Public-private partnership transforms school bus into mobile learning lab

The tutors also have benefitted. Michael Roy, who tutored on the bus all year, says the experience has been tremendously rewarding, giving him a better understanding of our community and helping students who didn’t believe college was within reach. Working with them in a wireless setting has been crucial, creating an environment that gives kids instant access to resources without having to lug around backpacks, books, and papers, while also preparing them to function in wireless college campuses.

Expanding our use of the technology to the classroom by trialing 4G tablets for the first time last year brought student engagement among AP U.S. History students to a whole new level, and students’ grades reflected this deeper engagement, according to teacher Bernadette Desario.

We both believe mobile devices have opened up a new world of learning, allowing students to access thousands of resources they did not have before. Through the National Archives and Gilder Lehrman Society Institute of American History, for example, Ms. Desario and her students have instant access to the U.S. Constitution, speeches from the Freedom Riders, and other content so they easily can share ideas, collaborate, and participate in online discussions. The teacher also can assess student retention of certain concepts through real-time polling and quizzes.

On a recent morning, as Ms. Desario’s class hovered over their tablets, they were discussing how the slave movement became more radical between 1815 and 1816. Some were looking at online letters from John Quincy Adams to Roger S. Baldwin about the Amistad slave revolt, while others accessed different letters. They could all view original texts, as well as more readable versions of the text alongside the original. Without the tablets, about 130 copies would have to be made for this exercise. As in many schools with limited resources, the amount of paper saved alone was tremendous.

The tablets have really increased student engagement, shifting what student engagement looks like. Without the tablets, the students are interacting with a piece of paper, and we’re focused on supporting them with reference books, writing, and conversation. The tablets bring all this together, allowing us to set the stage for collaboration using multiple sources at the same time. They’re interacting with the text; they’re interacting with whatever support structures they need to make sense of the text and also communicating with the teachers as they are learning or needing real-time feedback and assistance.

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