Center for Digital Education & Converge: research in education technology for K-12 and higher education

Mobile Devices Pose Education Challenges and Promise

on November 5, 2013

AMERICAN CANYON, Calif. — Mobile devices are posing major challenges for school district leaders who are trying to get technology into the hands of every student.

"By the time you fund it and buy the equipment, you're almost out of date, and so you have this constant race to catch up," said J-Petrina McCarty-Puhl, science teacher at Robert McQueen High School in Reno, Nev.

"At the conference today, I'm seeing so many discussions and hearing so many conversations about the 1-1 ability with computers to students," said Tim Heck, principal of Sullivan Middle School and Bonsall New Tech High School who attended the annual Fall CUE conference. "And I think that's really a challenge for a number of reasons. One is financial, the other is the teachers need professional development on how to implement that."

"So we really have a technology divide of have and have nots in our whole county," said Jason Horsman, director of instructional technology for Central Unified School District in Fresno, Calif. "We're facing the challenge of how do we provide access equitably across all of our schools and to all of our students."

But educators are tackling these challenges head on as they're trying to improve learning for their students. Next year, the Fresno district will provide every student with a tablet that has a 4G data plan.

"I think about the instructional minutes that are lost that are with management of devices," said Angela Estrella, library media teacher at Lynbrook High School in San Jose, Calif., where students can now bring their own devices and have access to YouTube without going through a filter. "So when I think about what keeps me up at night, it's just knowing that my tools are going to work, and I'm not going to have to spend a lot of time troubleshooting it."

"It's important that we come to places like CUE to share what our school districts are doing to manage these devices, and I think through sharing that information, we'll have improved policies," Estrella said.

"We don't have that desire to be innovative, and so trying to stimulate that in people and help them see how our current digital learners need a different approach," McCarty-Puhl said. "They need better access to the technology because that's the way the outside world is, and unfortunately we're not recognizing that. We're staying paper and pencil."


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