Friday, April 11, 2008

At Risk: Smartphoning Ninth Graders

Liza Weidel reports for that an innovative North Carolina program for at-risk ninth graders is set to run out of money in June 2008. The director of Project K-Nect recently begged the State Board of Education for additional funding. Project K-Nect, now used in 3 North Carolina high schools, points to a way to help at-risk students and reduce the impact of not having a computer or Internet access at home.

Project K-Nect was inspired by researching student, teacher, administrator and parent responses to a survey on STEM education and educational technology. The results said that a successful educational technology program had to "use more interaction and multi-media aspects" to connect with "what educators are millennial students." Because of students' experience with real-world technology like Facebook, instant messaging and email, technology in school needs to have real-world uses to engage them. Ironically, another finding was that fewer students than thought had access to the Internet at home. Students were living in a world full of technology but had limited access to it, especially for school uses.

To solve these problems, the program uses Smartphones, about 100 so far. Teachers access a portal system to send information, mostly algebra problems this past year, and control distractions in the school. Teachers can, for example, turn off ringers when students are in the halls changing classes. Students have access to the problem sets sent to them and also to multimedia tools that allow them to create and access blogs and learning videos. The Smartphones also offer "1.5 megabytes of connectivity," more than DSL. The best part is that students in Project K-Nect "are more engaged in their classrooms."

The research team will complete a post-assessment of the program by June and a final report no later than August. The program has strong private support from corporations who might do a 100% match of any state funds. The program has also attracted the attention of boards of education in New York state and Italy. Hopefully, the research team and its supporters can keep this promising program alive and well-funded. It would be great to see it expanded in North Carolina or even to other districts or states.

SOURCE: "School Technology Program Losing Funding" 4/4/08
photo courtesy of Leonard Low, used under this Creative Commons license

No comments: