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Cellphones in the Classroom

Cellphone with Tripod

John Cram, a senior at Glenbrook North High School near Chicago, needed to measure the porosity of a cupcake for a lab experiment in his materials science class. So he whipped out his cellphone, snapped a picture of the goodie, emailed it to himself, then used Photoshop to measure its air pockets and calculate its porosity, reports the Chicago Tribune. Piece of cake. His teacher, Nathan Unterman, who lets student use their cellphones as a lab and classroom tool, is part of a growing trend in  Chicago, the paper says. Glenbrook’s technology coordinator Ryan Bretag gives teachers lessons on “how can you leverage what they have in their pockets.” Bretag gives students primers, too.

A recent survey estimated that 83 percent of America’s 17-year-olds have cells, a 64 percent increase from 2005. Among all high-schoolers, 75 percent have one, the Tribune says. That near ubiquity is why York Community High School plans to discuss with students the possibility of putting their mobiles to use for academic purposes. Say York principal Diana Smith: “I think we need to be in step with them on it.” To be sure, however, the Tribune reports that some Chicago area school officials remain ardently opposed to cellphones in the classroom. They worry cellphones could be used to cheat on tests, or that the devices’ cameras and video recorders could be put to nefarious use. Crumbs, says Cram, the enterprising science student. Using his cell for the cupcake experiment was, he says, “just a natural step.”

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