sustainable learning spaces

Designing Our Future: Sustaining Space and Encountering eWaste

Kristi Apostel, Smarthinking
Shawn Apostel, Bellarmine University

Mobile Devices in Education
Tablets Usage Increases
Recycling Programs


Some months ago, our older daughter was in tears when Kristi picked her up from school. It turned out that she was unable to use an iPad in computer class like everyone else. Her concerns were soon remedied, and she joined her peers the next time her class worked with iPads. Not alone in these ventures, our daughter is one of thousands of students, from elementary to middle, from high school to college, and from public to private, who is increasingly using mobile devices as a supplement and even essential tool in the classroom. As students and their teachers willingly experiment with such devices, they quickly realize their benefits, and their demand naturally increases. Although it may seem as if the momentum for using mobile devices in the classroom is barely getting up-to-speed, we should, even now, recognize that, like all other electronics, these smart instruments will one day soon become obsolete. Able to handle only so many syrup-stained fingers on a day-to-day basis, the mobile devices that are such an asset today will, tomorrow, contribute to the burdensome e-waste stream that never seems to stop swelling. As Apostel and Apostel (2007) have reported, in the 1990s, when concerns for the e-waste stream became a hot topic, “out of the 20.6 million [then] outdated computers, the 6 percent actually recycled amount[ed] to only 1.2 million” (para. 5). Now, around 20 years later, the great-great grandchildren of these computers are becoming dust collectors while users clamor to the newest tablet, smartphone, or other touch device instead. Recognizing this trend is the very action that we, as educators who will use or are already using mobile devices in the classroom, need to take, as we seek to understand how we might divert our own contributions to this stream.

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