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Articles: Technology

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Text messaging while driving in Lee County (Fla.) Public Schools is prohibited. It is the first district in Florida— and possibly the nation—to keep its policies caught up with the technology.

In March 2010, the Lee County Board of Education amended the district vehicle policy to prohibit employees from text messaging while driving a district vehicle or while driving a personally-owned vehicle on district business. The district has 12,000 employees and a fleet of over 650 school buses.

In June 2010 DA magazine asked our advisory panel of administrators what their districts are doing for professional development as they face tighter budgets.

Professional development funding has taken a cut overall. According to DA's survey, 31 percent of administrators reported a decrease in professional development funding, and 38 percent said professional development was only available because of federal grants.

You can take this prediction to the bank: Within five years, each and every K12 student, in each and every grade, in each and every school in the United States will be using a mobile learning device, 24/7. How can we say that when today 99 percent of the schools ban cell phones? Because mobile is bigger than the Internet.

While St. Marys is a small, rural town in west central Ohio, over 800 students and 49 staff members are using mobile learning devices (HTC Touch Pro2s) in grades 3-7. The one-to-one 24/7 mobile learning project started in October 2008 as a small, 60-unit pilot, but it has exploded into the largest one-to-one mobile learning project in the nation. The students use the MLDs for at least 50 percent of the school day for all their academic subjects and then use them for homework outside of school.

Starting in December 2009, Watkins Glen Central School District, in a small, rural town in upstate New York, put HTC 6800 smartphones in the hands of about 200 fifth- and seventh-grade students and 20 teachers (including special education support teachers) in three schools. We had felt that it was too risky to give students access to cell phones and texting with all of the problems associated with them, but when Verizon Wireless said they could turn off the voice and texting capabilities of the devices, we jumped at the opportunity to do a pilot study.

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.

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.

Although the Internet has revolutionized communication and provided powerful new educational tools for student learning, it has also created risks and raised ethical issues for students of all grades, as it has created many opportunities for illegal, inappropriate and unsafe behavior among all participants.

Increasingly, K12 educators are seeing the need to not only utilize the Internet in instruction, but also to teach students the knowledge and critical thinking skills needed to be safe and responsible digital citizens both inside and outside of school.

An experimental initiative that tests the potential of augmented reality for K12 education began in San Diego in April, that equips fourth-graders from city schools on field trips to the San Diego Museum of Art with specially developed smartphones.

The emerging field of augmented reality is in its infancy. In the most general sense, the term "augmented reality" refers to mobile technology that enhances, or augments, the physical environment around the user with digital information.

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Sara, a high school student, logs in to her Facebook account only to be confronted with cruel and nasty remarks posted by classmates. She feels angry, humiliated, and afraid that everyone at school will see such postings. Sara has become the target of cyberbullying, and ensuing incidences occur. Consequently, her grades begin to drop, she becomes preoccupied with correspondences on Facebook, and she experiences intense anxiety about attending school.

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“Give the people what they want!” That could be the slogan for the Digital Door Project at Denver Public Schools (DPS).

When the district decided to gather the data from shelves, binders, books, and warehouses and turn them into something useful, the first step was financing. The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and a general bond provided the necessary funding.

“Once funding was in place, we started working with focus groups to outline their data needs and connect it to the curriculum,” says Connie Casson, deputy strategy officer.

Here's the quote that I think should compel every school administrator to read Allan Collins' and Richard Halverson's new book, Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology:

"If educators cannot successfully integrate new technologies into what it means to be a school, then the long identification of schooling with education, developed over the past 150 years, will dissolve into a world where the students with the means and ability will pursue their learning outside of the public school." In other words, it's time to figure this technology thing out—now.

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