If you’re anything like me, you feel completely at a loss without your smartphone.
After all, we use those puppies for placing calls, sending texts, checking social media, snapping photos and even keeping track of our schedules. They’re absolute lifesavers.
But busy adults aren’t the only people glued to their phones. Step into any school parking lot and, for better or for worse, you’ll see a smartphone in the hand of just about every student. Project Tomorrow's 12th-annual Speak Up Research Project found that 68 percent of students in grades six through eight have access to a smartphone outside of school, along with 82 percent of students in grades nine through 12.
The ready availability of these devices has even led some schools to test their applications in the classroom. According to Project Tomorrow, 23 percent of sixth- through eighth-graders and 58 percent of ninth- through 12th-graders use smartphones to support in-classroom learning.
Smartphones: A Piece of the Mobility Puzzle
Considering that smartphones were long considered a distraction, it may seem a bit surprising that so many schools are now sanctioning the devices; but let’s look at the benefits: For one thing, students are already so accustomed to using these devices in their personal lives that little to no training is needed.
Educational and productivity apps make smartphones even more of an asset to students. Note-taking and voice memo apps help students record assignments and class discussions, while scheduling apps remind students of important due dates. ResponseWare and apps like it can also enhance in-class activities by turning students’ smartphones into response systems that let them answer teachers’ questions virtually.
Even texting can deepen learning: One study found that when teachers engage students in course-related discussions, offer feedback and open themselves up to questions via text messages, students’ assignment and exam grades benefit.
Exploring Alternative Technologies
Of course, smartphones are not the only answer to classroom mobility. Just about all of the benefits discussed above are also intrinsic to notebooks, tablets and hybrid devices.
The difference is that three of these devices outperform smartphones when it comes to display size and storage. Tablets are also ideal for watching videos and reading documents, while the physical keyboards on notebooks and two-in-one devices offer a level of productivity that even tablets can’t match.
Beyond the Hardware
With all the options out there, school administrators might assume that device procurement is the hardest part of any mobility initiative, but that impression couldn’t be more wrong.
Well before they start comparing devices, administrators will need to consider issues such as parents’ responses to a mobility rollout, teacher training needs, acceptable-use policy adjustments and, most important, technology’s role in curricula.
IT decision-makers, on the other hand, will need to determine whether the school’s wireless infrastructure can support a surge in traffic. They may also want to explore enterprise mobility management software and managed tablet bundles when considering how they’ll deploy and maintain the new devices.
None of these decisions is simple. That’s why it’s important to work with knowledgeable technology experts who can walk decision-makers through the implementation process and ensure that ¬— regardless of whether schools deploy smartphones, notebooks or something in between — mobility initiatives go off without a hitch.
This article is part of the “Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.