I is for Innovation

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

To paraphrase those sage scholars of pop culture, the Black Eyed Peas, e-mail is just "so 2000 and late" for today's teens. Now it's all about the "i" words: iPhones and iPads and iMovies and IM. And we need look no further than school buildings for proof.

"We used to say 'no cell phones,' but the students presented the argument that cell phones are part of adult, professional life, so how about they work on using them responsibly," said Aimee Kennedy, assistant principal at The Metro Early College High School in Columbus. "So we have been."

The Metro School is all about innovation. Established in 2006, it's an alliance of Battelle, Ohio State University and 16 Franklin County school districts. According to the school's website, its goal is to prepare its 350 students "for a connected world where math, science and technology are vitally important."

What that means in everyday life are iPhone apps that enable parents and students to access their academic records anytime, Twitter updates for their "Metro Stories" and "Metrohs" followers, Wi-Fi access throughout the Kinnear Road campus, MacBooks for everyone, and multimedia presentations routinely created with iMovie software and uploaded to YouTube.

And the students are welcome to use their cell phones outside the classroom on campus.

"They use them to check Formspring and Facebook," Kennedy said, "but a lot of time I just hear them talking to their parents, making plans."

The Pew Research Center in Philadelphia has been documenting our cyber ways since 2000 with its Internet & American Life Project. In a report issued earlier this year, the Center noted that 75 percent of teens, ages 12 to 17, now own cell phones, an increase from 45 percent in 2004. And texting trumps e-mailing when teens want to communicate with other teens: 54 percent versus 11 percent.

"The future is mobile," said Alexis Chapman, a Columbus-based social-media expert who works with a variety of local and national organizations. "In the future, we'll be able to do everything using mobile devices."

After watching her freshman daughter Ayshea give a multimedia self-evaluation in June, Robin Grant said wistfully, "I wish we had had access to all this technology when we were in school."

But even with all this technology, the school still places great emphasis on old-fashioned, face-to-face communication skills. During sophomore Alexandra Scott's year-end self evaluation speech (a requirement for all of Metro's students), her internet connection crashed, yet she didn't miss a beat, continuing to talk while re-establishing the connection.

"We hear so much that because of the technology, the face-to-face skills are hindered, so that's why these kids are constantly presenting to groups," explained Ellen Hogue, Ayshea's advisor and a Spanish teacher at Metro. "When they speak to outside groups, we always hear about how much poise they have."