MyNotes - Eanes Embraces Engagement
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* Eanes among Central Texas districts embracing social networking technologyIdeas, such as allowing cell phones in class and assigning Twitter-length book reports, keep learning exciting, teachers say.
* By Laura Heinauer
* ublished: 8:24 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011
* Eanes school district elementary students will be asked to write book reports as short as a Twitter message 140 characters or fewer. And an Eanes middle school principal is lifting the ban on cell phones for eighth-graders.
* Eanes is among districts across the country that are embracing technology ubiquitous among today's youngsters — smart phones, PC tablets and anything else that keeps "Generation Net" constantly plugged in to online social networks. The Austin district expects to deploy 20,000 netbooks by spring break, and many area district libraries check out iPads to students who receive lessons on "digital chalkboards."
* West Ridge Middle School Principal Karl Waggoner said his decision to end the longtime ban on cell phones for eighth-graders was prompted mostly by "having a group of teachers brave enough" to test it out last semester, while the rest of the school adhered to the rule that cell phones be turned off and left in lockers.
* Students are still expected not to send or receive calls or unauthorized texts at anytime during the school day, he said.
* Waggoner said about 80 percent of students bring a cell phone to school anyway, and most others have one at home. "I think a lot of schools are looking for ways to truly reach students where they are," he said. "Certainly, we have computers and smart (chalk) boards, but when you think about what's growing in the palms of their hands — it's their cell phones."
* "Technology is scary and it freaks people out. But what I've found is if you get in and start driving it, you lose that fear, you gain confidence and you start using it as a tool."Don Knezek , the CEO of the Oregon-based International Society for Technology in Education, said, "This opening up of school networks to nontraditional applications and devices is clearly a trend that's gaining momentum."
* "I think schools are becoming much more aware that they can't just outlaw these things and that, in fact, it's now their job to help teach kids how to use them responsibly."
* teachers are finding that different types of students are becoming more engaged. Teachers using wiki groups for online discussions have often discovered that a whole different group of students lead discussions than in the classroom."We're finding girls, in particular, are much more participatory in those settings," he said.