Today’s classroom technology should be changing to support the learning needs of the students who have grown up using technology every day. One opportunity is to engage students by allowing them to work from a mobile device in the classroom.
Today, 75% of children between the ages of 13-17 have a cell phone. Many of those devices, specifically smart phones, have more computing power than PC’s just a few years ago. So why not take advantage of cell phones and use them a center piece for learning in the classroom?
We posted the discussion about cell phone use in the classroom in an online forum. Here’s a quote from a teacher on a few of the challenges with cell phones in the classroom:
“There are serious legal issues poised by CIPA with regards to cell phone use. Also, there are equity issues - in my school district - some of the more affluent schools almost all students have them, whereas at our Title 1 schools, many students do not and they definitely don't have smart phones. At least from the Special Education side - schools have the requirement to provide FAPE - Free and Appropriate Education - if schools begin to allow cell phone use for some, they would be required to provide equal access to phones for all students. Today, I saw Velocity's Cruz tablet for less than $250 - it has wi-fi, runs android so has access to android/google apps, can be used as an e-reader, internet searches etc. - These would provide many of the same functions that we're looking for in cell phone use, without some of the drawbacks.”
I agree with her assessment of the challenges of cell phone use. Here are five reasons why tablet PC’s are the future of mobile devices in the classroom:
1) Standardization: Tablet PC’s can be standardized. Cell phones aren’t owned by the school and each student may have a different phone. Smart phones do have more computing power than PC’s we were using just a few years ago. But not everyone is carrying an Android or iPhone. How do you teach on a platform where one student has a Droid X and another student has a flip phone?
2) Availability: Schools (public schools at least) are required under different rules to provide “equal access” to tools and specifically technology tools for all of the students. If the school is depending on students to provide their own cell phone as a learning device, not all of the students would be able to bring in a phone that is up to the needs. This would raise issues in many of the public school systems.
3) Price: The iPad has changed the PC market so that every manufacturer wants slice of the tablet PC pie. This is awesome for the consumer and for school systems. The number of tablet PC’s on the marketing are going up and the cost entry point for tablets are dropping. There will be a flood of tablet PC’s to hit the streets this year and next. There are already Android tablets on the market for less than $300 as the comment above notes.
4) Functionality: The android tablet and the iPad both offer a better learning experience than a smart phone. They offer superior web access, customization, eReaders, note-taking ability, and everything else that exists in the world of apps. As tablets become the standard, more and more applications specifically built for learning will emerge.
5) Protection- The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires that protections exit on what type of websites K-12 students can visit for protection of the student. School Wireless Networks should (and are required) to provide Web Content filtering to control access to harmful sites. Today’s “Next Generation Firewalls” actually provide application level controls.
In other words, the firewall can see what websites the children are accessing (FaceBook, YouTube, etc.) and apply policies based upon that specific web address or application. If the student is using their own device, they may be connecting to the cell phone provider’s network and thus bypass the school’s web content filter.
Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of mobile devices in the classroom? We'd like to hear from you in the comments below.