Mobile phones aid learning

5th January 2001 at 00:00

MOBILE phones may be banned at many schools in the UK but one Danish school is using them as a vital part of the drive to boost the performance of academic under-achievers.

Pupils at Praktikskolen - literally "the practical school" - on the island of Mors in northern Jutland - are being encouraged to use their phones to make notes during lessons. As part of their homework they also send messages to each others' phones or personal computers using so-called "SMS" (Short Message Service) text messages.

The teachers came up with the idea when they saw that the school's pupils were constantly sending SMS messages to each other during breaks.

This was surprising, as the pupils that attend Praktikskolen have difficulty reading and writing. They have beeen judged as academically weak, and lacking motivation.

"We are using technology young people are very familiar with to motivate them to read and write far more than they have ever done," says Anna-Stina Billund, the school's head.

"After we started to use cellular phones, the pupils began asking for homework - something that's unheard of where these youngsters are concerned."

Jan S?ndergaard, a teacher involved with te project, says that one of the tasks pupils are given is to write a "rolling" story: one pupil writes four words as an SMS message and sends it to the next pupil, who adds four words and sends the text to another pupil, and so on, much like the game Consequences.

Pupils on work-experience placements keep a diary on their phones. They write two or three sentences about their jobs each day, send them as SMS messages to their computers and expand on the text when they get home.

The pupils also use SMS messages to arrange social engagements and to access some of the services (such as jokes and quizzes) offered by Tele Danmark Mobil, a telecoms company.

All 42 pupils in the 7th to 10th grades (aged 14 to 17) were issued with mobile phones at the start of last year, though only 25 of these pupils ended up involved in the scheme to keep costs down.

Tele Danmark Mobil is paying for the expensive call time and SMS messages.

The Danish ministry of education is also paying 250,000 DKK (pound;20,000) towards the two-year project. Based on the success of this pilot project, it will decide in the spring whether mobile phones should become a more permanent aid to teaching and learning.

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