Austin-area school encourages students to use smart phones in class

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by SHANNON MURRAY and SCOTT McKENNEY

KVUE

Posted on October 9, 2013 at 6:04 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 9 at 6:51 PM

GEORGETOWN, Texas — Technology like cell phones and tablet computers can be a distraction in the classroom. The Georgetown Independent School District is trying to turn that negative into an educational positive by taking student's personal devices and putting them to use.

"High school students, I mean, they're pretty much addicted to their cell phones," laughed Georgetown High School Latin teacher Mark Warren.

In his class, sitting next to the student's old school textbooks are cell phones and tablets.

The district calls it BYOD — bring your own device.

"It's made it a lot more fun," said sophomore Kolin Garza. "It helps out with classwork because it's easier to access everything."

Middle school and high school students can use their personal laptops, tablets or smart phones in class when the teacher permits it.

"He actually will give us tests and quizzes on it," Garza said. "Instead of giving us actual homework, he gives us video assignments."

Warren uses websites and phone applications in everyday lesson planning. In class Wednesday, the students answered practice SAT questions via text message.

"Its a good thing if you can try to incorporate that, because it's something that they already want to do, so it brings another element to the classroom," Warren said.

The district couldn't afford to provide students with iPads as some Texas schools have done; instead, they upgraded the school's wireless infrastructure and just let kids use the device that's already sitting in their pocket or backpack.

"They already know where the apps are they like to use; they customize their own experience and make it part of their learning," said Georgetown ISD educational technology coordinator Kim Garcia.

Through the district's Wi-Fi network, websites are filtered and hypothetically should keep students on task.

"We're asking them, 'Use our Wi-Fi; don't use your 3G or your 4G,' but we know certainly that some kids will try and get around that," Garcia said. "We want our teachers to monitor the student's use by checking them and monitoring over their shoulder."

If a student doesn't have their own device, they can share with a classmate. Or a teacher can check out an additional device from the district.

"This provides a little bit more variety. It helps expand the things you can do in the classroom, so it's not the same thing over and over," Warren said.

The goal is to keep students engaged, using a tool they're already a pro at.

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