GOOD

Can Free Cell Phones Motivate Kids to Learn? (UPDATED)

An experiment with 1,500 kids in Oklahoma City, led by Harvard economist Roland Fryer, hopes to find out.




We use financial incentives all the time, but does incentivizing education—paying excellent teachers more money, paying students for grades, even paying students (and their parents) for better performance—work?

Enter Roland Fryer, an economist at Harvard University, whose research hinges upon whether giving students a culturally relevant incentive will impact achievement. So far, his experiments have been attempted in many cities around the country.

Earlier today, Fryer began a nine-month experiment in Oklahoma City, giving away 1,500 free cell phones to 6th and 7th graders, as part of The Million program. All students will receive a phone with 300 minutes and text-messaging capabilities. One-third will get a set number of minutes each month, while two-thirds can earn minutes in exchange for reading books. If a student reads a book and scores well on a subsequent test, it gets converted to phone time. Students will also be sent a mixture of fact-based ("high school graduates make more money") and persuasive-based ("did you ever notice there's no business card for fry cook?") text messages to see which is more effective at inspiring achievement. Samsung donated the phones; TracFone Wirless provided the minutes and the texts.


"We're making academic success as covetable as a Cadillac Escalade or a Jay-Z album to address the demand side of the equation," said Andrew Essex, CEO of Droga5, the advertising agency that conceived of The Million. "We're giving kids something they actually want."

But results from using incentives appear to be mixed. While paying older kids is typically less effective, when Fryer paid elementary kids in Dallas $2 for each book they read, students made substantial gains on test scores. Fryer's research (PDF) has concluded that incentives only work when the goal is "softer," say, or for things like reading more books or turning in homework. Whereas when "harder" goals are concerned, for things like raising test scores or grades, incentives tend not to work as well.

Back in 2008, The Million was previously attempted with 2,500 New York City school kids, but a lack of private donations later killed the initiative.

In terms of incentivizing education, do prizes interfere with learning for learning's sake? Will cell phones ultimately motivate students to learn? What's your prediction?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZMlA7Ctv1Q

Photos courtesy of The Million.

Articles

Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News

An anonymous White House official claims President Trump cruelly limited Hispanic immigrants in their new book, "A Warning."

The book, to be released on November 19, gives an alleged insider account of the Trump White House and paints a picture of the president as a chaotic man who lacks the mental and moral acumen required for the job.

The anonymous staffer says that Trump once feigned a Hispanic accent and made fun of women attempting to immigrate to the U.S.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via KTVU / YouTube

The 63-year-old Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, currently branded the RingCentral Coliseum, is one of the most decrepit sports venues in America.

The home to the the NFL's Oakland Raiders (until they move to Las Vegas next season) and MLB's A's, is notoriously known as the Black Hole and has made headlines for its frequent flooding and sewage issues.

One of the stadium's few positive aspects is its connection to public transportation.

Keep Reading Show less
Hero Video
Yad Vashem

Since 1992, the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous has been holding reunion ceremonies between Holocaust survivors and rescuers once a year. But the tradition is coming to an end, as many have died or are too frail to travel. What might be the last reunion of its kind took place when a 92-year-old woman met up with the two surviving family members that she helped hide during the Holocaust, and their descendants.

Sarah Yanai and Yossi Mor introduced Melpomeni Dina (nee Gianopoulou) to their almost 40 family members, all decedents of the Mordechai family, the family of seven that Dina and her two sisters hid during WWII. "There are no words to describe this feeling," Dina told the Jeruselum Post. "It is very emotional for us to be together again."

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Facebook / Autumn Dayss

Facebook user and cosplayer Autumn Dayss has stirred up a bit of Halloween controversy with her last-minute costume, an anti-Vaxx mother.

An image she posted to the social network shows a smiling Dayss wearing a baby carrier featuring a small skeleton. "Going to a costume party tonight as Karen and her non-vaccinated child," the caption over the image reads.

Keep Reading Show less
Health