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It’s about democracy and freedom. Freedom for EVERY individual to have a chance to realize his or her dreams and aspirations, is what America was built on. And school is one place—home is another—where we learn how to practice freedom and democracy. Yes, we learn stuff there too; the War of 1812 occurred in 1812. However, that sort of stuff is static. And, democracy and freedom are anything but. Just as doctors practice medicine, individuals in a democratic country need to practice democracy and freedom 24/7; they need to practice realizing their dreams and aspirations 24/7.

STEM education is moving out of classrooms and onto smartphones, with a new mobile platform called Active Explorer that aims to inspire student interest in the sciences. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) partnered with Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach initiative and mobile virtual network operator Kajeet to create the program.

Nicholas Negroponte

In his call for a $100 LAPTOP for education in 2005, Nicholas Negroponte changed the course of computer history. In the face of many naysayers, Taiwan-based Asus announced the EeePC 701 subnotebook in June 2007 for a price of $199. While the actual price in November 2007 was about double that, Asus still sold 300,000 units in the first four months of its release and ultimately sold four million units in its first year of availability.

With over 200,000 applications available for Apple’s iPad and thousands more for Android devices, educators and students must sift through a lot of apps to find effective learning tools. An app is software that allows users to perform specific tasks on a mobile device.

A Pew Internet study released in April, “The Rise of e-Reading,” notes a gathering American trend of embracing digital content. The report found that 43 percent of Americans age 16 or older have read an e-book or other long-form digital material, such as a magazine article, over the past year. Of those in this age group who read every day or almost every day for work or school, 54 percent use tablets or other e-book readers. The report also says that those who read with e-book devices read more than others, and that portability and speedy access are major drivers of this trend.

Sixth-graders from the Wayland-Cohocton Middle School in New York train on Toshiba tablets, which the school won in a 2010 Win a Wireless Lab Sweepstakes.

Tablets have come a long way since Apple launched its pioneering Newton MessagePad in 1993, the first Internet-connected flat-screen device pairing a stylus with handwriting-recognition software. Since then, computer hardware companies have been refining and experimenting with the concept of Internet-connected tablet computing devices. The personal digital assistant (PDA), convertible laptop/tablets, dual-screen booklet tablets, e-book readers and other designs have been among the many iterations of tablet computers, sometimes known as slates or media tablets.

Netbooks Replace Smartphones
Watkins Glen (N.Y.) Central School District

Back in December 2009, Watkins Glen Central School District in Garnerville, N.Y., gave smartphones to 200 fifth- and seventh-graders and 20 teachers in three schools. Two years later, this small pilot program has transitioned away from mobile phones to a one-to-one netbook program for all 850 pupils in grades 5-12. According to Superintendent Tom Philips, the HP Pavilion netbook is more educationally appropriate for Watkins Glen than tablets or mobile phones.  

In the last few years, smartphones have moved quickly from banned to embraced in K12 schools as educators have realized that mobile learning devices engage students, enhance the teaching of 21st-century skills, and instantly check for understanding with student response applications. Districts have started upgrading their wireless networks to accommodate one-to-one technology initiatives, while others follow a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy.

Technology demonstrates its significant value time and time again, from improving productivity in the workplace, to providing a huge range of personalized entertainment opportunities, to making the slogan “Reach out and touch someone” an essentially frictionless reality. Unfortunately, in K12, technology has been a bust. In contrast to the communications industry, the music industry, the accounting industry, K12 has failed to see improvement in student achievement attributable to the use of technology.

Computing technologies have profoundly transformed just about every major organization and field of human endeavor. To take just two examples, Apple is the largest distributor of music in the world, and manufacturing and surgery are the province of robots, not humans.

But K12 still relies on textbooks and pencil pouches. Why have computing technologies failed to transform K12? Here are our 10 barriers to technology adoption.