Two years ago, public high schools in North Carolina began an education technology pilot to determine whether smart phones, in conjunction with curriculum resources, could be leveraged to increase student math comprehension. Now, teachers are saying that not only have math test scores increased, but student achievement has increased in other subject areas as well.
The program, called Project K-Nect, was designed to create a supplemental resource for secondary at-risk students to focus on increasing their math skills with the help of mobile smart phones. Ninth graders in several public schools in North Carolina received smart phones to access supplemental Algebra I content aligned with their teachers’ lesson plans and course objectives. The phones and service are free of charge to the students and their schools, thanks to a grant provided by Qualcomm as part of its Wireless Reach initiative.
Student smart phones have 24/7 internet access, which students can use at home or at school, and they have full access to both the K-Nect curriculum, as well as features such as instant messaging (IM), video and chat capabilities, and calculators.
“Everyone thought this program might just last a semester,” said Suzette Kliewer, a math teacher at Southwest High School, one of two high schools in Onslow County, N.C., participating in K-Nect, “but it’s lasted for three [school] years now. It’s been approved for this upcoming year, too.”
Project Tomorrow, a national education nonprofit organization that provides consulting and research support to school districts, government agencies, and businesses about key trends in education, was asked by Digital Millennial Consulting (developer of K-Nect) to assess the program’s efficacy.
Project Tomorrow released a report of its findings earlier this month. The report presents the views of 78 students and four teachers who participated in the program between August 2009 and January 2010.
Project Tomorrow found that by using smart phones as part of the program, students are more successful on their North Carolina End of Course assessments, along with many other positive effects. Data were collected through on-site classroom observations, focus groups with students (pre- and post-semester), interviews with teachers (pre- and post-semester), and interviews with principals and technology coordinators.
K-Nect students are “more likely to achieve proficiency in Algebra and Algebra II than [other] students in their school, district, or state,” says the report.