Fargo Students Not Yet Giving Glass Paper Project Passing Grade - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Tablets in Schools Failing Some Student Tests

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When school began this fall, more than 3,000 fargo students walked into the classroom with paper and pencils and walked out with a brand new touch screen tablet.
The Dell Latitude 10 retails for about $600. The tablet is also what the Fargo Public School District is calling the future of education.
The Glass Paper Project has spent millions of your tax dollars on reformatting classrooms with the latest technology. But, a two-month-long investigation by Valley News Live found the program that connects students to technology also allows them to openly cheat.
Valley News Team's Hope Hanselman shows us why some say the tablet program doesn't yet deserve a passing grade.
"Good communicators, collaborative, creative thinkers, critical thinkers, problem solvers," Jodell Teiken, of Fargo Public Schools, lists off 21st Century skills her team is now working to coax out of students. This is the definition of the modern student.
"It's our generation," Jon Luthy, a senior at Fargo North High School, said. "We're familiar with technology. It's just kind of something we know."
With information literally at their finger tips, these Fargo North students are living in a world of constant technology.
"You get into class, you turn your tabelt on, check your email or whatever, play a game and kind of wait for class to get going," Jon described his routine. 
He and Brandon Rudisel, a junior at Fargo North, were both part of the Glass Paper Project's first tablet deployment last spring. In that time, Brandon has used those finger tips to memorize all 23 James Bond film titles, actors included.
"If I were to say there's a pro to them, it would be that I can look up things if I need to. If I have a burning question," Brandon described how he found the time to memorize the list.
In May, Brandon took part in a district survey. Just three months after receiving his Dell Latitude 10, he made his opinion painfully clear, writing to the district: "cut your losses. Take them away from students and sell them for whatever you can get!"
He wasn't alone. In that same survey, 30-percent of students listed distraction as a major drawback. And that's just the kids who owned up to goofing off.
"In some of the sluffier classes, I'd say about 75-percent of them," Brandon said.
The school district admits it can be easy for the tablets to be seen as toys; and that teachers are working hard to overcome that obstacle.
"If you walked into a classroom, you'd definitely see some kids slacking off, but my argument is: you might have anyway," Jodell Teiken said.
Teiken calls herself "cheerleader" for the district's nearly $2 million project that has placed 3,700 devices in the hands of growing teens.
"Even staff are still kind of grappling with, why do we have these devices for kids," she said. "We're trying to make sure that we're still on the same page."
Teiken has watched it grow over five years of plannning, borrowing lessons from other districts and creating the kind of classroom to mold a modern mind.
"We want our students to achieve the 21st Century skills," she said. "I really think it was taking what we've been saying we want to do for a really long time and really do it."
And in some ways, these devices really are "doing it." Jon says he'd rather do his assignment through online forums, rather than paper assignments. He says they're portable and harder to lose. But, in other ways, the devices fall short.
"It's easier to cheat," Brandon said. 
Teiken says teachers are also aware cheating is going on with tablets. She's encouraging them to avoid it by re-thinking the questions instructors are asking students.
"If you're asking a question that students can google the answer to, then they should," she said.
Teachers who have embraced the technology are restructuring lectures, homework and grading. But, students still find themselves hung up on basic needs.
"A lot of things need to be added, like online textbooks are just terrible. They need to be improved. I don't even bother using them," Jon said of his choice to carry around heavy hardback books rather than struggle through its e-book version.
So, maybe the textbooks aren't the only things incompatible with these tablets.
"We're in a transition, cause this is the beginning of the tablet era, that people don't really know how they feel about the glass paper project moving on," Jon said.
Maybe, in this new age of technology, what the classroom really needs is patience.
"Trying to get people to understand the vision, and I think that's what really takes time," Teiken said.
Next fall, all freshmen will get a device of their own. The district says that's a cost they can maintain by cutting less important expenses from the budget.


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