Breaking News

Local News

March 11, 2013

Lewis Cass practicing smart learning

Lewis Cass senior Kirsten Dollar, 18, carries an iPhone 4 everywhere with her — even to class.

“I don’t know what I’d do without it,” she said last week. And she’s not alone.

In a school where about half the student body has a smartphone — including most of the senior class — two teachers this year have piloted an approach to technology that harnesses students’ own devices.

Matt Carver, head of the social studies department and seven-year Lewis Cass teacher, said his students use a variety of devices — iPhones, Android smartphones, iPads, laptops, even iPod Touches with Wi-Fi connectivity.

He had students track stock prices using their phones or other devices last semester in an annual statewide competition the school doesn’t usually do extremely well in.

They placed first in the state this year. It helped that he wasn’t restricted to borrowing the school computer lab once a week to update the team’s stock picks, he added.

Students were more excited about tracking stocks, he said — they’d even enter the classroom and asked him first if he’d seen the stocks’ changes that boded well or ill for one of his 14 teams.

“They’re really, really much more excited, more motivated,” Carver said.

Not every student has a smartphone, he said, “but the majority of them have a smartphone or a device they can bring to class.” Carver teaches high school economics, government, current events and seventh grade social studies.

Students who don’t have their own devices can use one of the laptops on the school’s single wireless cart, he said. And he’ll often assign small-group activities where groups of three or four students need only one device between them to participate.

“You just have to be a little more flexible,” Carver said. “The biggest thing is that if the kids enjoy it this way... I’m all for it.”

Spanish teacher Philina Martinez added that students who don’t have a device “just say, ‘hey, can I borrow your phone real quick?’”

Martinez, a nine-year veteran teacher who was hired at Lewis Cass in August, has her students leave voice messages at an Internet number that sends the messages to her email, she said — a way she’s found to help students develop verbal skills without making them stand up and speak in front of the class all the time.

Foreign language learning websites come in handy during class, too — she uses some that are accessible both on a laptop and by smartphone.

“When we have the lab activities, they prefer their own devices because they’re used to them,” Martinez said.

Grant Maxwell, an 18-year-old Galveston student in his senior year at Lewis Cass, said he’d rather use his iPhone 4S because the computers that the school provides are “slow” and require one to log in first.

He and other students say they use their devices in various classes to access word definitions, mathematical equations and the news.

Each student has a login for the school’s social network, MyBigCampus, that they use to access assignments and assessments that teachers upload. MyBigCampus — described as “a safe social learning platform” that’s part social network, part learning management and part professional development — visually resembles Facebook and comes with apps for Apple and Android devices as well as a web version for a regular Internet browser.

Starting to use MyBigCampus to its full extent almost makes teachers feel like they’re in their first year all over again, Carver said — retyping quizzes into the system or converting worksheets to the online format.

That amount of work isn’t required to use MyBigCampus, Carver said — teachers can simply upload documents as attachments if they prefer, using what they already have stored on their computer.

“I tell teachers, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel — you can use what you have,” said Carver. But if they do “reinvent” their teaching, he said it’s a huge benefit down the road.

Carver admitted that even for him, it took some time to get used to using the network and implementing the online worksheets and quizzes

“I’m very comfortable with technology,” he said.

He and Martinez have begun showing other Lewis Cass teachers how they’ve integrated wireless devices and MyBigCampus into their classes.

Interacting with students’ work the social network “breeds more conversation, more depth,” Carver said. He’s used it to cultivate stronger thinking skills in his students.

Martinez’s students like knowing immediately what they’ve answered right or wrong on a quiz.

“What they love most about the online quizzes and things is the immediate feedback,” she said.

He and Martinez also use MyBigCampus to share information and resources with other teachers.

“I can share bundles of videos or information I’ve collected” with another Spanish teacher at Lewis Cass, “or vice versa.”

While Carver’s and Martinez’s classrooms are the only ones where teachers have thoroughly integrated wireless technology and social networking so far, principal Mark Karmel said he’s aware of several other teachers that have dipped their toes into the MyBigCampus waters.

“I think teachers are using it across the board,” he said, including for art, German and industrial technology classes. Some fourth- through sixth-grade teachers have even ventured into it, he said.

However, he added one caveat.

“You can do a lot of really good things with bring-your-own technology,” Karmel said. “But if you don’t think about the kids’ thinking,” its purpose is lost.

Teachers have to be vigilant to maintain discipline while students have access to their phones, he said, and must structure classes such that students without a wireless device aren’t shortchanged.

“We do always make sure that the kids who don’t have a device still have access,” Martinez said.

That often means printing a few copies of the assignments, worksheets and quizzes uploaded to MyBigCampus. Still, Carver said he makes about a quarter of the amount of copies he used to need.

Bring-your-own tech is still in its infancy, according to Carver and Karmel. Karmel has even told some parents who’ve asked him what device to buy for their children’s schooling that at this point they need “nothing.”

Before going all in, teachers have to figure out how they’re going to make good on the technology that’s available, and administrators have to figure out how they’re going to provide access for students who don’t have their own devices.

Most of the physical infrastructure, at least, is in place, after about $100,000 was invested in blanketing the elementary schools in Wi-Fi and another almost $80,000 spent last summer to upgrade the high school wireless.

It’s all in preparation for what Karmel described as “the way of the future,” requiring teachers to leave their comfort zone.

Martinez agrees.

“These kids are digital natives,” Martinez said. “If we aren’t keeping up with it, we may as well be teaching in a foreign language.”

Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at or 574-732-5151.

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Pharos-Tribune eEdition, or our print edition

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Police blotter: April 23, 2014 Have a tip? Anyone with information on a crime is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS. Information leading to an arrest or conviction could lead to a reward of up to $1,000.

    April 23, 2014

  • Mall mortgage up for auction The mortgage note for the Logansport Mall is scheduled to be sold at auction early next month. Foreclosure procedures for the mall began when lawyers for Algonquin State Bank, N.A., out of Algonquin, Ill., filed a complaint against the mall's owner -

    April 23, 2014

  • NWS-PT042314 Earth Day4.jpg Being kind to their mother: Lewis Cass students plant trees on Earth Day WALTON -- Weeks of planning came together Tuesday as students planted 22 trees on the grounds of Lewis Cass Jr.-Sr. High School in observance of Earth Day. Amy Densborn, a science teacher at Lewis Cass, wanted to plant the trees so that students in s

    April 23, 2014 5 Photos

  • NWS-PT042314 Bags.jpg Students collect 2,475 pounds of plastic bags The Cass County Solid Waste Management District now knows to be careful what you ask for. The district opted to again this year host its plastic shopping bag contest for area elementary schools in observance of Earth Day. Overall, the district recei

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Inmate sues for religious services at Miami County prison BUNKER HILL – A Native American inmate is suing the Miami Correctional Facility for violating his constitutional religious freedom after the prison last year terminated Native American worship services. Daniel Littlepage says in a class action lawsui

    April 22, 2014

  • Police blotter: April 22, 2014 Have a tip? Anyone with information on a crime is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS. Information leading to an arrest or conviction could lead to a reward of up to $1,000.

    April 22, 2014

  • NWS-PT042214 Indiana Beach Viper.jpg Monticello amusement park brings new thrills MONTICELLO -- Indiana Beach's first major steel roller coaster -- the Galaxi -- is being retired after 42 years. Don Hurd operated the ride as a park employee 35 years ago. "At that time, it was one of the biggest coasters around," he said. "It's one

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Southeastern school board reopens its search for a principal at Lewis Cass WALTON -- Southeastern School Corp. officials thought they had found their new principal for Lewis Cass Jr.-Sr. High School. The position was offered to a candidate, but he declined to accept it, Superintendent Trudie Hedrick reported to the school b

    April 22, 2014

  • No Headline Provided Guests will be able to climb into a carved-out pumpkin that will circle above Indiana Beach in one of the park's latest rides -- the Pumpkin Ferris Wheel.

    April 22, 2014

  • shelly maness Woman arrested in meth lab find MACY — A narcotics investigation led to the recent arrest of a Fulton County woman on several drug charges. Shelly Maness, 35, Macy, was arrested on two felony counts of dealing in methamphetamine, possession of meth, possession of an illegal drug la

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.

Should mushroom hunters be allowed to forage off-trail in Indiana state parks?

     View Results