South Carolina School Embraces Cellphones in the Classroom

Using smartphones and an array of web tools, students in Bryan Coburn's introduction to engineering course at Northwestern High are being asked to use innovative and 21st century technology to devise a solution to South Carolina's risk of a water shortage.

The teens in the class spent much of last semester on that hypothetical assignment to a real world problem. And by the project's end, they had created elaborate online portfolios showcasing their research, 3D designs and multimedia packages, writes Shawn Cetrone at the Herald Online.

The project the class was working on is called "The Model Classroom," a two year old program run by the Pearson Foundation's New Learning Institute, which looks to invite Teacher of the Year winners from around the country to Washington D.C. during summers for workshops on making better use of technology.

It's a fusion between two former enemies – the teacher and the cell phone. The Model Classroom encourages the use of the web devices in the classroom, requiring educators to learn how to embrace smart phones and mobile apps "in a way that empowers students to explore, experiment and discover solutions to problems."

However, apart from being a kind of technology training course, the Model Classroom teacher is more of a mentorship, creating a foundation of fundamentals and then allows students to learn on their own, but with assistance if required.

Model Classroom Co-leader Brian Burnett said:

"It's really removing the teacher from being this didactic downloader to being a facilitator and a coach."

Project-based lessons are started every year by teachers. And, with the support of the Institute, their classrooms are transformed.

"Classrooms are outfitted with interactive white boards, digital touch screens the size of their dusty, chalk predecessors. Students are testing district-issued Net books and iPads," writes Cetrone.

Principals are able to monitor the work through iPhones and Blackberrys. And Superintendent Lynn Moody of Northwestern is a fan.

Students, she says, are "21st century learners" who must be prepared for jobs that don't yet exist.

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