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

Mobile devices in Education

Before we do so, however, it’s crucial to examine just how much mobile devices are presently in use in all types of schools and by students of all ages. The recent New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report on K-12 education for 2013 explains that “Mobile learning is becoming an integral part of K-12 education, as it is increasingly common for students to own and use portable devices. With easy to use, touchscreen interfaces, even the youngest children can easily pick up a tablet or smartphone and interact with it almost immediately” (p. 4). With ease of use, frequency of use rises, and, as Common Sense Media (2013) reports, “The past two years have seen an explosion in the use of mobile media platforms and applications (‘apps’) among young children…in 2011, 8% had an iPad or similar tablet device; today, 40% do” (p. 20). Using mobile devices isn’t popular only among elementary aged-children, however. Pearson’s recent Student Mobile Device Survey 2013 followed use among students in grades 4-8, one third of which “used a tablet for school work in the 2012-2013 school year,” with “over four in ten [using] a smartphone for school work” (p. 7). Moreover, among college students, the sister survey found that while three in ten students owned tablets in 2012, four in ten owned them in 2013, and, today, “about one in four college students use tablets regularly for school work” while “among those who have used a tablet for school work, two-thirds use the device at least a few times a week” (Pearson, 2013b, p. 7). While personal ownership and use of mobile devices doesn’t necessitate educational use, many schools are stepping up to the plate, using student-owned devices to their advantage.

Figure 1: Kristi Apostel used this Prezi during her presentation at the 2014 Watson Conference.

Indeed, home use of mobile devices spills over into classroom use, as schools implement BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs, one of the many ways in which these devices are changing the interplay of the day-to-day activities in the classroom. Many educators are pursuing BYOD programs because they directly impact their institution’s budget: “schools can spend less money on technology overall if they focus their efforts on equipping the students who cannot afford their own devices. The relative new interest in BYOD programs has been accompanied by an attitude shift as school teachers and staff better understand the capabilities of smartphones and other devices” (New Media Consortium, 2013, p. 8). Other educators and administrators are bringing mobile devices into their buildings through gifts, grants, and budgetary funds. For example, The Boston Globe has actually provided iPads, projectors, and free digital subscriptions to local public school classrooms (Riddell, 2013, para. 17). Higher institutions like Yale are taking advantage of technology grants, incorporating iPads into classes ranging from writing to biology (Riddell, 2013, para. 15). And, last fall, the Los Angeles Unified School District continued its much discussed iPad project by voting to equip “all 600,000 students with tablets” (Pinette, 2013, para. 1). This many students, who alone could make up a medium-sized city population, fill up the 47 schools in the district, which has an “overall plan is to provide every student with a device” by the end of the current academic year (Common Core Technology Project, para. 2).

Other schools take advantage of technological trends through electronic reading devices, mobile app learning and design, and virtual and remote laboratories that students on campus can access with mobile devices. E-readers, which were on the scene as early as 1998, when NuroMedia released their handheld eBook reader, The Rocket (“Ebook Timeline,” 2002, para. 11) and, later, when Amazon set fire with the Kindle in 2007, are common features in the classroom and at home: “As of 2013, more than one in four children (28%) have ever read books (or been read to) on an eReader or tablet device” (Common Sense Media, 2013, p. 28). In addition, app design has permeated curriculum for students of all ages, as “app development and programming is being taught to K-12 students in schools and after-school programs” (New Media Consortium, 2013, p. 4). San Francisco based Technovation, for instance, has supported app development programs in schools in locations such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and New York City (Ash, 2012, para. 7). After school app development programs have stretched into less populated areas, such as outside of Raleigh, NC, where private school students have learned app programming through partnerships between the North Carolina Based Lenovo and the National Academy Foundation, a NYC non-profit (Ash, 2012, para. 27). Moreover, mobile learning has even brought significant benefits to schools unable to purchase advanced technologies. In science-based disciplines, for example, mobile devices are allowing students to enter virtual and remote laboratories, where scientific experiences become “more accessible for schools that lack fully equipped labs” (New Media Consortium, 2013, p. 5). Clearly, the advantages, opportunities, and capabilities mobile devices bring to the classroom are undeniable, and, not surprisingly, educators are not alone in their enthusiasm for using them.

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