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Smartphones, smarter students

Schools are starting to capitalize on the technology students love to use, including smartphones, tablets, and other personal devices. Rather than banning the devices from classes, some schools are welcoming them as effective learning tools. A recent study shows smartphones can have a huge impact on student achievement.

In Pennsylvania, Peters High School is inviting students to bring their own devices to specific classes or during certain scheduled times of the day. In the pilot stage of the program, 14 teachers allowed the devices one day a week. Now, the school is extending the initiative schoolwide.

Skeptics, including some parents, worry about kids wasting time in class, but so far the benefits of allowing personal technology in schools outweigh the risks. Students can access the Internet even when school budgets limit the number of computers available, and small numbers of devices can impact larger numbers of students if teachers allow group work. Bethel Park’s policies require students to log on to the school’s wireless network so student browsing is subject to site-blocking software.

A recent study from North Carolina supports in-school use of these devices. There, Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach Initiative distributed smartphones to low-income sudents. A year later, their test scores were up 30 percent. Now the program is extending to students in eighth through 12th grades in North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.

Gretchen Krebs has taught general and special education in New York and Utah. She is passionate about finding innovative approaches to meet the needs of all students. Contact her at