Can mobile devices make the grade in the classroom?
A nationwide survey indicates that 71 percent of U.S. school districts are putting mobile devices in the hands of their students and many more would follow suit if their budgets allowed. Buy-in from school administration hasn't been easy but now districts are facing a new problem: parental acceptance.
Schools across the country have been petitioning administrators for years to loosen purse strings and allow the purchase of tablets or laptops for student use. Some estimates suggest there are already over 4 million mobile devices in classrooms today. Districts shell out millions of dollars to equip pupils with new technology, although some are dropping tablets in favor laptops.
Now that funding for mobile devices is finally gaining traction, parent concerns could derail the whole process. Kansas City Star's Joe Robertson reports that some parents fear technology in the classroom will lead to the loss of social skills and even interfere with learning concepts like handwriting and memorization.
It's too early to sound the panic alarm, says Keith Krueger, chief executive officer of the Consortium for School Networking in Washington, D.C. "There are a lot of adult misperceptions that all the time kids spend (on mobile devices) is bad," Krueger told The Star.
"It's not an inherently isolating experience like watching TV. Most of the things they are doing (in interactive online games) are with other kids, even hundreds of kids."
The impact of computers in the classroom is a tough nut to crack. Some studies show a direct correlation between laptop usage and lower grades while others suggest students equipped with tablets or laptops fare better than their pen-and-paper peers. As with most things related to new ways of doing things, it will take a while to see how the classroom tech issue plays out. Even then, the answer will most likely lie somewhere between "this was a total disaster" and "let's burn all the Trapper Keepers and pencils."