NFA tries summer lessons via messaging

Norwich - Teachers and principals at Norwich Free Academy find the constant text-messaging by students to be the most disruptive problem in their classrooms, so now it's their turn.

Throughout the summer, NFA is sending one text message per weekday to students who have signed up - or whose parents have signed them up - for the new "Learning Doesn't Take a Vacation" program. The text messages started last week with vocabulary on Monday, science on Tuesday, math on Wednesday, history on Thursday and cultural literacy on Friday.

"Abdicate v. To give up (royal power or the like)," the students received on Monday. "Abduction n. A carrying away of a person against his will, or illegally."

James Landherr, the director of research and strategic planning at NFA, who launched the program, said about 300 students and about 40 parents have signed up for the texts. He also has gotten "a couple of nasty comments" back from students who didn't sign themselves up.

" 'Stop this!'" he recalled one message saying.

"There are 206 bones in the adult human body and there are 300 in children," they received on Tuesday. "As children grow some of the bones fuse together."

Landherr sent a letter home to parents in May asking if they wanted to sign up for the program.

He started by telling parents that teachers and principals overwhelmingly cite cell phone use as the top distraction to education.

Learning Doesn't Take a Vacation will try to "bridge the divide" between the technologies students use in school and at home.

"Of the following, which is greater than ½? A. 2/5. B 4/7. C. 4/9. D. 5/11. E. 6/13. Answer: B," Wednesday's text said.

For longer lessons, Landherr is sending weekly e-mails with page-long teachings on various topics. For those who don't have computers at home, he urged families to sign up at local libraries to receive the e-mails.

"The five Great Lakes in the US: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior," Thursday's text said. "Remember them using HOMES."

This week's e-mail will be on the solar system.

It's not too late for NFA families to register for the program. To subscribe, send an e-mail to

"George Orwell is best known for his novel called 1984," students received Friday. "The term Big Brother is from that novel written in 1949."


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