Bronx Academy charter school developing ideas for educational smart phone apps

Sixth grade students (l-r) Jhony Flores, Samuel Owusu, and Brianna Cortijo, seen here with a tablet computer, will be part of two teams that will develop ideas for mobile computer apps (applications) for solving problems in middle-school learning. They will be working in an after-school activity that have them compete with students from around the country in a student contest sponsored by the Verizon Foundation.
Photo by Patrick Rocchio

It may be THE one reason its okay for kids to use their cell phones in class.

Sixth grade students at a Bronx school are developing ideas for two smartphone and tablet apps designed to solve academic problems.

The project is part of a national contest sponsored by the Verizon Foundation.

Two teams of 12 sixth-grade students at Bronx Academy of Promise Charter School will be working on ideas for apps, said Tammi Trudel, one of the teachers in the after-school program.

“At this point we have polled all of the sixth grade students to come up with ideas about a problem they have and how technology can solve it,” said Trudel. “From that, we have taken that problem and we have brainstormed about how having an app might be helpful to solve it.”

Some of the final ideas were a game that creates a timing challenge, encouraging children to learn math, and a translation app for students who are learning English as a second language, said Trudel.

The school encourages students to bring in their mobile computers, and work on problems with their peers in a collaborative and supervised setting, said Trudel.

“The technology we use in the school are printers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones,” said fifth-grade student Giftbelle Lomotey.

That is how many students like to learn, according to research by the Verizon Foundation which found middle-school students who use mobile devices for learning express stronger interest in science, computer science, and math.

“…mobile technology can inspire and engage students today,” said Rose Stuckey Kirk, president of the Verizon Foundation.

The study also found 66% of students who wanted to use a tablet computer for learning were not allowed to, and that 88% were not allowed to use a smartphone.

The survey also found that 49% of Hispanic and 42% of African-American students are using smart phones for homework, compared with 36% of Caucasian students.

Engineer and Verizon Foundation director of education Justina Nixon-Saintil, who grew up in nearby Highbridge, visited the Mott Haven school with the Verizon Foundation on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

“I thought it would be really good to come to a school near where I grew up and show that you can become an engineer,” she said.

The winning teams, selected from 500 participating schools across the country, will be working on the development of their apps with Massachussettes Institute of Techonolgy Media Lab and Verizon.

They will receive training and instruction on how to bring their apps to the Android marketplace, mobile tablets.

They’ll also receive a $10,000 Verizon Foundation grant to enhance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics learning in their schools.

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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