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A weak economy paired with a national push to improve reading and math as well as other core subjects has left an important skill behind in K12 classrooms—digital media literacy.


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United States admits California as the 31st state.


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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.

When St. Marys City (Ohio) Schools saw the benefits of mobile learning devices (MLDs), we wanted to create a conference to share with fellow educators how mobile learning has had a positive impact on student learning, teaching and content lesson development. Thus, the Ohio Mobile Learning Technology Conference made its debut in the spring of 2009 with about 90 participants, mostly from Ohio.

When you look at Florida, the state legislature has always been interested in education, and our governors have always been interested in school reform," observes Nikolai Vitti, deputy chancellor of school improvement and student achievement for the Florida Department of Education.

In the six years since her appointment as superintendent of Volusia County (Fla.) School District—a district that has 63,000 students in 16 cities, including Daytona Beach, in the heart of Florida's east coast—Margaret Smith has had her share of success. But what makes her so different from other superintendents is her ability to reach out.

Here are some issues facing Volusia County Public Schools superintendent:

Merit Pay

"If a teacher isn't able to have successful students, they shouldn't be maintained in the position. Regardless of tenure. There is a place for merit pay or performance pay, but it has to be developed working with teachers collaboratively. We have to work together." (Smith, and others, urged Gov. Charlie Crist to veto SB 6, which would have tied teacher pay to student achievement and made it easier to fire teachers; Crist did so.)

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.

Although some forward-looking school districts are using the Internet extensively in school-based lessons and allowing students to roam online with some restrictions, experts still worry that fear of predators is gripping parents and administrators.

A variety of organizations provide resources online intended to both educate students about using the Internet safely, and offer professional development tools for K12 educators that help with relevant instruction, leading class discussions and integrating the topic into their existing curriculum. Here are just a few examples.


CyberSmart! Education Company

Curriculum is free; workshop fees vary

With a national teacher shortage projected to start peaking this year as baby boomers retire and budget shortfalls restrict state and local funding for teachers, rural school districts are working to keep the teachers they have while seeking new ones at little if any additional cost.