Thursday, April 14, 2011

Learning On-The-Go Grows With FCC Grant

A student at iMiddle is interviewed during the announcement.
A student at iMiddle is interviewed during the grant announcement.
In the News
The sight of students walking home from school with a netbook computer and using that computer at home on a wireless network will grow in the 2011-12 school year thanks to a $1 million grant from the Federal Communications Commission.

Under a pilot program at Innovation Middle School in Clairemont, students have been supplied with netbooks and 3G wireless access at home. With the new grant, this off-campus technology will grow at eight other schools.

"The San Diego Unified School District prides itself on access to technologies that can enhance learning," said Darryl LaGace, Chief Information and Technology Officer. "On-campus, students have access to a variety of learning technologies across a 65,000-workstation network. But to extend learning beyond the walls and wires of the high-speed network, we've established and are growing the Mobile Learning Program."

This program takes on-campus technology beyond the school fence. Off-campus, the small, netbook computers access 3G networks -- the same used by smart phones, tablet computers and other wireless devices -- so students can do lessons, research and other tasks using the internet at home.

"Giving students access to learning resources anytime and anywhere is key to keeping them engaged, promoting a real love of exploration and discovery and providing a true 21st-century learning experience," said LaGace.

More than 30,000 netbooks are currently in use, funded through Prop. S. About 3,000 will be used by sixth graders in eight middle schools, plus school-wide in two, as part of this project.

Schools receiving the assistance for the 2011-12 school year are Innovation in Clairemont; Millennial Tech in Emerald Hills; Dana in Pt. Loma; Knox in Lincoln Park; Lewis in Allied Gardens; Longfellow in Clairemont; Mann in City Heights; Montgomery in Linda Vista; Pershing in San Carlos and Wilson in Mid-City.

The same internet-safety standards must be in effect whether the student is on- or off-campus, so, Lightspeed Systems is working with San Diego Unified to adapt its filter to the netbooks.

"The Lightspeed Mobile Filter helps us safely and securely open up new learning opportunities when students leave the campus," said LaGace, "at home, at the park, at the pizza parlor, at their sister's dance recital."