Somerville High Receives Grant for PC Tablets in the Classroom

The high school received the grant from the Verizon Foundation, and Somerville students will help test academic software for math and science.

Some might know Somerville High as the “2011 Innovative High School of the Year” from the white banner than hangs from the school’s façade—a reminder of an award it received this year from the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation.

Since then, the school has fortified its tech-friendliness by receiving a grant from the Verizon Foundation, the communication company's philanthropic arm, to test academic software on PC tablets.

Gretchen Kinder, who writes and manages grants for the district, learned last week that the high school would receive $35,000 to $40,000 to buy between 40 and 50 tablet PCs. Teachers will learn to use the tablets and Verizon’s Thinkfinity software throughout the fall and later introduce them into the classroom to help the company try out and develop lessons, games and tools.

"It's cool and a little prestigious," Kinder said of the grant. 

The district should kick off the project at the end of September, Kinder said, but added that with thousands of the company's employees striking, it could be delayed. 

With their new materials, students could learn about global warming, how shyness might relate to brain structure and how red maple trees have spread through the Northeast, according to some of the lesson plans on the Thinkfinity website.

They could also use tools to graph data, explore the voltage of batteries and the relationship between line segments and the radius of a circle. 

Students will not be able to access the Internet on the tablets, Kinder said.

Meanwhile, she said she believed that the Verizon Foundation had chosen the high school because of the district’s interest and use of technology in the classroom.

Biology teachers have been working with faculty at MIT to develop and test smartphone games that could help teach lessons, she said. At the same time, high school students have also created e-portfolios to display their essays, art projects and other schoolwork. And teachers throughout the district  to run a graphic calculator application or play instructional videos.


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