Tag Archives: Digital Media and Learning

What We Learned: The Sprout Fund & Digital Badges

The Sprout Fund has been working to help people develop digital badges in Pittsburgh and beyond since 2013. Through events like the 2014 National Summit to Reconnect Learning and the 2015 Learning Pathways Summit in Pittsburgh, Sprout convened stakeholders to explore the prospect of using digital badges as a way to recognize student learning and achievement. In 2015, Sprout also led a community-wide process to develop shared learning competencies and engaged regional employers in a discussion about connecting badges to workforce development goals. From 2014 through 2016, Sprout worked with more than 50 community partners who began using digital badges to capture summer learning through Pittsburgh City of Learning, and Sprout provided support to six teams to create cross-disciplinary, badge-enabled learning pathways during the 2016-2017 academic year.

As of 2017, the technology underpinning digital badges is still in development; however, the design principles and shared practices that have emerged for digital badging are increasingly sophisticated. Sprout has helped organizations in Pittsburgh and across the country design their own digital badges, and Sprout’s badge development process has been tested and refined by a national community of practitioners.

As a result of our efforts in Pittsburgh and beyond, there is now broader awareness of digital badges as a way to recognize and reward learning. Educators working in schools, after-school programs, and informal learning spaces are increasingly considering digital badges as a way to document and reward students for learning anytime, anywhere.

Sharing What We’ve Learned

We’re proud to have played a role in the early stages of this work and we’re eager to share what we’ve learned about digital badges along the way. Today we’re releasing What We Learned: The Sprout Fund & Digital Badges, a collection of resources that covers the history of our experience with digital badges and includes key considerations and design principles for developing your own high-quality digital badges for learning.

In addition to some downloadable worksheets and reference guides, we’ve included descriptions of the key steps in our process and a discussion about why we pursued these steps, what we were trying to achieve, and the insights that emerged along the way. We hope that these resources will help practitioners thoughtfully design and begin to issue digital badges in their programs.

The publication includes five main sections:

  • Key Considerations for the Badge-CuriousUse this section to read about the history of digital badging and Connected Learning and some key considerations for the “badge-curious” — that is, people who are considering using digital badges for the first time.
  • Case Studies: You can read about Sprout’s history with badging and browse some brief case studies of badging in Pittsburgh.
  • Design PrinciplesTo get started with designing your own badges, use the self-assessment tool to see whether badging is a good fit for your program. Then, use a series of worksheets we’ve created to help you design your badges.
  • Platform & Technology ConsiderationsFinally, explore some key ideas that should guide your thinking as you pick tools to support your work.
  • Links & Resources: You can also browse a list of links and resources that we’ve curated of the best and most useful badging resources out there.

We hope that these resources will help others build on the good work that’s been started in Chicago, in Pittsburgh, and across the country. We believe in the potential of badges and other new forms of assessment as tools that help make all learning count.

If you’re interested in getting started with badges, or if you’d like to share your own stories of success, we hope you’ll get in touch. We’re eager to share what we’ve learned to help other programs better serve their students. If you’d like to learn more about our work, please contact The Sprout Fund at connect@sproutfund.org.

Read What We Learned on Medium.

Librarians Lead the Way to Digital Literacy

Unfettered access to information and news is essential for learning—but it can also be a hazard when learners lack the right tools for parsing that information.

Nobody knows this more than librarians.

“We’ve always talked about information literacy,” Nicole Cooke, a professor who teaches future librarians at the University of Illinois’ School of Information Sciences, told The Verge. “Information literacy is just trying to get people to be savvy consumers of information.”

For decades, visitors to a library were confined to a static collection of information. Librarians helped them access and wade through it.

“In today’s digital world, information literacy is a far more complex subject than it was when the phrase was coined,” writes University of California, Merced, librarian Donald Barclay at PBS. In this digital world, librarians play a different, yet even more important, role.

Last month this blog explored the need for digital literacy education in the age of “fake news.” We covered the recent Stanford University study that confirmed many educators’ fears: middle and high school students are likely to take false information they encounter online as fact. More than 80 percent of middle school students studied were unable to distinguish between credible online news and sponsored content.

“Librarians are natural allies for educators in helping students become critical news consumers.”

Sam Wineburg, the director of the Stanford History Education group, which published the study, says librarians may be uniquely poised to help young people navigate a sea of digital information.

“Librarians are natural allies for educators in helping students become critical news consumers,” he told the American Libraries Magazine.

Librarians—whether at schools or in public libraries—provide access and support in welcoming settings. Trained to help people find and decipher information, they can act as coaches. As young learners explore topics of their choice, librarians are there on the sidelines pointing them to sources that may be helpful and training them to recognize those that are not. Libraries also can hold workshops for visitors on topics like online safety and digital literacy.

Many students learn basic practices for determining whether a digital source is trustworthy. Is the ending of a URL a for-profit “.com” or an academic “.edu”? Is there an author or organization’s name attached to the information, and what can you find out about that person or entity?

Beyond encouraging those basic precautions, librarians and other educators and mentors can facilitate conversation that stokes inquiry and critical thinking—necessary skills as digital credibility becomes ever murkier.

“Having respectful and constructive dialogues is a must so that people can feel heard and understood,” Barbara Alvarez writes in the Public Library Association magazine. “Public libraries have an opportunity to lead this effort while promising a space where all are welcome…they may be able to use the connections made in their conversations to form new opinions and critically think about the information they read.”

One path to critical consumption of media is by creating it. Doing so allows young people to share their own truths while honing their critical thinking and evaluation skills. Libraries have increasingly begun offering programs that train students to make their own media.

“Teaching evaluation of information has never been so critical.”

Storytellers Without Borders, a joint program between the Dallas Public Library and the Dallas Morning News, teaches journalism to high-school-aged visitors. As part of the journalism training, librarians show participants how to conduct research using digital resources at the library.

In Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Public Library becomes a “lab” where teenage visitors can work with mentors to make films, record music, or build robots. The Labs @ CLP program, at multiple branches, leverages the library’s accessibility to all in the community.

As the digital information landscape continues to change rapidly, so too must librarians. As the consequences of “fake news” become clearer, some veteran librarians are reevaluating how they approach digital literacy education.

In the School Library Journal, longtime librarian Laura Gardner writes: “Teaching evaluation of information has never been so critical, and I’m thinking fast.”



Maker Video Challenge Does Double Duty

Part of the appeal of the maker movement is its expansiveness. Electronics, coding, fashion design, audio engineering, filmmaking, woodworking—it’s all on the maker smorgasbord.

A new opportunity from Digital Promise challenges students to check a couple items off of that list at the same time.

The FilmMAKER Challenge asks middle and high school students to “reinvent an everyday product to make it more sustainable, accessible, or beautiful”—and meanwhile make a short documentary video that narrates that process. Students must work in groups with an adult mentor and submit their entries by March 24. Winners will be invited to present their products and films at the Bay Area or New York Maker Faires later in the year.

Digital Promise, a nonprofit that promotes digital learning innovation, doesn’t expect groups to dive right into the challenging project. The organization is also providing support to educators who want to help students enter the contest. A supplementary guide provides educators with a series of activities and assignments they can use to warm students up for the contest. It starts off with a few short exercises encouraging collaboration (including an improv theater game), and builds up to projects that give students experience prototyping, designing, and filmmaking. Together, the activities orient participants to the concept of design thinking.

In a recent article for The Atlantic, an educator tries to get a director at IDEO, a firm that supports educators in using design thinking in their classrooms, to define the term. The director, Neil Stevenson, balks—the tendency to distill design thinking down to a singular definition disregards the nuance and complexity of the idea, he insists.

The contest challenges students to not only design a better product, but to communicate why it is better and how it can help people.

But, he ultimately tells the educator, at the core of design thinking is empathy—understanding the needs of a real audience and designing a thoughtful product that meets them. That’s where the “film” piece of the FilmMAKER challenge comes in.

“Even the best ideas fail to make an impact if they can’t be shared with the world,” says Digital Promise.

The contest challenges students to not only design a better product, but to communicate why it is better and how it can help people. Throughout the process, students have to consider who their target audience is, and how to expand it. The exercise is meant to help students think about how to effect change in the world outside their classrooms.

Educators inside and outside of school settings have integrated design thinking, or human-centered design, into their practice. At Y-Creator Space, an afterschool program at three sites in Pittsburgh, young people complete projects that address community needs or serve another purpose. Past participants have prototyped and built aquaponics systems and light-up shirts for cyclists.

A couple years ago, the University of Pittsburgh and the Sprout Fund joined forces for the two-day Water Design Challenge, which asked high school students to devise an innovative method for raising awareness of water crises. One winning group created a website depicting how far women in various countries have to walk to retrieve drinkable water. Then they hosted a fundraiser race, where participants ran the average water-retrieving distance. Another winning group took a completely different approach, designing a residential rain barrel system that would give tax credits to homeowners who used it.

The FilmMAKER challenge is even more open-ended, demanding that the young designers pursue an interest of their own and exercise their creativity muscles. Will they reinvent a lunchbox or a license plate? Crutches or a coffeemaker? And then can they make the case for their creation?

Creating Safe Environments for Learning

The election and the presidential transition have posed some serious challenges for educators around the country. Civics teachers are struggling to explain hostile rhetoric from the campaign trail and pull out lessons about democracy and our electoral process. Teachers of undocumented or Muslim students are working to alleviate fears and ensure that their schools and classrooms stay safe spaces.

Still others are trying to quell discord, and make sure their students can participate in the free exchange of ideas in a way that’s safe for everyone’s political opinions.

In recent months, a variety of resources have cropped up online aiming to help teachers address students’ concerns and shut down bullying and hate speech.

Teachers of undocumented students are working to keep their classrooms safe spaces.

One California high school teacher published a letter first sent to colleagues, as well as a list of “anti-hate lessons.”

“Talk to our students about what has happened and how they feel,” the author writes to other educators. “Please, let them speak and be heard.”

The advice ranges from setting up ground rules for class discussions that promote respect and confidentiality, to teaching about propaganda by having students analyze campaign materials and fact-check statements. The teacher suggests that classes discuss the impact of Donald Trump’s proposed 100-day plan and draft a school action plan in response.

Another teacher made publicly available an annotated letter he wrote to his students. In it, he directly addresses groups of students who were targeted by hateful rhetoric during election season, assuring them that school is still a safe place.

“To my students with disabilities: In this classroom, you will not be mocked or judged for who you are. Your dignity and identity are important and appreciated,” he writes. “To my students who are immigrants: This country was built upon a nation of immigrants, and we will continue to appreciate and be proud of the work we put into it together. No one will move to deport you without first dealing with me and officials at this school.”

Digital media tools can amplify and validate student voices.

Elsewhere, however, educators are taking the exercise a step further by having students speak up themselves, using digital media tools to empower them and amplify their voices.

The National Writing Project and KQED launched Letters to the Next President 2.0 (L2P2.0) just as the party conventions occurred and the election went into full swing. But the project challenges young people to think beyond the candidates to the issues that affect them and their generation. Up until election day, all students could submit letters—written, filmed, recorded, or coded—voicing their concerns or desires regarding a topic of their choice, addressed to the future president. The letters are available for the public to read online.

The range of topics the thousands of letters tackle—from hot-button issues like gun control and abortion to issues relevant to teenagers like education reform, the foster care system, and the smoking age—reveal young people’s capacity for civic engagement and desire to have their voices heard. Other initiatives have created similar platforms for young voices. Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, also solicited advice from young people for the next president. The hundreds of responses include letters—often in the form of colorful illustrations—from kids of all ages.

At Teaching Tolerance, teacher Lauryn Mascareñaz writes that the inauguration is a chance to teach students about the long road to the white house, about inaugural traditions, and about how “how protest and resistance have played pivotal roles in our country’s history.”

By leveraging digital media tools, educators can involve young people in a conversation that typically happens around and about them—but not often with them. A public publishing platform like L2P2.0’s tells students their opinions and feelings are valid. It connects youth with peers near and far. They can challenge each other to critically assess their own belief systems, expand their perspectives beyond their own schools and communities, and, importantly, remember they aren’t alone.



4 Maker Project Ideas for Your 2017 Classroom

Did anyone else resolve to make more in 2017? At a loss for new ways to encourage your students to tinker, create, and build?

Whether maker education is old hat or brand new, we could all use inspiration as school starts up again and the weather traps everyone inside. We’ve rounded-up some creative projects—from makers near and far—to try in 2017.

  1. Use Digital Technology to Solve Problems

Educators at the Brookwood School in Manchester, Mass. came up with a unique system to make better use of their school’s 3D printer. It’s one that boosts students’ problem-solving skills, stretches the limits of the technology, and provides practical help to the whole school community. Staff submit requests to a “problem bank.” The young designers come up with solutions to their problems.

Some teachers simply request 3D-printed board game pieces to finish incomplete sets. An art teacher asked students to design clips to mount together mirrors for self-portrait-making. The school’s innovation coordinator challenged the students to create a helicopter-like object that could be used to demonstrate flight. The young designers can see the real-world applications of the skills they are learning—and often benefit from the work themselves. It’s easy to imagine a scaled-up version of the problem-bank project, where students connect with neighbors or city officials to learn about and address problems facing their community. 

  1. Teach the Diverse Cultural History of Making

Maker education can empower young people to explore their own cultural identities and learn about their peers’ backgrounds. On the MakerEd blog, neuroscientist Dorothy Jones-Davis writes that making was a daily experience throughout her working-class childhood, and one that connected her to her predecessors. At home, Jones-Davis didn’t often have new toys, but she learned to fix up old bikes and electronics, and sew new clothes. At Native American summer camp, she enjoyed making traditional cornhusk dolls and woven blankets. “At a young age my dad imparted that as countless generations of our people, black and brown, made—everything from quilts, to buildings, to inventions that changed our world—so we continue this honorable tradition,” she writes.

With glaring gaps in the racial and gender makeup in tech world, it’s important to remember that the history of making is a diverse one. Learners who feel like outsiders in the maker movement might be surprised to learn that many classic projects have roots in their own cultures. Take a cue from our local Assemble’s upcoming day camp “Who Made That: African American Scientist Discovery Camp.” Kids ages 8-10 can spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day learning about black inventors—like Garrett Morgan who, 100 years ago, created the first automated traffic signal (the precursor to the traffic light), gas masks, and the ziz-zag sewing machine stitch.

  1. Design ‘Smart’ Clothing

There are some timeless holiday classroom crafts. Decorated shoeboxes for handmade Valentine’s Day cards. Handprint turkeys with feathers glued on sloppily to mark Thanksgiving. What’s the 21st century maker version of celebratory crafting? Stanford’s FabLearn Fellows include some ideas in their “Meaningful Making: Projects and Inspirations for Fab Labs + Makerspaces,” an extensive guide. There’s a technological take on the “ugly Christmas sweater” trend. One of the fellows worked with high school engineering students to create sweaters that not only looked bad, but also lit up, made music, or were edible. The project was the culmination of a semester spent studying conductivity, programming, LEDs, and laser-cutting, and students proudly wore their successes on their sleeves—literally. For younger kids, another fellow recommends 3D-printing monster-shaped candy molds for Halloween.

  1. Build a Telegraph

Passing notes in class is typically frowned upon. Middle school teacher and FabLearn Fellow Heather Allen Pang actually encourages her history students to send messages from one side of the classroom to the other—but they have to build a good old-fashioned telegraph in order to do so. In the FabLearn guide, Pang writes about her own experience learning to build the machine, and gives advice to other educators trying the activity in their classrooms. For makers who are more attached to their modern-day communication technologies, the guide also suggests designing wooden or edible cell phone cases. Those would pair nicely with the emoji pillows a group of middle school students from Environmental Charter School sewed with Assemble.







A Class Where Students Create the Curriculum

In even the most innovative classroom settings, there are a couple of standard things students can expect.

A curriculum, for example. Assignments.

A new course in Middlebury, Vermont does away with such pesky conventions. Rather, it grants students the agency to design their own curricula and pick their own study topics.

What’s the Story” is a year-long course created by students and alumni of Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English. Aided by Vermont’s Act 77, which allows for more flexibility in course offerings and settings, the educators worked up an unusual opportunity for middle and high school students to investigate issues that matter to them and their communities.

Students from across the state were selected to participate in the pilot run, beginning in the fall of 2015. Their open-ended task: come up with a project that could effect positive change. Working in mixed-grade groups of their choosing, the students devised research plans on topics ranging from energy-efficient housing to the state’s foster care system. Each group eventually created a multimedia production that communicated their findings.

The class met in person on occasion, including four overnight retreats, but the groups communicated virtually, from different towns and schools, throughout the year. Their teachers acted more like coaches, posing questions to deepen students’ critical thinking, and helping guide the research when necessary, but leaving all the action to the young people. The participants received English class credit for the course.

The final products from “What’s the Story” demonstrate young people’s breadth of interests and backgrounds.

One group, which included a volunteer firefighter, traveled around the state to investigate the fall-out from a consolidation of Vermont’s emergency dispatch centers. The students wrote a letter to a newspaper editor and created a film, which they screened for a local fire department. Another group interviewed their classmates and teachers about gender identity, making an educational and personal documentary film and leading workshops in high school classrooms. All the students shared their musings, successes, and frustrations on a class blog throughout the year.

For the creators of “What’s the Story,” letting students choose their own research topics was a key piece of the plan.

“The big challenge is to make sure the students are really emotionally engaged in the work they’re doing,” Bill Rich, a creator of the course, told Middlebury Magazine. Rich coordinates the Bread Loaf Teacher Network, a collaborative community of educators who graduated from Bread Loaf, some of whom developed “What’s the Story” together.

When students are allowed to pursue their own interests, Rich and many learning scientists believe, they are genuinely motivated to work hard, delve deep into ideas, and build skills that will come in handy later in life. This kind of interest-driven learning stokes curiosity and creativity—important skills for a generation of students who will become future civic leaders and innovators.

Students participants recognized that the coursework mimicked, in some ways, the work they’ll be asked to do as adults. One group initially struggled with direction, disagreeing about the research topic and returning to the drawing board several times. Figuring out how to square those differences and collaborate productively was a helpful lesson.

“Beyond high school, if you’re doing a project with someone it’s not going to be a four-day thing—you’re going to be working with these people for months,” one of the students told Middlebury Magazine. “It was really useful to figure out how that works.”

Collaboration was a theme throughout the course—for its creators as well as its students. The strong Bread Loaf network enabled the teachers to bring in students from diverse and remote areas of the state. Rich and his colleagues dream of scaling up the “What’s the Story” model for larger—possibly statewide or national—implementation.

But just as the students were told to reflect critically on their processes, the designers of the course are asking themselves important questions. For whom does this model work? Only highly self-motivated students like those selected for “What’s the Story,” or for students with varying learning styles and speeds? Would a pared-down version be successful in a traditional school setting?

At the very least, the student projects are testaments to the potential of young people to create powerful work—when they get the chance.


How Do You Spell “21st Century”?

Remember that third-grade cursive lesson, painstakingly fitting looping letters in a wide-ruled notebook? Or its cousin, spelling class—memorizing “i before e except after c”? Some say cursive and spelling are two education fundamentals that have been rendered dispensable in the 21st century, thanks to word processing and autocorrect.

But on the heels of the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee, which ESPN broadcast to a captive audience for a combined 14 hours, it is worth taking a look at where these seemingly “20th century skills” fit into modern learning.

Some educators argue that rather than learning spelling, grammar, and handwriting, kids should be taught “to convey emotion and meaning through writing,” as Sugata Mitra, a British educational technology professor, told The Telegraph newspaper. He claims expressive language does not require accurate spelling.

“This emphasis on grammar and spelling, I find it a bit unnecessary, because they are skills that were very essential maybe a hundred years ago but they are not right now,” said Mitra, who thinks the future of education is child-driven. “My phone corrects my spelling,” he added, pointing out that kids have no trouble communicating in text-message-style grammar.

Some say English spelling education hinders students. With 60 percent of English words containing unpredictable letters, students may take longer to learn to read than their counterparts who speak more predictably spelled languages. Placing less emphasis on spelling could allow for earlier reading comprehension, the argument goes.

Not everyone thinks that tech tools make human knowledge obsolete. Daniel Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, likens word processing’s relation to handwriting to a calculator’s relation to arithmetic.

“People wondered whether students needed to learn how to do math,” he said at a handwriting summit. “The answer in both cases is absolutely yes.”

Handwriting practice contributes to children’s development of important motor skills, said Amy Bastian, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University. The more variety of fine motor skills, she told NPR, the greater dexterity in the long run.

Bastian’s point is a reminder that these skills are not autonomous and purely technical, unrelated to critical thinking or other intellectual development. By slashing these lessons, we may end up losing their other built-in benefits. Reading comprehension could be dependent on the mechanics, wrote education researchers Richard Gentry and Steve Graham in a white paper.

“Learning to write letters and spell words reinforces the letter-naming, phonemic, and word-deciphering skills required in developing literacy,” they wrote.

Instead of stripping curricula of spelling, handwriting, and grammar, we should continue reexamining our approach to teaching those topics. A recent Edweek webinar promoted a content-based approach to vocabulary education. One speaker, University of Michigan Education Professor Gina Cervetti, studied the effects of pairing science education with literacy lessons on fourth graders. She found they were more likely to use science words in their classroom writing. In a similar study among middle-school students, sixth graders’ general vocabulary expanded when literacy was incorporated into the science program.

We have written about the trend away from subject-based schooling. In an interdisciplinary approach, like STEAM education, students hone their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills by drawing connections between ideas, or between theory and practice. Memorizing spelling lists may be up for debate, although Gentry and Graham argue it is crucial for pattern recognition. But perhaps there is a way to learn spelling in an engaging manner that makes clear its importance in communicating concepts. Take spelling bees—the original gamification?—which turn rote memorization into a rousing competition with complex rules.

There is no question that handwriting and spelling play different roles in our 21st century lives, as do many school subjects and skills. Educators are figuring out how to make the mechanics relevant rather than simply, well, writing them off.

End of Cell Phone Bans in Class Opens New Possibilities for Learning

Traditionally, cell phones have been the bane of teachers’ existences. Even with bans and threats of consequences for using cell phones, students have developed an arsenal of tactics for maintaining access to their devices during class: They peek at them under desks, text without looking at the screens, and pretend to rummage around in their backpacks while checking their messages.

In New York, such covert cell phone use will soon be unnecessary. The city’s disposal of its stringent cell phone ban in its 1,800 public schools (the School District of Philadelphia has a more nuanced policy) is partially a simple acknowledgment that cell phones are here to stay.

It’s also a whole new educational horizon.

Many teachers nationwide have already been experimenting with innovative and productive—and fun—ways of integrating mobile phones into the classroom. Several educational apps and programs are designed for this purpose. Some, like Socrative and Poll Everywhere, are tools for in-class polls and quizzes with nifty features for displaying and analyzing results. Others, like Remind and Celly, help teachers communicate with students through classroom-specific social networks or scheduled text messages prompting students to complete assignments.

And cell phones are naturally creative implements. They can inexpensively film, photograph, and record.

Craig Watkins, professor of media studies at the University of Texas at Austin, argued that using new technology in schools is especially important for black and Latino youth, who—research shows—are more likely than any other group to go online via a mobile phone or use new social networking tools like Twitter. But, Watkins said that although these teens use mobile phones as social, recreational, and entertainment devices, they need help viewing their mobile phones, cameras, and iPods as learning devices and as “tools for critical citizenship and engagement in their communities.”

Jose L. Vilson, an eighth-grade math teacher in Washington Heights, told the New York Times he often asked students to use their phones for projects in class.

“Why would you limit kids from having access to technology that could perhaps enhance their learning?” Banning phones “just keeps pushing the disparity forward,” he said.

This philosophy has given rise to BYOT (bring your own technology) programs in some schools, which we’ve written about in the past. BYOT means students can bring a phone, a tablet, or a computer—whatever they’re comfortable with—to use in class on a given assignment.

And, as Watkins notes, afterschool programs and community groups are in many ways leading this charge, helping kids use their mobile devices in ways they can learn from.

So how can educators devise new mobile-positive curricula and policies while keeping in mind the circumstances that gave rise to phone bans in the first place?

There are, undoubtedly, risks, including cyberbullying and opportunities for theft. And there is certainly potential for distraction—but some research shows that cell phones can actually increase classroom participation, particularly among shy students.

This summer, we wrote about how educators were using KQED’s “Do Now” program to discuss social issues in real time on Twitter, helping young people build critical civic engagement and digital literacy skills.

As more schools experiment with mobile use, we’ll figure out the kinds of rules and limitations needed to ensure safety and privacy, and more teachers will continue to discover how the technology does or doesn’t work in their classrooms.

But in an educational environment where one-half of the nation’s high school students already carry smartphones, it’s time to pursue creative and positive ways to incorporate the inevitable into the classroom.