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Going Mobile

After billions of dollars spent, the impact on student achievement of computer use in K12 has been essentially zero. The reason is: The same textbooks, the same curriculum and the same pedagogy continue to be used, but computers have been substituted for pencil and paper. Teachers have had their students use computers to search for information instead of having them go to their school library. Direct instruction is the technical term for this teacher-centric pedagogical style, but we refer to it as "I teach."

In 2008 for the first time, laptops outsold desktops. In 2010 for the first time, smartphones outsold laptops.

Kids texting

Make no mistake: 2015 is the year in which each and every student in America's K12 public school system will have a mobile device to use for curricular purposes, 24/7. For the majority of schools, one-to-one will be achieved because they will have adopted a BYOD policy: Bring your own device. Schools simply can't afford to buy a computing device for every student: Bonds aren't passing, and budgets are being slashed. And most school-age children are acquiring their own mobile computing devices for entertainment and communication. But there is no free lunch—surprise!

Everything was hunky-dory. Baby-boomer-age teachers prepared baby-boomer children to take on baby-boomer- age jobs. But things have changed. In the 1990s, the baby-boomer jobs started drying up, and the baby-boomer kids became the digital generation, playing video games and listening to illicit MP3s. And now? Well, it's not hunky-dory at all. Baby-boomer teachers are preparing the mobile generation.

In your schools, In your classrooms, you will soon allow students to use computing devices they already own. While today 99 percent of schools ban cell phones and other mobile devices from the classroom, there will be a 180-degree turnaround within four years. This coming shift is inevitable.

Elliot: It looks like mobile learning is finally at its tipping point.

Cathie: It really depends on one's definition of mobile learning. Schools are buying carts of iPads.

Elliot: I know, it breaks my heart. Haven't we learned anything from the past?

Cathie: A cart of iPads will have about as much impact on student achievement?

Elliot: a cart of laptops had on student achievement. Deja vu all over again!

Cathie: And lest there be any doubt about what we mean...

There are some astonishing new facts about mobile technology:

You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet

Stop talking about the past! There were 18,628 words in the 12 articles in The New York Times Magazine's 2010 education issue. Of the 12 articles, only one 465- word sidebar used the words "mobile phone," "cell phone" or "smartphone"—13 times. If we were reading the technology section or the business section, those words would be too numerous to count. While we appreciate being told about how education has been, we would have expected The New York Times Magazine to tell us how education is going to be.