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President Barack Obama, education technology funding, 2013 budget

Federal technology funding for K12 school districts has been integrated into various other funding streams. According to Karen Cator, director of the Office of Educational Technology for the Education Department, the technology marketplace will subsequently be more efficient in addressing various school and student needs in the coming school year.

rural 4G

President Obama hopes to bring high-speed wireless Internet to all rural areas in the next five years with the National Wireless Initiative he announced last year.

Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District

Scott Smith once led efforts for North Carolina’s technology educators, when he served as president of the N.C. Technology in Education Society (NCTIES), the state’s affiliate of the International Society for Technology in Education. Now, he is chief technology officer for the Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District—a suburban town located 20 miles north of Charlotte. It’s one of the only public school districts in the country to issue laptops to every student in grades 3-12.

I have a monthly email communication with Elliot Soloway, a University of Michigan professor and the chair of ISTE’s Special Interest Group on Mobile Learning, who writes our Going Mobile column with Cathie Norris. Somewhere within the email thread, Soloway is sure to write words such as these: “Someone has to tell the emperor he’s naked.”

If we want children to memorize the capital of each state or the presidents of the United States, then 3x5 flashcards, at $0.99 for 25, is a time-tested technology.

Until recently, student electronic devices, from cell phones to iPods to laptop computers, were the forbidden fruit in schools. But with technology budgets languishing and such devices becoming more powerful, affordable and omnipresent in students’ lives, district technology leaders are now eyeing a welcome educational harvest through bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs.

Although Apple has hogged much of the e-book spotlight since its announcement in January that it would partner with Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to roll out K12 e-Books in addition to its improved iBooks applications, it isn’t, nor ever will be, the only player in tablets in education. On the heels of Apple’s announcement, the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski released in early March his plans to get all U.S. students, from kindergarten through the 12th grade, using electronic book titles by 2017—in five years.

Since the launch of the Apple iPad, educators have touted the tool’s ability to engage special education students with autism spectrum disorder through unique, customizable applications and stimulating touchscreen technology. Many still feel, however, that although touchscreen tablets work well as personalized tools, they cannot be a replacement for interactive whiteboards, which help autistic students with social learning in a group setting.

Whiteboards began making headway in the K12 arena in 2006, and their presence in classrooms has increased exponentially ever since.

onslow county schools project tomorrow mobile learning

In 2007, Onslow County (N.C.) Public Schools agreed to work with Digital Millennial Consulting (DMC), a private consulting firm offering education technology solutions to schools and state agencies, in pioneering Project K-Nect, a mobile learning initiative aimed to increase math proficiency. The program, funded in part through Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach Initiative, provided high school students in this rural district with smartphones equipped with DMC monitoring software that tracked their usage of the devices and provided a safe network through which they could collaborate.

Since the launch of the Iphone 4s in Oct. 2011, siri, a voice-activated response system, has been considered all the rage. Voice activation may take a back seat, however, as new technology that uses one’s eyes to activate the screen, scroll through Web pages and play games makes its debut.

Four doctorate students at the IT University of Copenhagen presented their new software last June at Startup Weekend, an intensive boot camp for entrepreneurs. They have since won four technology awards and founded Senseye, a technology startup company based in Copenhagen.

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.  

Blackboard Mobile

Teachers, students and parents can get instant access to courses, content and announcements via their mobile devices using Blackboard Mobile platform. Students and teachers can access documents in multiple formats, post announcements, create discussion threads and comment on blogs and journals.


For Scott Newcomb, a fourth-grade teacher at St. Marys Intermediate School in St. Marys, Ohio, using smartphones in the classroom helps him teach math to his technology-savvy students in new ways. Instead of the typical textbook geometry lesson, Newcomb brings his students outdoors, where they use smartphones to snap photos of parallel lines, acute angles and other examples of geometric shapes.

In the last few years, smartphones have moved quickly from banned to embraced in K12 schools as educators have realized that mobile learning devices engage students, enhance the teaching of 21st-century skills, and instantly check for understanding with student response applications. Districts have started upgrading their wireless networks to accommodate one-to-one technology initiatives, while others follow a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy.

In just four short years, the steering committee of the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Special Interest Group for Mobile Learning has expanded from a mere six members to 33, and the group itself now has over 3,000 members, according to Elliot Soloway, chairman of the group and professor at the University of Michigan.