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iPhone 6 is here; have mobile devices really made a difference in the classroom?

Of course, the conventional laptop is the top choice when it comes to completing assignments.
EdChron Desk on September 14, 2014 - 6:39 pm in Africa, Asia, Australia & NZ, EdNews, MAIN, Opinions, Science & Tech, U.K., U.S., World


The iPhone 6 may soon find its way into your classroom, whether it’s in your pocket, purse, or in the backpacks of your students. This newer, lighter, thinner, and faster iPhone is one more Apple tool that you can use to improve your students’ access to information in the classroom. With the improved display that can be viewed easily at wider viewing angles, more students can gather around as you share a video that illustrates a concept in class.

iPads, iPhones and other mobile devices have revolutionized (or so it’s claimed) the way classrooms operate. For visual learners, they have been a boon. Apps have created interactive learning opportunities that teach and reinforce concepts. Entire websites are devoted to helping teachers make the most out of apps in their classes.

Of course, the conventional laptop is the top choice when it comes to completing assignments, working on group projects and designs. And the effectiveness and usefulness of such devices outside of classroom lesson execution have been tremendous.

But have the tablets and smartphones made a substantially positive impact in the studying and learning process?

Students want mobile devices to automate current tasks

In 2013, Pearson ran the Student Mobile Device Survey to better understand how students use mobile technology for learning. 3,556 U.S. students were surveyed, including:

  • 500 elementary school (4th-5th grade) students
  • 750 middle school (6th-8th grade) students
  • 1,100 high school (9th – 12th grade) students
  • 1,206 college students

The survey asked students from grade 4 through college about the mobile devices that they own and intend to buy; how they currently use mobile devices for school work and how they expect to use them in the future; and their attitudes towards tablets for learning. The full infographic can be found here, but below are parts of the full results.



It seems students are fairly connected and this uptrend is set to continue. The use of such mobile devices in school are also in line with what the industry wants to achieve – a better learning ecosystem that provides for more efficient learning. There are more studies to show the inclination towards the use of mobile devices, as supported by students and teachers.

More studies concur positive effects of mobile device in class

A study, conducted in Auburn, Maine, randomly assigned half of the districts 16 kindergarten classes to use iPads for nine weeks. In all, 129 students used an iPad, while 137 students were taught without an iPad. Each of the 266 students were tested before and after the iPads were introduced into the classroom. According to this article, the classes using the iPads outperformed the non-iPad students in every literacy measure they were tested on.

A 2013 study by the University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) reported higher levels of attentiveness, engagement, and learning in students using laptops in the classroom than those who did not.

But are these devices really helping in the classroom?

These mobile devices have always been associated with the social aspects of the world wide web – it allows you to stay connected from wherever you are. When placed in a classroom setting, would the iPads or Galaxy Tabs really lose their social shine and transform into an interactive lesson-only device?

The L.A. School District only recently halted its arrangement with Apple to provide iPads to every student in a $500-million deal. According to TabTimes, “among other issues, school officials were unprepared and disturbed by the student’s ability to bypass security restrictions and download additional non-educational apps to the device which many were allowed to bring home.” Businessweek elaborated “it took only a few days for students at Westchester High School, in southwestern Los Angeles, to bypass the filtering software so they could update their Facebook pages and stream music from Pandora.”

How do we truly measure effectiveness?

The use of eDevices in the classroom is about engagement, accelerating understanding and improving the efficiency of knowledge transfer from teacher to student. Theoretically, the eDevices allow teachers to teach more in lesser time compared to the traditional blackboard method of non-interactive teaching.

The best way to measure effectiveness of these devices in the classroom is a test at the end of every device-oriented lesson. However, correlation does not imply causation. The question: is correlation enough to decide on the way forward? Unless there is concrete, quantifiable data to put beyond doubt the effectiveness of using mobile devices in the classroom, this debate will continue with every new wave of devices touted as the next game-changer in education.

In the meantime, this might be the only effective use of mobile devices in the classroom:

take notes

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.


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  • September 19, 2014

    Definitely agree that the use of devices in the classroom is about engagement. As educators, using such devices has not only accelerated understanding but has also managed to capture the attention span of our students.

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