Mobile Learning Devices in My Son’s 5th Grade Classroom

Earlier this week I attended a special PTA meeting at my 10yo son’s elementary school. It was to introduce us parents to an exciting new opportunity our 5th grade students will have in using mobile learning devices as part of this year’s curriculum.

As a digital mom and a bit of a tech geek myself, I was already excited by the buzz I had heard about the program. But then as the district’s technical director laid out the details and plans of the program for us, I felt like jumping out of my seat and cheering.

In a word, this is going to be: AWESOME.

mobile learning devices in the classroom

Each of our school’s 5th grade students will be receiving a Droid (each protected by OtterBox covers), which will initially be used only in the classroom. Teachers have integrated the use of sites like Edmodo, Discovery Education, and other learning sites/apps into this year’s curriculum, and will have the students working interactively and collaboratively on the lessons with their Droids.

Eventually, depending on the student’s proven responsibility with the device, the Droids will be allowed to come home on weeknights, and ultimately on weekends as well.

All calling and texting features have been disabled on the phones, and the data service – provided by Verizon – is locked into a filtered network that runs through the school district. The phones will never offer students any other WiFi networks to join. Using the Droids out and about or at home will have all the same safety and protection features as them using a computer at school. No personal information is stored in the phones or transmitted through their use of them.

There is no cost to participate in this program, and Droids will be returned at the end of the year. In the event of damage or loss, families will work something out with school administrators to repair or replace the Droids; the school principal does not anticipate a situation so severe that a family would have to pay the full $200 to replace a unit.

This is the third year Verizon’s Mobile Learning Devices program has been in our district, and at the meeting we were able to watch video interviews with teachers and students who have already used it in the classroom. There was a common theme of renewed excitement for learning, engagement, and fresh thought from all the students interviewed. And the teachers reported seeing new talents and interests come to life in the students using the devices.

I am SO excited for my son and this opportunity he will have this year. I’m also excited to see that my daughters’ middle and high schools have seemed to embrace digital learning – as laptops are now allowed in class and cell phones are allowed during passing time – as a reality for our young people today.

As one of the slides in the evening’s presentation mentioned, we are fast becoming a knowledge economy, and keeping up with how our students learn – and how ideas and innovation are born – in this digital age is becoming a “must” in how we educate our children.

*Disclosure: I have no material relationship to either Verizon or OtterBox. No one knows or cares that I’m a blogger. This is simply a program my 5th grade son will be participating in at his school this year. I find it all very fascinating and was excited to share. For what it’s worth, I think OtterBox and Verizon are pretty amazing for providing these kinds of services to public school students.

To learn more about Digital Learning Devices in the classroom – and for some great video demonstrations and testimonials, visit Verizon.

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  • Erica

    For how much we agree on, this one will separate us!  I think very strongly on the other side.  I think it is ridiculous and unnecessary.  It was neat to hear another view however.  Glad that you are liking them!

    • Totally just curious: do you feel the same about computers in the classroom? Do you think each child having access to a computer during certain learning units is unnecessary (which you might, which is fine, I just don’t know so I’m asking!). If not, how do you see that these are different? 

      The cost per student for these is much lower than being able to provide each student with a computer for research and projects, etc, and there are no classroom conflicts with needing to use/share computer labs and so on. In the district’s eyes, and with how the program is structured, the Droids are not about games (apps can ONLY be downloaded by teachers, and all apps are approved via the accepted curriculum), or communication (no calling, no texting, no email, no social media sites, etc), but instead for access to information and for contributing to larger classroom projects. They’ve essentially stripped them down to hand-held computers – able to access information for research, create/contribute to projects and presentations, and complete given tasks. But all for MUCH cheaper than buying a computer for each student. Not sure if that affects your opinion at all, but thought I would clarify, since I didn’t mention that in my post.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah this is pretty awesome. I’m seeing the benefit of choosing to live within the best school district in metro Houston. The elementary schools are pretty tech heavy, some more than others, but I love it. I’m still a bit squeemish about the idea of my teen having a personal cell phone some day, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I love the safety measures the district is using. 

  • KISD taxpayer

    Does it actually help them become better at math or science?
    Or does it just teach them how to find the answer a different way?
    No cost to participate? Maybe for your son, but not for me a taxpayer.
    I’m for technology advances, but making kids better at using a smartphone.
    They already know how to do that.

    • Good points, all. 
      As I’ve seen in the weeks since the program started at the school, it certainly helps the kids become more *interested* in learning. Whether or not that directly correlates to them becoming *better* at math or science, I don’t have hard data. But knowing for myself how interest and engagement often leads to greater motivation to succeed, I’m guessing there is a positive affect involved.
      And I understand what you are saying as a taxpayer. The funds for this program are related to our school being classified as Title 1, which has to do with the whole No Child Left Behind Act, which is a wildly tangled mass of political, economic, and social issues in itself. It’s complicated, to be sure, and I appreciate your comment on the matter.