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E-rate Funds Go Mobile

Hats off to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for allotting E-rate funds to explore how providing students with discounted mobile broadband access off school grounds can improve education at our nation’s public schools. The “E-rate Deployed Ubiquitously 2011 Pilot Program” (EDU2011) will enable 35,000 students at 20 schools in 14 states to benefit from anywhere, anytime learning.

Qualcomm has been active at the FCC in advocating for the creation of EDU2011 and our own Wireless Reach ™ initiative sponsored seven pilot projects during the 2010-2011 school year to demonstrate how simple, readily available mobile broadband access and devices can produce substantial improvements in education today.

One project in the EDU2011 initative is especially exciting. The Summit Academy Community School for Alternative Learners, a charter school in an impoverished area in Canton, Ohio, is a beneficiary of the FCC’s new program. The school’s students have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Asperger’s Syndrome, making it very challenging for students to learn in a traditional classroom environment.

In Fall 2010, Summit Academy in conjunction with Verizon Wireless and GoKnow, rolled out a pilot providing 30 students and their teachers on-campus access to the Internet using Verizon’s network and LG smartphones. The smartphones are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon mobile processor, a solution that provides advanced capabilities for mobile devices, and are pre-loaded with GoKnow! mobile learning software.

The smartphones serve as a portal to customized curriculum, study materials and other communications posted by teachers. The devices also enable collaboration between teachers and students in a web 2.0 environment.

Early findings show that using the smartphones increased the ability of students with ADHD to focus, increased the ability of students with Asperger’s to communicate — and helped to produce higher scores on the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) test.

The E-rate grant will enable students to use the smartphones at home. Teachers expect this expanded use of smartphones to lead to even greater increases in test scores for the NWEA and the annual Ohio Achievement Assessments.

An E-rate grant is also going to Onslow County Schools, Jacksonville, North Carolina, where Wireless Reach supports Project K-Nect, the first pilot program to integrate smartphones into classroom learning. Project K-Nect students learn algebra on educational software accessible on smartphones and have performed better than their peers who learned algebra via traditional instruction.

A major contributor to the students’ success was the 24/7 access made possible by mobile broadband connectivity. Project K-Nect found that the interaction with other students is particularly useful. When students can study and learn from each other outside of class, they no longer have to do homework in isolation and their understanding of the subject increases. Explaining a problem to others deepens their level of understanding.

EDU2011 is an important step toward modernizing K-12 education to achieve the dramatic improvements in learning made possible by mobile broadband technology. Qualcomm looks forward to the day when E-rate funds can be used to support ubiquitous mobile broadband connectivity, mobile devices and software applications to improve American education.

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