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Mobile Learning Programs Move Forward

In June 2010, we reported on a few mobile pioneering districts. We checked back with them to see where they are today.
High school students in the Katy Independent School District collaborate on a project for English class with their own devices as part of BYOD.

Netbooks Replace Smartphones
Watkins Glen (N.Y.) Central School District

Back in December 2009, Watkins Glen Central School District in Garnerville, N.Y., gave smartphones to 200 fifth- and seventh-graders and 20 teachers in three schools. Two years later, this small pilot program has transitioned away from mobile phones to a one-to-one netbook program for all 850 pupils in grades 5-12. According to Superintendent Tom Philips, the HP Pavilion netbook is more educationally appropriate for Watkins Glen than tablets or mobile phones.  

During the pilot program, Watkins Glen measured students in the pilot program against students who were not. Participating students achieved 4 to 8 percent increases on the state test. Philips says that since the netbook program started this year, more high school students are completing their homework and attendance is up.

Watkins Glen expanded the program into the high school thanks to an e-Rate grant worth $177,000 that covered the one-to-one netbook initiative and the monthly data service for each device.

“This project is about equity of access. About 40 percent of our students don’t have Internet access at home, so we allow them to check out netbooks to use at home,” says Philips. “Schools have traditionally been held to a standard of preparing kids for the real world, but we need to prepare kids for a global society which we have never envisioned. Mobility is the key to success.”

MLDs Increase Student Achievement and Engagement
Katy (Texas) Independent School District

Every fifth-grader at Cimarron Elementary School in Katy (Texas) Independent School District started using mobile learning devices (MLDs) in October 2009. Since then, the district has expanded mobile learning to 18 of 33 elementary campuses with a total of 2,600 MLDs. An upgraded network infrastructure also includes Wi-Fi at every K12 campus to accommodate Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), which came about to offset costs.

Katy’s chief information officer, Lenny Schad, says, “After our first year of mobile learning, we noticed that our test scores improved and discipline decreased, and our veteran teachers are saying they have never seen such high student engagement.”

BYOD has allowed KISD to tap into differentiated learning. “Students do work in the platform they are most comfortable in, whether it is a smartphone, laptop or tablet, and this has allowed for increased creativity, understanding and engagement,” says Schad.

Mobile Learning Expands to Include BYOD
St. Marys City (Ohio) Schools

St. Marys City (Ohio) Schools is in its fourth year of using MLDs in grades 3-5 after starting in the fall of 2008. That year, six teachers and 130 students used MLDs, and this year the program has expanded across three grade levels and 500 students. According to Kyle Menchhofer, technology coordinator, students using smartphones in class have improved their state test scores in math.  

In January, the district upgraded its wireless network to make it robust enough to manage BYOD for grades 6-12. BYOD became policy because the district has cut $3 million from the budget over the last couple of years and cannot afford to keep up with the technology. Students bring in laptops, tablets and iPods to use in the classroom.

“We are allowing students to bring their technology to school and getting away from one-to-one,” says Menchhofer. “It should be one-to-many, as students need more than one device to finish an assignment.”