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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.

The North Rockland Central School District in Garnerville, N.Y., started its MLD program in January. Eighty fifth graders, along with three teachers, at Haverstraw Middle School have been using smartphones in a one-to-one pilot project.

Starting in December 2009, Watkins Glen Central School District, in a small, rural town in upstate New York, put HTC 6800 smartphones in the hands of about 200 fifth- and seventh-grade students and 20 teachers (including special education support teachers) in three schools. We had felt that it was too risky to give students access to cell phones and texting with all of the problems associated with them, but when Verizon Wireless said they could turn off the voice and texting capabilities of the devices, we jumped at the opportunity to do a pilot study.

While St. Marys is a small, rural town in west central Ohio, over 800 students and 49 staff members are using mobile learning devices (HTC Touch Pro2s) in grades 3-7. The one-to-one 24/7 mobile learning project started in October 2008 as a small, 60-unit pilot, but it has exploded into the largest one-to-one mobile learning project in the nation. The students use the MLDs for at least 50 percent of the school day for all their academic subjects and then use them for homework outside of school.

You can take this prediction to the bank: Within five years, each and every K12 student, in each and every grade, in each and every school in the United States will be using a mobile learning device, 24/7. How can we say that when today 99 percent of the schools ban cell phones? Because mobile is bigger than the Internet.

While investigating a tip that a student had a picture of another, partially nude, female student on his cell phone, Ting-Yei Oei, assistant principal at Freedom High School in Loudoun County, Va., asked the student to e-mail the picture to his own cell phone. This seemingly tech-savvy way to preserve physical evidence had devastating consequences for Oei. The incident led to angry accusations from a parent, an investigation by police, and Oei's being charged with "failure to report child abuse" and felony possession of child pornography.

As a middle and high school math teacher for 14 years in the Norman (Okla.) School District and Dallas (Texas) Independent School District, Cathleen Norris at first thought the idea of using cell phones in a classroom was absurd. “Are you kidding?” she asked. “Would I want that distraction? That would make me crazy.”

Cell phones were banned from most schools years ago, but after the Columbine High School and 9/11 tragedies, parents started pressuring some school boards and administrators to reverse the bans. On its surface, allowing students to have cell phones under the guise of improved school safety may seem like a “no-brainer” to many board members and administrators. But an in-depth analysis suggests that while students having cell phones may make parents feel better, it actually could create a less safe situation in a school crisis.

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