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US Schools Leaving Mobile Devices Idle

A new study reports that we lag behind Asia and Europe in the use of handheld technologies to enhance learning.

THE USE OF POPULAR HANDHELD mobile devices such as cell phones, PDAs, and iPods in schools continues to attract debate among US educators. But according to "Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children's Learning," the newest report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, producers of Sesame Street, the debate shouldn't be around whether these devices should be used in schools, but how they can be used to enhance learning.

The report's author, Cooney Fellow Carly Shuler, examined more than 25 handheld devices and research projects around the world to explore the current use of mobile technology in learning and identify any challenges to expanding its use going forward, and to investigate relevant market trends and innovations. What Shuler found was that, compared to its economic rivals in Europe and Asia, the US has a lack of "well-financed, coherent, or highly visible efforts" in handheld-based learning. The notable efforts that do exist, Shuler claims, exist in "pockets" that need to be connected through multisector leadership.

In Brief

HANDS ON Schools need to
integrate mobile technologies.

According to the report, educators, vendors, and policymakers must address challenges such as privacy threats, cultural norms and attitudes, and lack of an accepted mobile-learning model before handheld devices can be fully exploited for educational purposes. Once those challenges are addressed, schools should seek out the academic opportunities that mobile handhelds offer, including reaching underserved children, improving 21st-century social interactions, and increasing personalized learning.

The report culminates with an ambitious, multisector action plan to help make successful mobile learning a reality in the US. The plan includes calls for new investment in research and development, the building of a digital teachers corps, the creation of a White House initiative to promote mobile innovation, and the lifting of bans on handheld devices in the classroom.

The Cooney Center hopes that the report will bridge the gap between what children do with technology in and out of school, and bring about a more engaging and effective learning experience. "Mobile devices are part of the fabric of children's lives today; they are here to stay," said Michael Levine, executive director of the Cooney Center, in a statement about the report. "Sesame introduced children to the educational potential of television. A new generation of mobile media content can become a force for learning and discovery in the next decade."

"Pockets of Potential" was supported by the Pearson Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS Kids Raising Readers. To view the full report, visit the Cooney Center website.

Green Spot

MICHIGAN SCHOOLS MODELS OF ENERGY AWARENESS

OKEMOS HS STRIVES TO BE CARBON-NEUTRAL. Carbon Neutral Volunteers, an organization dedicated to empowering people to reduce their carbon footprint, is helping Okemos High School (MI) become the world's first carbon-neutral high school. The school teamed up with CNV to launch an Alternative Energy and Sustainability Program designed to increase its energy efficiency. Okemos is also calling on people from all over the world to earn Volunteer Carbon Credits through CNV by making ecofriendly lifestyle choices, and then contributing the credits to offset the school's carbon footprint. CNV is planning on expanding this program to all North American schools later this year.

WHITMORE LAKE HS PILOTS GREEN TECH COURSES. Throughout a yearlong pilot program, Whitmore Lake High School (MI) is using the Creative Learning Systems' Alternative Energy SmartLab-- a fully integrated system of curriculum, computer workstations, software, and digital tools-- to offer courses in green technology. Students will explore alternative energy sources in the lab and will participate in handson activities such as designing wind-turbine propellers and cooking with solar ovens. Whitmore Lake hopes its program serves as a model other schools can follow.

:: Awards and Contests

ONLINE SAFETY CONTEST LAUNCHES. In their continued efforts to build awareness about cyber safety issues, The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) have launched a new contest for K-12 students. Entrants can create either posters or short videos and podcasts explaining an internet security problem or specific actions students can take to stay safe online. Individual students or groups may submit entries on the NCSA website until March 31. Three winners will be chosen from both of the two categories (poster, video/podcast) at each grade level-- K to 5, 6 to 8, and 9 to 12. First-place winners will receive $500, second-place winners will receive $250, and third-place winners will get $100. All winning entries will be posted on the NCSA and MS-ISAC websites, and may be used in national security awareness campaigns.

ADOBE ACCEPTING ENTRIES FOR INNOVATION AWARDS. Through May 8, Adobe is accepting submissions for its 2009 School Innovation Awards program. The annual program honors imaginative technology design projects from high school students in the US and Canada. Students in grades 9 to 12 can use Adobe applications to create projects in the categories of Web Design and Development, Film and Video, or Graphic and Print Design that express this year's theme: "The World Is Your Stage." A panel of judges from Adobe will select a winner from each category to receive Adobe Creative Suite 4 software. Out of those three, a top prize-winner will then be chosen to receive a CS4 site license for his or her school. The grand-prizewinning student's teacher will receive a trip to the 2009 National Education Computing Conference (NECC) this June in Washington, DC. Enter and review complete contest rules.

:: Industry News

PEARSON AND TABULA DIGITA FORM MATH PARTNERSHIP. Tabula Digita is creating customized versions of its DimensionM educational math video games that align to the math curriculum in three of Pearson Education's math programs: Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley enVisionMath for elementary students, and Prentice Hall Mathematics and Connected Mathematics for middle school students. This partnership combines awardwinning educational gaming and math curriculum with the goal of engaging students in learning critical math skills and improving achievement. The new DimensionM Powered by Pearson games will be available for the 2009-2010 school year.

PROJECT TOMORROW TO HOLD CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING. Julie Evans, CEO of nonprofit education research organization Project Tomorrow, will present the key findings of its Speak Up 2008 survey during a congressional briefing. Speak Up is an annual national research project that collects and reports on unfiltered feedback from students, parents, and teachers on key educational issues. Several key partners and a panel of K-12 students, teachers, administrators, and parents will join Evans for the briefing, which will take place at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 24, from noon to 1:30 p.m.

In BriefSCOTCH AND DISCOVERY CREATE NEW SCIENCE WEBSITE. Scotch brand products from 3M and Discovery Education have recently launched a website that provides free resources for creating innovative science fair projects. The website, called Scotch Science Fair Central, offers help to students in the areas of planning, conducting, and presenting science fair projects, and also gives teachers, science fair coordinators, and parents tools to help guide students through their projects.

FUNDS FOR LEARNING LAUNCHES ERATE BLOG. To boost understanding of the federal E-Rate program, Funds for Learning, a national E-Rate compliance services firm, has launched the E-Rate Blog on its website. The new blog offers information and tips on the program, which provides public schools with discounts on telecommunications technologies, as well as commentary from the company's compliance experts. Funds for Learning is also accepting guest contributions to the blog, subject to the blog guest posting guidelines found on the Funds for Learning website.

DESIRE2LEARN TO CONTINUE XOXO PROGRAM. Continuing its successful XOXO program begun in fall 2008, Desire2Learn has set a goal of raising funds to purchase 100 XO laptops for the One Laptop per Child project in 2009. In addition, the e-learning company will continue to raise awareness of One Laptop per Child across North America. Several partners, including education technology companies Elluminate and Respondus, will join Desire2Learn in this initiative to support the e-learning needs of students in underprivileged areas.

TURNING TECHNOLOGIES UNVEILS NEW SERVICES. Turning Technologies, a provider of student response systems, recently introduced three new consulting services for K-12 schools. The Turn Up Achievement program is a comprehensive school improvement initiative designed to create measurable increases in student achievement. Turn Up Learning follows a three-tiered response to intervention (RTI) model, which identifies instructional needs and intervenes with evidence-based practices. And Turn Up Engagement is a systemic approach to increasing the level of student engagement through the integration of educational gaming in core content areas. In addition to the three consulting programs, Turning Technologies launched the Click2Achieve Professional Development Program and summer/fall workshops designed to help teachers maximize use of their student response systems.

INSPIRATION SOFTWARE OFFERS FREE WEBCASTS. Inspiration Software, a provider of visual learning tools, is offering K-12 teachers two free online workshops a month as part of its 2009 webcast series. The webcasts will focus on helping teachers use visual learning techniques to improve student achievement across all subjects. Each workshop will be archived and available for viewing by teachers who are unable to participate in the live webcasts. For more information on the workshops, visit here.

EPSON AND POLYVISION DONATE TO TEACHER PROGRAM. Technology manufacturers Epson America and PolyVision have teamed up to donate new audiovisual products to Florida Digital Educator, a statewide program that aims to integrate technologies into Florida classrooms. The program will receive 10 Epson PowerLite W6 projectors and 10 PolyVision Eno interactive whiteboards to be used for peer training by its Master Digital Educators.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2009 issue of THE Journal.

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