“The studies give a sense of what happened when students had a device that they controlled in the classroom and could carry around with them. … We’re beginning to get some understanding of how students use technology,” Hezel said.

It is especially important to understand how students use mobile devices for learning, and how educators can encourage that use, so that technology is not incorporated without a positive impact.

“One thing that we’re always going to come back to is that technology is just a tool—it may help to amplify learning, but it’s not the panacea, and we’re always making statements about the appropriateness of technology,” Hezel said.

Research-based benefits of one-to-one mobile learning initiatives might include:

  • Improvements in attendance and discipline
  • Broader array of learning resources and experiences
  • Increased frequency and quality of supportive individual and group interactions
  • Improvements in student and parent attitudes toward the school
  • Increases in student achievement

U.S. Department of Education (ED) data from May 2010 indicate that about half of all public schools in the U.S. are giving handheld devices to administrators, teachers, or students.

But most of those handheld devices go to administrators, Hezel said. “A few teachers get mobile phones, and very few schools actually give those mobile devices to the students,” he added.

Still, a growing percentage of students with cell phones or smart phones makes it possible for teachers to incorporate mobile devices in their classrooms without targeted device donations or distributions. April 2010 data from the Pew Research Center indicated that 75 percent of students ages 12-17 own a cell phone or a smart phone.