Cobb’s great adventure in technology. We all should watch and learn.

Cobb County is about to experiment with integrating the technologies that dominate children’s lives into the classroom through an ambitious pilot project at three middle schools.

This is a growing trend, but one for which effectiveness has yet to be proven.

According to an Education Week story:

While there is much on-going research on new technologies and their effects on teaching and learning, there is little rigorous, large-scale data that makes for solid research, education experts say. The vast majority of the studies available are funded by the very companies and institutions that have created and promoted the technology, raising questions of the research’s validity and objectivity. In addition, the kinds of studies that produce meaningful data often take several years to complete—a timeline that lags far behind the fast pace of emerging and evolving technologies.

For example, it is difficult to pinpoint empirical data to support the case for mobile learning in schools—a trend that educators have been exploring for several years now—let alone data to support even newer technologies such as tablet computers like the iPad. The studies that do look at the effects of mobile technologies on learning are often based on small samples of students involved in short-term pilots, not the kind of large-scale, ongoing samples of students that educators and policymakers would like to see.

(You may want to check out the earlier blog I posted about an early technology adapter and his second thoughts about incorporating cell phones into his classroom. )

Clearly, students today use technology in every facet of their lives and every moment. Two different friends have shared vacations photos with me, one from a family’s beach trip and other from a family mountain hike.  In both cases, most of the photos of their teens capture them with their heads bowed over a phone reading or writing a text.

According to the AJC:

When students at Lost Mountain, Floyd and Daniell middle schools return to class in September, they’ll have a new guest network set up for them to browse the Internet with their own technology. Access to certain websites will be restricted through filters.

School systems traditionally have taken a hostile approach to students using their cellphones and laptops during school. But as young people’s access to phones has broadened and the phones have gotten smarter, several metro area school districts, including Forsyth and Gwinnett counties and Marietta city schools, have begun to encourage the use of technology from home in “bring your own device” initiatives.

At a recent training session, several Cobb teachers scanned codes posted in the hallways that can link cellphones to lectures, facts of the day and school announcements, for example.

When the initiative was proposed at last month’s school board meeting, several members questioned whether such a policy would tempt students to use their cellphones inappropriately. Last year, a student was caught taking a picture of another student in the bathroom with their phone.

“A lot of people wanted to argue that that was a technology problem,” Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said. “I’d argue that’s a behavioral problem.”

Hinojosa said the system is looking at ways it can rewrite technology policies to encourage appropriate use.

Board member Tim Stultz asked how the district will handle students who don’t have technology to bring to class. Chris Ragsdale, assistant superintendent of operational support, said the system will consider letting those students check out laptop computers, cellphones and other devices during the school day and track how it goes.

If things go well, they’ll expand the practice to include other schools. If not, they’ll scale back.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

77 comments Add your comment

living in an outdated ed system

July 5th, 2012
8:40 pm

@Maureen, maybe they should use slide rules and abacuses. Then will you be happy? You are wrong about the lack of definitive research, and it is a sad that you continue to fight technology at every turn, even when you are an avid blogger and regularly use twitter yourself!

I am glad that Cobb is trying to implement education technology. I can’t promise it’ll be successful due to systemic constraints, but this is welcome news for Georgia’s students! I applaud Cobb for experimenting with technology and hopefully this pilot will be successful.


July 5th, 2012
9:01 pm

I would be all for it, IF the filter blocked texting, twitter, facebook, games sites on the web. Students waste so much time now in computer classes being off task playing games. I would welcome getting kids to stay on task and off the task wasters. However, I am afraid that bringing your own device will allow students to get around any blocking, and filters that we use to attempt to keep students on task.


July 5th, 2012
9:02 pm

I can’t wait to hear the stories — more likely see the videos — all the real learning that this move will initiate. It’s awe-inspiring. I wonder if they will allow students to bring other toys as well. I know what I have personally seen kids doing with their “personal learning devices.” I would like to hear one teacher provide one valid educational reason for doing this in k-12.


July 5th, 2012
9:04 pm

The first sentence is missing a “to”.

Interesting proposal, but it is seriously misguided. Even in East Cobb, I see students without access to the internet at home because their families cannot afford it–let alone access to iPads. How will checking out the technology work, and how will it be funded? Not too long ago, Cobb lost a superintendent over a scheme to put an Apple computer in every student’s hands. The new “experiment” is suspiciously similar.

the prof

July 5th, 2012
9:07 pm

More separation of the “have’s” from the “have nots”…

Georgia teacher

July 5th, 2012
9:14 pm

What “have nots?” kids on free/reduced lunch have better shoes, hair, and cellphones than me.

Proud Teacher

July 5th, 2012
9:48 pm

Many of the technology employees in Silicon Valley where they make everything that could possibly be used in the computer world send their children to a school where absolutely no technology is allowed until they graduate from high school. They say they are more interested in their children learning how to use their own brains, create projects without technology props, and develop an imagination. These things, they say, make much more productive employees.

Interesting concept they are espousing.

Tech Prof

July 5th, 2012
9:58 pm

You cannot drop technology into a learning environment and expect it to solve all problems in education. It is the pedagogy that matters. How will the new technologies be used? How will teachers be trained to use them? There are many issues to consider. Unfortunately, how ths usually goes is that a pile of money is spent on technological gadgets, no one gets trained how to use them, day-to-day learning activities do not really change, and then the claim is made that the technology did not improve learning. No one who studies instructional technology is surprised at that result. Technology cannot be looking for a problem to solve. You must first identify the problems and then select the technologies that help you solve them.


July 5th, 2012
9:58 pm

As a teacher and a self confessed technology nut, I can assure you this will be an abysmal failure. This is what happens when politically motivated/ambitious people who really don’t understand technology try to wave the magic technology wand and hope for impressive results.

There is NO way to filter ANY website. Oh sure, the gazillion dollar filter works just fine until the word gets passed around of whatever proxy is working that day. I have caught middle schoolers watching hardcore porn on CCSD computers many times. I watch kids play MineCraft and World of Warcraft on a daily basis. All of this happens on a “secured and student friendly” network that keeps teachers from even downloading relevant Youtube clips on the fly.

Until a 7th grader can read at a 4th grade level, instantly spout out the answer to ANY multiplication table question from 1-12, or even remember what time school starts and ends each day, books and paper will work just fine. Assuming the student realized he was supposed to bring paper that day. “You didn’t TELL us to bring paper/books/pencils/pens/conciousness today!’

This is the problem with “Standards.” Everything has been dumbed down so far that even the kids know there is little to zero expectations for them until the dreaded CRCT. Of course, it’s too late by then.

P.S. The CRCT is so incredible easy that simply being able to breathe through one’s nose should assure exceeding expectations for 90% of the school. ANY SCHOOL.

Old teacher

July 5th, 2012
10:11 pm

Actually, I have allowed the use of personal devices this past year, and for the most part, it went well. This was with seniors in senior language arts class. Many of the novels used for high school are available for free on kindle, ibooks, or nook apps. As you get to know the students, you find out who needs to be monitored for goofing off.
Of course, 12th graders are (usually) more mature, and they have a graduation date they don’t want to miss! Middle school may be a different story.

Atlanta Mom

July 5th, 2012
10:14 pm

living in an outdated ed system
A cite perhaps to this definitive research?

Atlanta Mom

July 5th, 2012
10:20 pm

Many University Profs don’t want students with their computers in their lectures.
If college students can’t handle the distractions, what make you think our coddled teenagers can?

Atlanta Mom

July 5th, 2012
10:21 pm

Shark Punch!

July 6th, 2012
1:27 am

I teach at a local university that requires all students to have on-demand access to a laptop computer (translation: bring one to class everyday). In a typical class of 20+ students, it’s simply not possible to make sure everyone is using technology appropriately. I usually have a pretty good idea of who is goofing off (some don’t even bother to hide it!), but I refuse to waste valuable class time scolding them at the expense of the students who do take their education seriously.

And we’re going to let middle school students use their smartphones?!? Sorry, but I have to scoff at the idea that a BYOT approach will improve students’ educational quality in any meaningful or measurable way. Ooooh, look, they’re going to set up this shiny GUEST NETWORK complete with QR CODES and FACTS OF THE DAY! I’m not against new technologies, but we need to address more fundamental problems with the education system rather than getting distracted by bells and whistles.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

July 6th, 2012
2:13 am

Tech Prof,

Your comment at 9:58 PM provides insight into GT’s having earned such a stellar reputation.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

July 6th, 2012
2:19 am

By the way, who’s going to conduct the planned study? CCSS personnel? How ’bout competent, disinterested, independent, out-of-state evaluators?

Cobb County BOE, don’t repeat the mistakes made in MCG and Emory psychiatric drug “experiments” which cost two department chairs their jobs and put one in a state penitentiary.


July 6th, 2012
6:57 am

@MortalWombat, I fear you are correct. But the people driving this “initiative” have perhaps made sure that the learning outcomes are so vague that no one will ever know if this has worked.

John Konop

July 6th, 2012
7:35 am

Tech Prof,

All should read your comment again! Bottom liner technology, debt, testing…….is not good or bad, it is how a person uses it. The reason we have the student crisis with debt, over testing and issues with technology is the lack of a well thought out plan, verse a one size fit all silver bullet plan.

Student debt is fine if the major has a rational payback time ie ROI. Technology is great if it is about learning verse party line time. Aptitude testing is a great tool, one size fit all, high stakes over testing is a disaster. In business you learn how you implement is way more important than the actual idea. You can tak an average idea and be a success with proper implementation, you can take a great idea and screw it up with poor implementation.


July 6th, 2012
7:46 am

@living in an outdated ed system: Please provide some references, citations, and/or links to the research you reference? Thanks!

@MortalWombat: Until a 7th grader can read at a 4th grade level, instantly spout out the answer to ANY multiplication table question from 1-12, or even remember what time school starts and ends each day, books and paper will work just fine. Hear, hear!

Howard Finkelstein

July 6th, 2012
7:54 am

Lame idea and just another financial bottomless pit. Whatever happened to all those laptops that were handed out, years ago?



I thought so.

Old School

July 6th, 2012
8:08 am

Really Cobb?…When your teachers and student end up on you-tube you will change your mind. Cell phones with Camera’s are really a privacy issue.

Everything i learned i learned in kindegarten

July 6th, 2012
8:13 am

Cobb BOE needs a time-out! ~Mrs. Crabtree


July 6th, 2012
8:23 am

No child is going to do research on their cell phone….unless it involves Twitter, Facebook or games. I’m all for technology and learning….but that isn’t it. How about we use Kindles or I-Pads for more up to date textbooks and to save the kids from having to lug a 50lb backpack around. How about the teachers implement the technology when teaching lessons and giving the children links to research when they get home…letting them play on their cell phones is going to do nothing…you’ll see. And don’t tell me about the have nots— puhlease…Comcast practically gives away the internet and a laptop for those on reduced lunch already.

HoneyFern School

July 6th, 2012
8:32 am

This will be interesting to watch. Perhaps if we focus on what students need instead of what politicians want we might actually make some headway in public education. Kids who are engaged in what they are doing will be less inclined to use their handheld devices for evil, and, last time I checked, test prep was not engaging. Tech Prof is correct: technology helps but is not the answer.


July 6th, 2012
8:32 am

The full article indicates that ONE teacher at Lost Mountain will be the “tech” math teacher: Ms. Holubz. If there are no changes, she will use this in her 7th grade on-level math classes. Yes, it is experimental but I think it’s good. I’m glad they are starting small and wish Ms. Holubz much luck with the program. I have a rising 8th grader in advanced math at LMMS and she will apparently not be part of this program.

Also, my daughter does NOT have a phone, NADA, no cell phone, no smartphone, NONE.. So, some of you assuming this is the haves against the have-nots are jumping to conclusions and stereotyping.

Don H.

July 6th, 2012
8:39 am

There’s bound to be optimal ways to use technology in K-12 education. But they will be pioneered in private schools—not public monopoly schools.

Gwinnett Mom

July 6th, 2012
8:41 am

No way will I let my kids have them phones. It 2 easy 4 them 2 look at porn and other bad thing on the intrenet. This is just 1 more way the librals are brain washing our kids 2 foloow the librals in 2 thinging soicalist healthcare will save us.

living in an outdated ed system

July 6th, 2012
8:58 am

To everyone. I have seen firsthand how this can work successfully. Many of the independent schools in the Atlanta area do “immersion programs” which include heavy use of technology. Students can present their findings in many ways – some use iMovie, others use powerpoint or keynote, but at the end of the day, the students are using technology just like all of you are doing on this blog.

Folks like Brandy and Atlanta Mom just don’t get it, and sadly, never will. You cannot keep technology out of the learning environment and make it a “sterile” learning forum. For those of you who do not know, last year, the number of mobile phone shipments WERE GREATER than PC shipments. THAT is a major flip!

You want research. One that was written several years ago was titled “Pockets of Potential.” Feel free to find it online.The Cooney Center penned this report more than 3 years ago! Read the Innosight Institute’s “Rise of Blended Learning” report. There are tons of other reports on the web coming from academic institutions, but why should I do all the research for you?

living in an outdated ed system

July 6th, 2012
9:01 am

It really amazes me seeing what all of you write on here. It if succeeds, you will all scream that it is the coming of the apocolypse. And if it fails, which it likely will, it will be another symptom of a system that is irretrievably broken. Trying to use open architecture digital technology in a walled garden Industrial Age monolithic education system is nearly impossible to do without fundamental change in how learning is delivered in schools and how systems are designed to embrace such approaches to education.

How many of you teachers are under 35? I bet almost NONE!!

Road Scholar

July 6th, 2012
9:03 am

Gwinnett Mom: Cobb County is liberal? And I suppose you think the Pope is Jewish?

Attentive Parent

July 6th, 2012
9:13 am

This technology emphasis is simply a 21st Century way to push vocational learning instead of the transmission of knowledge. The students interact with each other and the tools.

Training them to be mindless drones. Perhaps they can then grow up and go into central office administration advocating for bad ideas. Living at our expense.

Poor Cobb. Hinojosa really is a Gypsy Super engaged in Mind Arson for that lucrative salary.

Here comes Transformational Outcomes Based Education. Just like Daggett proposes and Cobb spent hundreds of thousands on recently. You do know Daggett’s background is vocational education, don’t you?

I even have a copy of the textbook he wrote. Actually several. He comes across as a simpleton and says things that are quite easy to disprove.

Will Cobb push phrenology next?


July 6th, 2012
9:19 am

Approximately 43 percent of Cobb County students qualify for free lunch but we expect them to all have smart phones. (yes, I know that most have them…that’s my point). There is something seriously wrong with the priorities in this country.

Fred in DeKalb

July 6th, 2012
9:35 am

Old School, one of the people responsible for the DeKalb School Watch blog solicited recordings from students during the instructional day, hoping to see acts of students misbehaving. While noble, I reminded them that there is a policy about the use of cell phones, with penalties that could result in criminal action. Even though I provided the link and explained the language, they still suggested I was not telling the truth.

It’s good that other points of view are allowed on this blog. Those on DSW don’t welcome additional clarification or information, especially if it comes from Fred.

drew (former teacher)

July 6th, 2012
9:40 am

Yeah…I’m sure these students will be so excited to use their toys to check the “fact of the day”, or to see who Mr. Jones’ student of the month is! Or maybe even see what’s on the school menu!

There’s no doubt that cell phones “could” be used to enhance learning. But there’s also no doubt that students “will” spend a helluva lot more time playing and socializing on their phones than they will learning. But, Maureen’s right…let’s all watch and learn!


Tech Prof says: “Technology cannot be looking for a problem to solve. You must first identify the problems and then select the technologies that help you solve them.”

Excellent point, and one that’s often ignore where technology is concerned. As the late author Neil Postman suggested, when evaluating any new technology, you should ask: “What is the problem that this technology is going to solve?” So…to those who are “pro cell phone in class”, what IS the problem that will be solved by allowing students to use their cell phones in class? I’m waiting.

One other point (also gleened from the writings of Mr. Postman)…if students are getting PLENTY of something OUTSIDE of school, they don’t need MORE of it INSIDE of schools. Schools should serve a thermostatic function, providing students with the things and experiences they DON’T get enough of outside of school. I agree. Maybe instead of jumping on the phone they’d be better off cracking a book. And conversely, if young people start spending the bulk of their time outside of school reading and writing, and ignoring their cell phones,then and only then would it make sense for schools to devote time to using cell phones in class.

A book is a technology too…it’s just that it’s an old one, without a lot of bells and whistles (unless it’s a Kindle, which I have NO problem with). And a book (i.e., reading) massages the mind in a totally different way than a cell phone. But then, you can’t text someone with a book.


July 6th, 2012
9:41 am

Most of y’all are ignorant when it comes to the ways technology can be adapted into a classroom. I encourage my physical education students to bring their smartphones and iPod touch to our class. Technology can be used in so many ways to help students in every discipline. Technology is not the problem, parents who refuse to teach their students bad behavior is the problem we see when we implement this in classrooms. Going into my third year as a teacher I have only had 1 serious issue with someone using their phone for something inappropriate. We also have MacBooks and iPads in every class and because we don’t have one for every student those with them are encouraged to bring them from home.

I was skeptical of how technology could help students especially in a physical education classroom until I took a class in college. This professor really has a grasp for where education was headed and tried to set us up for success as educators. Check out his class blog and view the student blogs linked on the page.

Bob Loblow

July 6th, 2012
9:43 am

@Gwinnett Mom: You are joking, right?

Gwinnett Mom

July 6th, 2012
9:47 am

I didnt say Cobb was libral. I said the librals were tryin 2 brain wash R kids.


July 6th, 2012
9:53 am

I would like to see the schools put in a cell phone blocker in the building so that the students cannot use their cellphones in class to text, twitter and facebook. I would then have a secured guest network in place with all the filters and blocks so that they can bring their laptop, ipad, kindle to class and use it.

Cellphones are a big time waster in class. I spend more time in class trying to keep the students on task and off their games, tweets, facebooking, etc. I have the school computers set to block such and am able to kick them off these sites, so then they bring out their phones. I could make up for all of the pay decreases and furlough days by being paid $1.00 for each time I could write up a child for using their phone in class.

Kindles, laptops and tablets have potential for use in the classroom. Apple is including a method for locking the ipads down to use in testing. I teach using technology everyday, but it is a double edge sword. It can be the biggest time waster for those immature students who do not have a work ethic. Unfortunately, there are too many that do not have a work ethic and it is not developed at home.

I am also sceptical of ADD as I have watched numerous students with ADD be intensely focused for extended periods of time on whatever game or RPG that he/she is playing. What these students need is to elminate distractions and not add new ones.

Don H.

July 6th, 2012
9:55 am

@RoadScholar: I’m guessing “Gwinnett Mom” is the not-too-subtle creation of someone who seeks to stereotype conservatives into an archetype: one perhaps learned in Sociology 101 under a professor who’d be waiting tables—in a society less tolerant of wasted taxpayer dollars.


July 6th, 2012
9:57 am

@Attentive Parent: and exactly what, may I ask, is wrong with vocational training? I hate to break it to you, but that very training DOES transmit knowledge, just not the kind it sounds as if you approve. When your pipes back up and sewage is spewing inside your house, do you call someone with a college degree or vocational training? When your house is sweltering hot because the a/c has conked out, do you call someone with a college degree or vocational training? I’m not saying these folks don’t have college degrees, but by and large many have received vocational training in lieu of that so as to become productive members of the workforce.

That having been said, this use of tech into middle school classrooms seems a poorly conceived, poorly planned experiment at this point in time. As is typical in education, jump off the cliff before packing the parachute and rechecking it. I hope it goes well, but given the rest of the idiocy going on in over at Glover Street I have my doubts.


July 6th, 2012
10:26 am

30 Year Old Teacher

July 6th, 2012
10:34 am

There are so many things I would love to do using technology my students have, but I dislike all of the policies limiting our students. There are things out there that allow me to turn my students’ phones into classroom response systems, have my students respond to blog postings for class or homework points, access online versions of texts when we do not have enough copies, access newspapers from around the world (Social Studies teacher), etc. Face it, kids need to try and access more technology to gain skills they need for life after high school.

Fayette Teacher

July 6th, 2012
10:41 am

Fayette County is going ahead with BYOT this year. It was piloted at a couple of schools last year. Teachers seemed to like it. The teacher needs to set rules of course. The technology may not be allowed in each class every day – only for specific assignments and projects. Teachers need to walk the classroom more, hanging out in the back of the room to better monitor all those screens.

living in an outdated ed system

July 6th, 2012
10:50 am

Bravo, 30 yr old teacher!

And to all of you naysayers out there – banning cellphone use is FAR more detrimental than, say, restricting its use at times (e.g., no texting during class unless it’s related to a learning assignment). If you deprive students completely of such devices, it will merely elevate the risk of deviant behavior.


July 6th, 2012
10:56 am

Congratulations Cobb County you have just approved of the mindless behavior of students. It’s hard enough to get students to concentrate on critical studies such as math and science, now you have added another distraction in class. I teach math in middle school and I am glad last year was my last. You people don’t realize the damage you have caused by caving into this demand and you wonder why our kids score low in the math and science test compared to the rest of the world. In my 10 yrs of teaching I would say about 11% of students are ready for college level and beyond work. You are so quick to blame us teachers for their short comings but you allow this kind of behavior.You have set these kids up to work in the service industries of this country, unable to complete logical,complicated math and science courses in schools for professions and trades this country so desperately needs for the future.I’m sure they will be proficient in texting, tweeting and downloading apps while they are working at Wal-Mart or McDonalds at 30 yrs of age. This is the final frontier of dumbing down Americans and you will look back and wonder where did it all go wrong.


July 6th, 2012
10:58 am

Technology in schools is great…but at what expense? My daughter is a 13 year old, Cobb County student. She is going to high school in the fall and even though she will be taking accelerated and honors classes, she still interchanges “want” and “won’t” and it irritates me to no end. Why is she doing it? …because the teachers are not focused on spelling or grammar. I go through her homework with a red pen and make her re-write things that her teachers are telling her to just do the best she can with. They have spell check now, so why teach them to spell?

I watched my daughter trying to develop a signautre, because she has a debit card and wanted to have a nice signature for when she got to sign a sales slip. She was 11 then and I realized she did not know how to write in cursive. Anything she had done up to that point, was from her just giving it a try. I’m a very involved parent. Why didn’t I know that they weren’t teaching the children how to write in cursive any longer? I asked about that and the response I received was basically this: Why spend time on handwriting when everyone uses a computer?

My daughter’s Pre-K and kindergarten teachers both told me that they couldn’t take much credit for what she knew, because she already knew everything they were teaching. That was thanks to my own teaching at home and, believe it or not, Blue’s Clues computer games for 2-3 year old children. When I was young, my family had the internet in our house before most of the country knew what the internet was. We are big on technology and I’ll never stop teaching her things at home, but there are basic things kids are going to miss out on in school, because we are replacing teaching with technology.

Art Vandalay

July 6th, 2012
11:11 am

Horrible idea…HS kids are distracted enough. Instead of passing notes, they will just text about what classes to skip, what the answer is on a test, etc. There WILL be a scandal at some point as well…watch.


July 6th, 2012
11:15 am

This is an excellent change in the way learning will take place in the classroom. However, if not implemented properly can have repercussions both for the teacher and the IT staff supporting BYOD. To the commenter that was concerned about twitter, texting, and Facebook; Twitter and Facebook can both be blocked via content filtering as long as the student is utilizing county wi-fi. The problem, however, is that the students will quickly learn that they are not filtered while using their carriers service for Internet. It is then up to the teacher in the classroom to monitor what their students are doing, and ensure that no mischievous Internet surfing is taking place. In the coming years you will see the classroom become more about self discovery and learning facilitation rather than lecture and listen. There are other counties already working with this type of technology, but, Cobb thus far is the biggest. I wish them the best of luck on this endeavor as the rewards will definitely out weigh the upfront administrative tasks.


July 6th, 2012
11:40 am

Forsyth has had a much wider roll out of “bring your own technology” for a year and Henry will do this at several campuses next year- ipads, laptops, cell phone, etc.


July 6th, 2012
11:44 am

Heck, I have the internet at work and don’t get anything done.
What’s wrong with having kids text all day during class.
Let’s get rid of teachers and schools and just have the kids get their lessons over the internet at home.