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Hindrance or help? Free cellphones granted to US high school students

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Cellphones could be used as an educational tool. Source: Shutterstock.

Do you play on your cellphone in class? Probably, and you’re not alone.

Cellphones have always been the sworn enemy of teachers and professors… at least since students worked out how to text discreetly under their desks.

But now, US high schools in the county of Miami-Dade are encouraging the use of cellphones as an educational aid.

With the edtech rising in popularity, telecommunications company Sprint has announced it will grant one million wireless devices to incoming ninth graders by the Fall of 2021. The devices will then be theirs to use for their remaining four years in high school.

An initial batch of 14,000 cellphones have already been distributed to Miami-Dade students, according to the Miami Herald.

William H. Turner Technical Arts High School welcomed the first arrival of the devices; 250 of their pupils received brand new Samsung smartphones last Thursday.

Sprint has proposed that over the next five years, 7,750 more devices will be handed out to students in public schools within Miami-Dade alone.

The phones will come at no cost to the pupils or their families. The project is voluntary so, regardless of whether the student already owns a cellphone or not, they are eligible to receive a new one.

The objective of the initiative dubbed the “1Million Project” is to help more pupils get online to enhance their studies. The 1Million Project’s website states that, “42 percent of students have received a lower grade because they didn’t have Internet access.”

The phones all come equipped with free hotspot capability, unlimited calls and texts, and 3GB of high-speed data a month on the Sprint network.

However, the pupils won’t exactly have free-reign over their usage of the devices. The phones all have a filter that will block inappropriate websites.

The devices are there to facilitate pupils’ learning, allowing more children than ever before access to the Internet for educational purposes.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the need for cellphones in school is obvious.

“Seventy-five percent of students live below poverty levels and many don’t have access to connectivity. This program allows us to declare that every ninth grader can access educational resources.”

“In times of emergency or in times of a school lock-down, students and employees who use cellphones have been proven to be valuable in informing administration and law enforcement about these emergencies,” Carvalho told the Miami Herald.

The 1Million Project enables schools to enter the 21st century and adapt to “the new reality”.

As Carvalho said: “The digital revolution has come”. And US schools are embracing it.

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