Smartphones & Education

Chad Gillis, Journalist | 4/10/2012 | 6 comments

Chad Gillis
The role of technology in education is growing around the world as remote, previously unconnected cultures gain access to smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. How will technology influence human growth and development and at what stages? Does smartphone usage mean smarter people? Opinions are split at best, and much of the answer might have to do with where you are and your age.

Gartner conducted a poll posted on Textually.org, which found that 46 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 24 would rather have access to the Internet than to their own cars. The Baby Boomer generation came in at 15 percent.

That's a tremendous paradigm shift from just a few years ago and speaks loudly to how our evolving population chooses to interact with the world. Clearly, a portion of young adults would rather have instant access to a virtual version of reality than seek out a more traditional, engaging experience.

A Poll Position national survey found that Americans between the ages of 18 and 44 believe these devices will have a positive impact on education. Fifty-four percent of respondents between the ages of 30 and 44 see tablets and smartphones as useful educational tools.

In Southeast Asia, UNESCO volunteer teacher Vicky Colomba worked with two study groups involving children in remote communities along the border of Thailand and Myanmar.

“My experience showed me that the ubiquity of mobile phones constitutes an enormous but unexploited potential to bring learning to a huge number of people, including marginalized groups such as migrants or refugees,” Colomba wrote. “Instead of debating on the pros and cons of using mobile phones in education we should now be focusing on how to use them.”

But on the other end of the spectrum, you have Stanford University communications professor Clifford Nass who suggests smartphone and mobile device use can actually slow down productivity in the majority of people:

    Smartphones encourage you to do multiple things at once, which is not physiologically healthy for you because we are not built to do a multitude of tasks at one time. Research shows that multitasking lessens your ability to focus on what is relevant. Your phone makes you feel like you have to respond, which then increases your stress and harms your cognitive thinking.

Nass, who does own a smartphone, says that some users (those who can ration their time on social media platforms and other digital quasi-distractions) can benefit from having instant access to immense amounts of information. That situation, however, is not the norm, according to his findings.

Others, including Nicolas Carr, have suggested long-term access to nearly unlimited information will make us less cognitively capable, degrade our memories, and make it difficult to make those types of broad connections across various fields that enable innovation.

With this type of disagreement, educators and education CIOs still have to tread lightly. No one wants to be the person who spends money on devices that hurt our kids -- nor miss out on using the technology that will help kids reach a new level. No matter where you fall on the issue of smartphone and mobile device use in education, portable communication tools are clearly playing a greater roles in our lives, from social tools to gaming to educational platforms. In many ways, the decision will be out of the hands of CIOs, just as consumerization has taken the decision out of the hands of CIOs in the enterprise. Preparing for the potential issues might be the best they can do.

What do you think? What role do you see smartphones playing in education over the next five years? Comment below, if you still have the cognitive capacity.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
freespiritny25   Smartphones & Education   4/27/2012 10:29:17 AM
Re: Smartphone & Education
My cognitive capacity does suffer due to my multitasking :) I think the smartphones should stay out of the classroom. Students use them all day long and I believe they should be turned off during class time and give them time to focus on the lesson and learning without a phone on their hands.
Ahsan Zia   Smartphones & Education   4/14/2012 2:48:13 PM
Smartphones
Smartphones, no wonder are amazing gadgets that control our lives today. We can literally do anything by using millions of apps that are pouring into the AppStores from different vendors. Education field is also a very intimidating field for the app developers who have come up with marvelous software that can assist students in developing knowledge just by a few clicks. Numerous websites are available that can be accessed through search engines. So in simple words - Yes, smartphones are a great way to broaden the horizon of students and give the education system a new shape. Of course when there are pros, there are cons. But being an optimist, I usually stick to the pros.
bnazarian   Smartphones & Education   4/11/2012 10:15:24 AM
Re: likely a disruption
This is a good topic that needs to be discussed. I am thinking about similar things all the time, with the number of devices in my household alone, in the double digits. My daughter juggles an iPod touch and a current but "not a Smartphone" cell phone. She's downloading music, Facebooking, texting, etc. all the time. I've had an Android Smartphone for about 9 months (I was slow to jump onto the bandwagon). It does take you away from other things sometimes but it also makes life a little easier for me when I leave the house - navigation, finding restaurants, shopping, hearing Pandora radio stations in my car for example. 

The newest cool thing in my house are the guitars though. I got one for my daughter and I, one for my son. They've been taking lessons and are learning to play.

Recently I had a similar discussion to this post topic with my daughter. I told her years ago we didn't have social networking and Youtube, texting and all the cool video games to distract us from past times like learning a musical instrument. And that in some places where there was nothing else to do, a kid could become really proficient in sports or musical instruments, a craft or past time not aided by electronics and an Internet connection because there wasn't that distraction. She said "I bet there were more people then that were good at those things." Yep. probably. 

On the other hand, if my kids want to learn to play a rock riff for beginners, they have only to type in what they want and Youtube brings up hundreds of videos made by guitarists more advanced than them, showing them how to play those songs.

It appears to be a double edged sword.
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Henrisha   Smartphones & Education   4/11/2012 4:19:15 AM
Re: likely a disruption
I think this could go both ways. When implemented right, the possibility that the smartphones would pose only as distractions can be minimized. But when limits are not set or when the program is not as well-planned as it should be, then that's when we're going to be having problems.
Pedro Gonzales   Smartphones & Education   4/10/2012 11:05:58 PM
smartphones
I think smartphone are just tools which should help education, smartphone are not the end by itself and by using them it should not automatically improve education or makes us smarter.  I believe that smartphone or other portable devices should support specific education goals, as we all not, if a smartphone is giving to a student who is not interested in the classes, they will use it for texting or wasting time.  Again, we should have clear goals on how this technology should be used in the class room and the software it supports.
kstaron   Smartphones & Education   4/10/2012 2:14:35 PM
likely a disruption
Unfortunately I think it more likely that as far as education goes smartphones are more likely to disrupt learning through kids paying more attention to their game apps than the teacher, or though new nd improved ways of bullying. I look at smartphones and think they are a great tool...for grownups.


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