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Can You Reward Me Now? Cellphones for Academic Improvement

And now, for our (seemingly) weekly update on motivating students with rewards:

It looks like the proposal New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was considering back in November that would reward students for doing well in school with cellphones equipped with prepaid minutes has actually come to pass.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. For one thing, cellphones are banned in NYC classrooms, making this proposal a bit counterintuitive. Critics say that rewarding students with a prize that's banned from schools is sending the wrong message. But Roland Fryer, the creator of the program and a leader of the student incentives movement, says that educators have to motivate students by reaching them "where they are."

And, presumably, cellphones could help teachers do that. (Students will receive text messages from their teachers reminding them of upcoming assignments and tests.) Also, I imagine Fryer means reaching students where they are a little less than literally--in that schools should tap into students' interests and try to transfer that motivation into the classroom.

Also, as Teacher Magazine's Elizabeth Rich notes in the Web Watch blog, the students earn extra minutes (beyond the 130 that come standard on the phone) based on grades along with good behavior and attendance. This seems to be something that educators are turning towards more often. Like the program in Baltimore, student incentives are being tied to progress, rather than just the outcome of test scores.

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