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Curriculum Update

Cell Phones in North Carolina Classrooms

The favorite communications device for K12 students is the cell phone, according to NetDay Speak Up, an annual, national research project facilitated by Project Tomorrow ( A 2006 survey of 232,781 K12 students reports that 73 percent of them use a phone daily and 97 percent think that cell phones should be allowed in school for emergencies.

Tapping into this phenomenon, North Carolina Public Schools in September will begin supplementing math skills by giving 250 at-risk ninth-graders QUALCOMM Smartphones. Teachers in the 12 pilot schools will have access to an educational portal providing math problems for students. The 2.4 Mbps devices will allow students to check answers, download and upload work at school and home, and use video and blogging capabilities to discuss math strategies with teachers and classmates. "Project K-Nect gives us a tremendous opportunity to use a device as common as a cell phone to help close the digital divide," says Frances Bradburn, director of instructional technology for North Carolina's Department of Public Instruction. Safeguards will be imposed to ensure that students only communicate with authorized users and adhere to acceptable use policies. Project K-Nect, part of the Wireless Reach initiative, is supported by $1 million in funding by QUALCOMM.

The New School Assembly

Astronaut Ken Reightler, who piloted Discovery on two space shuttle missions-the flight to support "Mission to Planet Earth" in 1991 and the first United States/Russia joint crew in 1994-had a new mission for Space Week 2007. He hosted a Webinar sponsored by The Discovery Educator Network that brought students from 60 schools together for a live conference using a phone connection and the Internet for viewing photos and text chatting. Some schools used Skype, a free telephony software program, to hear the conference. Students asked questions about black holes, space food, rockets, and how astronauts shampoo or bathe in space with zero gravity. When asked his favorite part about being in space, Reightler said, "It was looking out the window watching the world below." The Discovery Educator Network will hold several new Webinars in the fall. The archived Webinar has been posted at

National Guard Inspires Students

The Army National Guard offers 30 topics in its YOU CAN school program as a public service, including free programs on drug awareness, violence prevention, diversity, communications, and conflict resolution. The positive and motivated presentations are relevant to current issues. Lesson plans are highly structured and focused, and YOU CAN continues to add new programs.

Violence prevention, one of their new programs, helps students understand how violence affects their lives, while giving them tools to prevent it. Suggestions for making wise decisions; lessons for listening, speaking and handling disputes; and healthy food and exercise choices make these programs valuable for the secondary age group. They introduce students to the life skills necessary for becoming valued community members and to accomplish great things.