all power to the building. With the smartphones, students can charge them at home, taking the burden off of the school's antiquated electrical infrastructure. Indeed, the students take them home and bring them back every day, fully charged, without fail.
Experiences with MLDs
The MLD s at Haverstraw are helping to link the home with the school in ways not possible before. For example, the MLD s enable teachers and students to extend the school day. Teachers and students alike do not feel "stuck" to complete tasks during the school day. Knowing there will be computer access outside of the school building gives the teachers and students the freedom to continue the class work at home, after or before school and on weekends.
Haverstraw includes a number of families that cannot afford to provide a desktop or laptop computer for students to use in the home. But thanks to the MLD s our district has provided to each student in the pilot classroom, it is possible for even these families to have a "computer" at home.
The students volunteer interesting stories about how they and their parents interact around the MLD s. For example, one student commented that his father, seeing him operating his MLD , reminded him to finish his homework, to which the student replied, "I am doing my homework now. And I just finished it!" Another student commented how surprised and pleased her mother was that she wasn't using texting slang ("OMG," "LOL ," etc.) in her school essay that she "texted" on her MLD.
Using traditional laptop computers for a one-to-one rollout would require us to put in wireless networks. However, doing so is too expensive, since it would first require that we rewire the district's 12 buildings, a daunting and expensive task. Thus, the district would like to place MLD s with cellular access in the hands of all students and teachers. Not only are MLD s the only way for our district to have universal access at a reasonable cost, but they clearly can make a significant impact on teaching and learning.
Sue Tomko is the director of information systems at North Rockland Central School District in Garnerville, N.Y.