Fredericton middle school opens classroom to smartphones

One middle school in Fredericton is taking the approach of "if you can't beat them, join them" when it comes to allowing smartphones in classrooms.

Pilot project designed to teach students critical literacy and extend classroom resources

A middle school in Fredericton is putting smartphones to use in the classroom rather than confiscate them from students. 2:28

One middle school in Fredericton is taking the approach of "if you can't beat them, join them" when it comes to allowing smartphones in classrooms.

While those devices and tablets are considered a distraction and not allowed in most middle school classrooms, George Street Middle School is inviting the devices into the classroom for one group of students.

The pilot project for Grade 8 students is called a "BYOD" class — bring your own device.

Teacher Lise Martin-Keilty says it is partly about teaching the students how to judge the information they find online.

"Critical literacy is very important for these kids, not believing everything they read online," says Martin-Keilty. "So that's the first lesson I taught this year before I set them free on these laptops."

Using the internet to research a project may not be that new, but allowing them to do it with multiple devices, extends the resources of a class that doesn't have a laptop for each child.

George Street Middle School in Fredericton has a pilot project allowing students to use their smartphone devices and tablets in the classroom. (CBC)
Connectivity doesn't come cheap. To make all of the Grade 8 classrooms and a common room capable of online browsing will cost around $22,000 for expanded bandwidth and increasing the number of access points within the school by 2015. By logging on through the education department's servers, there are restrictions on what sites can be accessed by the students.

Students were required to sign a contract with their parents at the start of the year, acknowledging that it is a privilege to be able to use their device in the classroom. By using the department's servers for internet access, any data charges are borne by the education department, not by parents who pay the bill for their child's smartphone.

Students find it beneficial to use their devices in the classroom.

"I find if you find the information, it helps you remember more than just listening," said Vanessa Soffee.

"Having a phone, it's really useful for this type of stuff," said Sydney Paterson. "Not for Twitter and Facebook."

Student Quentin Palmer says incorporating all electronic devices is inevitable.

"The technology is used, and used more every day," he said. "So it's only a matter of time until they're applying this in the school curriculum."

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