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How are classrooms implementing mobile technology?

Supporters note that mobile technology boosts student engagement.

Advocates of mobile technology in the classroom say that devices such as tablets and smart phones boost student engagement and offer a way to personalize learning for each student. Now, a new survey takes a look at the extent to which mobile technology has penetrated classrooms, and reveals what’s keeping some districts from forging ahead with mobile technology deployments.

Across the globe, tablet sales have soared since 2012 and are expected to top laptop and desktop sales by 2015, according to Gartner research. More than one-third of U.S. teenagers own a smart phone, and nearly one-quarter–23 percent–have a tablet, and parents have reported that they believe their students’ reading and math skills improved while using mobile devices and related applications.

Interactive Educational Systems Design conducted an online survey of K-12 district technology and media leaders in May of 2013. The survey focused on the current and future levels of mobile technology adoption in schools; the most significant hurdles to mobile technology adoption; access to mobile technology in the classroom; bring your own device (BYOD) policies; interest in purchasing tablets for student use; the types of mobile devices that have been adopted or will be adopted for student instruction; and more.

(Next page: Where does mobile technology in the classroom stand?)Survey participants noticed a “steady surge” in mobile technology adoption in the time up until the survey was conducted, and that growth is projected to continue in the next two years.

Most barriers to adopting mobile technology in the classroom seem to be financial, with most districts reporting that they would deploy a one-to-one initiative and/or purchase tablets if they could afford it. District educators and technology leaders said that mobile technology helps make learning engaging and personalized, but that mobile device management issues persist, as well as the need for ongoing and targeted professional development and implementation support for teachers.

More than half (59.6 percent) of survey participants said they have adopted mobile technology in the classroom in about 25 percent or more of the schools in their district, and 15.5 percent said their district is very likely to adopt mobile technology in the next one to two years.

As school leaders seek to provide their students with invaluable mobile device know-how, some schools provide a classroom set of mobile devices for each student to use or for students to share.

Out of all districts surveyed, few said their classrooms have a one-to-one device-to-student ratio, but many respondents said they would implement such an initiative, or expand an existing initiative to one-to-one coverage, if their budgets allowed.

Administrators and educators tout mobile devices’ benefits, and the biggest benefits as identified by survey participants are the engaging nature of such devices, as well as their ability to support personalized instruction that caters to students’ different learning styles and needs.

Survey participants said they most want digital textbooks, student productivity tools, and creation tools on their mobile devices. More than half (62.4 percent) said they would pay $4 or more for an essential app, while 32.3 percent said they’d pay that much for a supplemental app, and a little more than half of respondents said they would pay $1.99 or less for a supplemental app.

In addition to funding barriers, survey respondents said that their schools and districts struggle with a lack of technology infrastructure to adequately support mobile technology in the classroom. These problems include bandwidth limitations, wireless connection challenges, and device maintenance and security.

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Laura Ascione

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