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Cell Phones Are Helping Kids Learn in the Classroom

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Educators, policymakers and wireless industry leaders joined together last week at the Mobile Learning Conference 2009 (MLC09) in Washington, D.C. to discuss the promising future of educational technology in America and the key role the application of cellular technology and devices can play in helping kids learn in the classroom.

Tuesday's session included a number of notable presentations covering a diverse range of topics and viewpoints from a distinguished line-up of speakers, including Dr. Irwin M. Jacobs, Co-Founder and Chairman of Qualcomm; Dr. Elliot Soloway, University of Michigan professor and education visionary; Carly Shuler, a fellow of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop; Carolyn Brandon, Vice President of Policy for CTIA-The Wireless Association®; and Marc Pensky, internationally acclaimed speaker, writer, and designer of novel approaches to education and learning.

"Mobile broadband technology is increasing efficiency and productivity for businesses across the country, and this year's Mobile Learning Conference strongly suggests that the same can be true for America's schools," said David Diggs, Executive Director of The Wireless Foundation, a MLC09 co-sponsor. "Based on the constructive exchange of ideas at the conference, we anticipate a bright future for mobile learning as a means to better serve classrooms and communities throughout the U.S., and to give every American student all of the advantages we can in today's increasingly competitive global economy."

"We were so excited to learn this week from educators that utilizing wireless broadband services and devices for learning isn't just a trend, but rather a sustainable solution to educational technology that can enhance the classroom experience for millions of students in all areas of the country," said Ms. Brandon.

One initiative highlighted at MLC09 was Project K-Nect, a pilot project that used advanced mobile wireless technology to improve math skills among at-risk ninth grade students in select North Carolina schools. The project is supported by Qualcomm through its Wireless Reach initiative. "Social networking for educational purposes turned out to be one of the more useful outcomes of Project K-Nect as students reached out via their smartphones to get help on their math problems," said Dr. Jacobs.

"If there's any technology that is going to bridge the digital divide, it's mobile technologies," said Dr. Soloway during the "What is Mobile Learning?" panel presentation. In addition to holding appointments within three colleges at the University of Michigan, Dr. Soloway, along with Dr. Cathleen Norris, also a speaker at MLC09, founded GoKnow Learning, Inc., which is focused on developing technology-pervasive, standards-based, scientifically validated curriculum and educational tools, with the goal of enabling children to use their mobile, handheld devices for essentially 100% of the classroom's teaching and learning activities.

"We are at the tipping point for mobile learning," said Ms. Shuler. "Just as television was a fundamental part of children's lives when Sesame Street introduced millions of children and their families to its educational potential, mobile devices are part of the fabric of children's lives today. When Sesame Street started, the question they sought to answer was 'How can emerging media help children learn?' This question is just as relevant today as we consider the role of mobile devices in the education of 21st century children." Ms. Shuler's paper, "Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children's Learning," was published in January by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

The conference concluded with a presentation from Mr. Pensky who remarked that today's children learn by doing, not hearing. Mr. Pensky also emphasized that technology alone does not enhance learning, but today's technologies, including the mobile phones that are now so pervasive in our nation's schools, can be used effectively in K-12 education if schools make them part of a strategy of engagement, group study and teacher-guided peer teaching.

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