Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Learning with Mobile Devices — What Parents Think

Cheryl S. Williams's picture

Today the Learning First Alliance (LFA) and Grunwald Associates, with the support of AT&T, are releasing a report, Living and Learning with Mobile Devices, that documents survey results of parents’ attitudes and perceptions of the value of mobile devices as learning tools for their school-aged children.  Not surprisingly, parent perceptions are influenced by the level of personal usage they have with mobile technology and, as parental usage goes up, comfort level with the notion of their children’s use of this technology also increases. 

The report is an important reflection of just how far we’ve come in the use of and advocacy for appropriate use of technology in schools and classrooms.  As someone who has spent the past 25 years advocating for innovation in teaching and learning supported with technology and expanded connectivity, my view is that we’re at an important crossroads in transforming both the formal and informal learning spaces with new, less expensive, and more powerful technical devices.  As the survey found, more than 50 percent of high school students take a cell phone to school with them every day, and 24 percent of those surveyed use those cell phones in structured educational activities in school…commonly referred to as a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) school policy.  At a recent conference sponsored by LFA member the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), three award-winning Digital Principals described their innovative approaches to school leadership that enshrined policies friendly to student-owned handheld devices in the classroom and supported their use in activities supporting the curriculum. 

Another finding in the Living and Learning with Mobile Devices report was the increased support for use of mobile technologies among parents of pre-school and early grades students.  For these students and their families mobile devices have been a ubiquitous presence from birth and thus accepted as a daily tool providing information and communication throughout the day.

The report draws some useful conclusions and important recommendations for educators, parents and policymakers.  It’s clear that there’s an unmet desire for more content and mobile applications with educational value that support learning for students of all ages.  Based on parent feedback, it’s also imperative that schools partner with parents on establishing guidelines for use of mobile devices in and out of school; that educators make an effort to share what they experience and learn from peers on successful approaches to learning supported with mobile devices; and that schools and parents partner with industry to communicate issues related to student needs and technology effectiveness for improving teaching and learning.

Finally, it seems impossible for educators to ignore the increasing presence of mobile technology in all our lives and to do so would further distance the relevance of public schooling from the demands of daily life and student growth.  This important report provides valuable information to guide planning for expanding the use of mobile devices in partnership with parents of children in our schools to build a dynamic learning environment for all our students.

See an infographic of the report's results here.