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Apodaca: A technological experiment in the classroom

September 08, 2012|By Patrice Apodaca

Many parents who once chided their kids to turn off their cell phones during family meals and other once-sacrosanct occasions have officially conceded defeat. More than that, they've become converts to the idea that constant access to mobile technology isn't always a bad thing, and can often be turned to their advantage.

And so it's starting to go, slowly and haltingly, in the world of education.

Across the country, school districts are increasingly experimenting with programs that strive to incorporate mobile devices into projects and assignments both inside and outside the classroom.

For instance, for years teachers have fought the cell phone battle, threatening to confiscate the ubiquitous gadgets if kids were caught using them in class. Lately, not only do many educators seem less concerned by the presence of cell phones, a few pioneering teachers are encouraging students to bring their phones to class to use during specific lessons.

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These pilot projects — variously referred to as BYOT (bring your own technology) or BYOD (bring your own devices) — are viewed as ways to engage students by using tools they're already comfortable with, while adding a new degree of interactivity. Meanwhile, intriguing new apps are being developed for a range of educational uses.

There are potential pitfalls, to be sure, including how to deal with instances of inappropriate use of technology at school, liability issues and the obvious concerns about unequal access.

Nonetheless, this is the way education is headed — indeed, it must strike down the path of greater technology inclusiveness, or else remain stuck in an increasingly irrelevant past.

Not surprisingly, some private schools have been quicker to adapt. Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, for example, began studying mobile technology five years ago, and last fall rolled out its iPad program. There are now 2,100 of the devices on campus — one for every student and teacher — that are leased from Apple and funded through a technology fee paid by families.

The results have been encouraging.

"So far we have seen amazing things happening in our classrooms," said Mater Dei spokeswoman Tia Meza. "We are making a pedagogical shift in how we teach, and our students are making a shift in both how they learn, but, more importantly, in how they demonstrate knowledge. We are definitely able to prepare our students better for the world they are heading into."

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