Kids Get Smart(phones)

By Liana Loewus — February 23, 2009 1 min read
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At Keller’s Trinity Meadows Intermediate School in Texas, cellphones aren’t confiscated—they are dispersed. According to The Dallas Morning News, 53 5th graders are using Verizon smartphones instead of laptops in their classrooms as part of a push to equip every child with a computer. While phone calls and text messages are disabled on the devices, students can use them to access the internet, take pictures and videos, sketch drawings, and beam information to one another.

“Laptops are oh so ‘90s – they’re your parents’ generation,” said Elliot Soloway, the University of Michigan professor who created the software the students are using. “While every kid does need a computer, the computer that will happen on will be cellphones.”

Critics contend that the phones are a sales pitch from companies looking to make money off of schools. “We are still in a period right now where, to a large measure, cellphones are an impediment and not a support for learning,” said Len Avecilla, a Keller parent volunteer.

Matt Cook, the Keller teacher who solicited donations for the phones, is still troubleshooting issues such as broken screens and monitoring for students playing games, but remains confident that smartphones are helpful teaching tools. “To me, this is the new paper and pencil,” he said.

The students are pleased with the phones as well. “They’re pretty cool because we can store all our information on it,” said Kayla Lopez, 10. “I’m not used to this technology stuff,” said classmate Jeffrey Fontes. “My parents don’t let me go on the Internet very often. But here it’s safe because it’s filtered.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.