Ever think of using a smartphone to improve the math skills of high school students? It’s something inventor and Qualcomm co-founder and Chairman Irwin Jacobs has not only thought about but championed through his work.
Jacobs was among industry leaders who attended the Wireless Foundation’s Mobile Learning Conference 2009 in Washington, D.C., last week to discuss the future of educational technology and the role cellular can play in helping kids in the classroom.
Last school year, Qualcomm sponsored Project K-Nect, which involved 89 at-risk 9th and 10th grade students in four schools in North Carolina. Each student received an HTC PPC 6800 Windows Mobile device running on EV-DO 0 and A networks. Project K-Nect also used Soti’s MobiControl Mobile Device Management Suite to make sure devices were used within school rules.
Jacobs said social networking turned out to be one of the more useful outcomes of the pilot project as students could contact one another at odd times and not have to wait when they got stuck on a problem.
For one school, the project demonstrated a 100 percent passing rate, and students spent more time on algebra as a result of the smartphones.
There’s always a question whether the extra attention students receive lead them to perform better, and more needs to be studied, but Jacobs said the results are promising and there’s a desire to expand the programs. This year, the program includes geometry as well as algebra classes. “We’re still in the early days at this,” he said.
Jacobs himself didn’t need a smartphone when he was a student growing up, but he might have hoped for a different high school guidance counselor. His counselor told him there was no future in science or engineering, and for a while, Jacobs went to school for hotel administration before eventually going on to become a professor of electrical engineering at MIT.