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Donated smartphones help Norwin students

| Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Norwin officials want to put unwanted smartphones into the hands of students to provide them Internet access in school.

They plan to make use of donated smartphones for students to participate in the district's new “bring your own device” program in the high school and middle school.

“Many of our kids already have them and bring them,” said Tracy McNelly, assistant superintendent of secondary education, “but we still have a number who do not. These would be for the kids who don't have them.”

Students in grades seven through 12 use the devices for course work, such as taking notes, watching videos, recording vocabulary, dictating foreign language, checking definitions of words and connecting to the Internet for research and reference. Students can type notes in their email accounts because “all students have gmail accounts through the district,” McNelly said.

The phones can be used like “clickers” to respond to polls or quizzes in class — and the students love it, she said.

“(The) teacher can set up a site so the students can respond with a code to questions online,” McNelly said. “They would put pre-assessment questions or warm-up questions on the screen. Students would have a code and then the results are displayed graphically so the teacher knows where kids are.”

A geometry teacher asked students to use their phones to snap photographs of angles found in real life and then talk about them, McNelly said.

“In life, we are not without technology in our work. (The program) certainly is helping us to build a more authentic learning environment focused on 21st century skills,” McNelly said.

When somebody donates an unwanted phone, school officials will clear it of previous user data. Because the phone will no longer be part of a cellphone plan, it will no longer use cell phone connectivity. Instead, it will connect to the district's filtered wireless network.

Each phone will be assigned a bar code and will be made available for teachers and students to check out through the library media center, just like a library book.

The district will accept donations from anyone, not just Norwin-area residents.

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646.

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