WAMC New York News
12:26 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

Students With Smartphones

Glens Falls, NY – In just over a decade, the cell phone has become ubiquitous - technological advances have turned the devices into "smartphones" which are now being used as tools in schools, as we hear in this report from Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas.

Smartphone technology is more than those "apps" you've heard so much about--- Smartphones able to access social media networks like Facebook have played critical roles in the revolutions in North Africa and for families keeping in touch in the aftermath of the Earthquake in Japan - many third-world countries use smartphones for banking and conducting other business - in this country, "smartphone power" has trickled down to grade school level. Three weeks ago, the Gloversville Enlarged School District in Upstate New York issued middle school students smartphones to enhance the educational experience.

In recent years, rural schools drafted plans to loan laptops to students, but that would require the installation of wireless networks, something too expensive to consider. Rob DeLilli is superintendent at the Golversville Enlarged District: he got word of the Verizon program via Watkins Glen Central School District - which put smartphones in the hands of about 200 fifth- and seventh-grade students and 20 teachers in three schools in December 2009. The North Rockland Central School District in Garnerville followed in January 2010: Eighty fifth graders, along with three teachers, at Haverstraw Middle School signed on.

DeLilli says his students have the ability to get on the internet without being tied to a home computer. He expects as students grow more comfortable with the devices and move up in class, they will be given more responsibility and some of the restrictions on the droids will be relaxed. The students may not realize it, but their smartphones are a key to their individual academic futures: Since the 1999 freshman class arrived in Troy, every student attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute must have a laptop computer - many other colleges and universities are now requiring students to own laptops.

The school programs are federally funded through e-rate - which falls under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, signed into law by President Bill Clinton: the law's universal service section assists schools and libraries in obtaining access to state of the art services and technologies at discounted rates.