Verizon Wireless powers Maryland schools with Android tablets
Smartphones and tablets get a lot of attention from the tech world right now. These small computers can be used for just about anything these days. In fact the most common question I get asked about about a tablet is “Can my child use this for homework or schoolwork?”I typically go through the explanation of how it is possible, but there’s a risk that the experience would be so different from the classmates using Office or Google Docs that it might prove too frustrating and lead to sub-par work. But what happens when the entire classroom is using the exact same tablet? When the tablet is introduced in the classroom as the primary tool to be used for all points in the experience? The Verizon Foundation and Reginald Lewis High School decided to find out.Not all that long ago, Reginald Lewis High School in Baltimore, Maryland was deemed “persistently dangerous” by the Labor Department. According to the teachers, that started to change when Dr. Barney Wilson took over as principal of the school. Among the many changes he has made to try and turn the school around, Dr. Wilson has been a strong advocate for technology in the classroom. Dr. Wilson commented that many of the students attending Reginald Lewis do not have much in the way of technology in the home. They go to the public library to use computers to do their homework, or they used older computers in the home when they can. The cost in infrastructure and long term support of putting a computer in front of every child in the school was a difficult task to consider, so Dr. Wilson reached out to the Verizon Foundation.Verizon Wireless’ philanthropic arm is often involved in educational programs. Among the many ways they give back to their communities, they work with local schools to provide resources for further education. In partnership with Samsung, 100 Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets were lent to Reginald Lewis, each one with a 4G LTE SIM card inside. On top of this, Reginald Lewis was selected as one of the schools to take advantage of Verizon’s Mobile Learning Lab, a school bus that has been retrofitted into a mobile classroom with 4G LTE and tablets.The focus of the Mobile Learning Lab is specifically SAT prep, where mentors from Howard University and Morgan State are on the bus to help prepare students in a one-on-one environment. This Mobile Learning Lab travels to four different schools once a week to give this assistance.Of the many classrooms in Reginald Lewis that are taking advantage of this program, the AP Spanish class seems the most integrated into the environment. The teacher and students use Edmodo, an Android app that allows the students and teacher to work together in an educational environment (which we’ve previously covered). From the app, the teacher can issue quizzes or field one-on-one questions from the students. The teacher can share documents or videos, or even websites if the permissions are enabled by the teacher to do so. While Edmodo is running, the students are locked out of the parts of the Android tablet that would lead to distraction. Students are encouraged to work at their own pace for everything, and are able to do so with the personalized experience Edmodo offers.When I briefly interviewed one of the students, he explained that the Galaxy Tab was comfortable for him because he already used Android on his phone, and the keyboard was good enough on the tablet that he didn’t feel the need for a traditional computer.There’s certainly a benefit to encouraging digital literacy in any situation. By putting every student in the same environment, but allowing them to develop individually, these students can grow in unique directions. The work here at Reginald Lewis is a fraction of the work being done in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC area to promote digital literacy by the Verizon Foundation. Several other schools take advantage of the Mobile Learning Lab, while half a dozen other schools in the area are working with Verizon 4G LTE powered smartphones, and tablets.Verizon Wireless works with all grade levels as well, not just High School students. In fact, one of their other programs in Maryland is with an elementary school. Its an impressive digital initiative, paired with great educational software to make these devices productivity focused in the classroom.