Wireless devices helping teachers track students' progress

Posted March 25, 2010

— Some North Carolina teachers are using handheld wireless devices to track student progress in math and reading. It's a new statewide pilot program involving 42 schools in Cumberland, Halifax, Onslow and Sampson counties.

Aurelian Springs Elementary is one of three Halifax County schools taking part in the program. The devices teachers carry contain different exercises.

The teacher asks the questions, and the student answers. The teacher then records that in the device, but it tracks more than just right or wrong answers.

N.C. teachers use PalmPilots to track student progress Teachers use devices to track student progress

“It prompts us with several options – whether he knows it instantly, whether he had to count up (or) whether he had to guess,” said teacher Kevia Lynch.

By marking how the student came up with the answer, the software gauges how well the student is grasping number concepts.

“It gives me another way of assessing. (It) gives me another way of helping the kids out,” Lynch said.

Teachers can use that data to group kids based on their progress and tailor instruction accordingly. At a glance, a teacher can know how every student is doing.

“Pretty much everything is at your fingertips with this,” Lynch said.

Teacher Nancy Wilson also uses a wireless device in her kindergarten class and said she loves it.

“It tells you how they’re developing in their understanding of numbers and concepts,” she said.

Aurelian Springs Elementary volunteered to be part of the program, which was offered to all school districts across the state.

“We have to be data-driven in order to understand how an instructor is getting across to the children,” said Aurelian Springs Principal Carla Amason.

The program started in November and will last for one year. State education leaders said they are hoping to extend the program to 18 months so they have more data to examine.


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  • carolinagirl75 Mar 25, 2010

    If you want to improve academic performance start with the masses of sorry parents (some happen to be teachers). Then weed out the incompetent faculty in the school system. This won’t solve all the problems but it would be a rational meaningful start to improve the quality of education in this country.--

    I won't argue with your points, but do you really think your proposed changes are realistic? Public schools can't pick who they take, and I don't forsee any vast improvements in parenting anytime soon. Certainly, there are incompetent teachers in the school systems, but it's difficult to draw competent teachers to the schools. We educators have to deal with those realities and still find the best ways to teach all of our students.

  • mpheels Mar 25, 2010

    This is the way changes should be implemented... Start small, see if it works, and if it does then expand the program. It's one thing to look at homework and know that 3 students all got the problems right, but it's even better if you can tell one kid knew the answers right off the bat, the second needed a few seconds but could figure it out, and the third had to count on his/her fingers and toes... If this program works and truly gives teachers more detailed information about each student's performance at any given time, fantastic! That will allow teachers to focus on the kids who don't quite get it while the kids who mostly get it can keep practicing, and the kids who completely get it can move on to more independent work.

  • kal Mar 25, 2010

    they teach us these things and then there is no money down the road to replace to increase the number or devises

  • oldfirehorse Mar 25, 2010

    Thank you WRAL, for reporting on this fascinating initiative. And, kudos to the teachers, principals, and staff of the NC Department of Public Instruction for getting this pilot project off to a great start. I'm elated to hear the teachers are finding this tool to be valuable in their efforts to reach ALL the children in their classroom.

    I'm also happy to hear that this forward thinking initiative from the governor's office was embraced by the legislature and passed into law. It's great to hear something good coming from state government these days!

    It's really great to hear that the teachers were introduced well to the technology, properly trained in the use of the program, and are already finding it benefits the children by enhancing their ability to manage their needs. Keep up the good work!

  • gopack07 Mar 25, 2010

    I'm a little surprised about all the negative comments. Shouldn't we be embracing technology? Who wants to review math problems on a loud, dusty, yellow projector when they can learn in interactive ways via a smartboard or other technology?

    Data is needed to drive decisions. We can't just pass Johnny onto the next grade because his teacher says he's doing fine. We have to see the data. What better way than to use the wireless device to collect data efficiently and save trees?

    Schools are slowly (some faster than others) moving towards a response to intervention (RtI) model in which universal screening and progress monitoring will provide useful data in making decisions regarding academic progress. Yes, there are some factors that affect a student's performance (e.g., parents, home life, etc.) that we cannot necessarily control. What we can do is track progress and provide research-based intervention for these students and that is what the wireless device does.

  • teacher56 Mar 25, 2010

    I wish school systems would just let teachers teach. We have Smartboards in our rooms along with document cameras, and other items I don't hardly know anything about. We are told we must use these items in our lesson planning but none of us asked for this stuff. We have to take workshops teaching us about these items and almost always the workshops are taught too quickly for us to catch on. This is such a waste of dollars. Give me my kids and the standard course of study and let me do my job!

  • ILoveDurham Mar 25, 2010

    I always appreciate learning more about the needs and activities of our schools and thank you for this story. I am troubled, however, by your repeated use of the brand name. I doubt you meant this to be an advertisement for Palm but I think if you used "handheld computer device" or "PDA" the story would have succeeded in highlighting the needs of the classroom, rather than the brand. Further, if the PDAs were donated by Palm, this would be helpful to know along with any information that let us know if the PDAs were sought by the teachers or school administrators or did Palm seek out a way to promote their brand while possibly helping the teachers. Thank you for your attention and for your interest in our schools.

  • dmccall Mar 25, 2010

    This program should be pretty cheap...given that most people aren't using their Palm-based devices anymore.

    This is the problem with technology in the schools. By the time they ever get around to implementing a new idea, the technology is extremely out of date. Unfortunately schools are loaded with change-averse bureaucrats who need to over-analyze every step they take. This program should have been in place 10 years ago.

  • TheConundrum Mar 25, 2010

    When I first heard about this program in my area I was dumbfounded by this blatant colossal waste of tax dollars. The local teachers thought the device was an Iphone to show how "tech savvy" they are. Yet they are to use this technology to assess their students. I have friends at every level of the world of academia...from college professors to daycare administrators...and we've yet to understand this inane desire to implement such useless measures for academic purposes simply because the technology is there. If you want to improve academic performance start with the masses of sorry parents (some happen to be teachers). Then weed out the incompetent faculty in the school system. This won’t solve all the problems but it would be a rational meaningful start to improve the quality of education in this country.