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Mobile Devices in the Classroom

This fall I took an online class to learn about ways to use cellphones in the classroom. There has been much in the media recently about ways to utilize this ubiquitous technology in a positive way to enhance learning. While I learned many cool phone apps, I was not convinced that trying to use some of these apps on phones in my classroom would really work. Polling students for understanding a new concept, recording short summary statements about what they learned, capturing photos for later use in a presentation; are all neat applications that might prove useful.

As a faculty at my school, we're now looking at iPads and how we might use them in the classroom. A "deal" from the local Apple salesman prompted our school director to ask the question, is this something we want to pursue? While I am certainly intrigued by the cool factor, and would love to own an iPad myself, I am struggling to see the benefits of using them in my classroom. The biggest roadblock to using iPads in a computer science classroom is the lack of programming apps. The only one I have heard of so far is Codea. And I wonder if the user interface of the iPad makes it too cumbersome to do heavy production work. Is programming an activity that just requires a laptop or desktop computer with a full keyboard, RAM, and a hard drive?

Considering other subject areas beyond computer science, are the iPads versatile enough to make them the device of choice for our students? Many of my students bring laptops to school, and are constantly using them during the school day, admittedly not always for educational purposes. But is a full featured computer replaceable with a tablet where files must be stored in the cloud, the display is smaller, and typing is difficult? You can buy a netbook with all these features for a lot less than even the cheapest iPad.

On the other hand, the number of apps for the iPad is just exploding. Certainly, many computer science teachers are starting to offer classes in programming for mobile devices.

If the software development world turning its focus to mobile devices, is it time to make the leap and start utilizing these technologies more in our classroom?

Karen Lang
CSTA Board of Directors
9-12 Representative

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