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Are Schools on the Verge of a Mobile-Phone Revolution?

Over 75 percent of teens own cell phones, making them the perfect tool for learning—if teachers are on board with using them.

These days its pretty impossible to find a teen without a cell phone—over 75 percent of them own one—which means that schools should be seriously looking at how to harness the technology in the classroom. In fact, given the possibilities for learning through games, simulations, virtual environments and interfaces, we could be on the verge of a mobile education revolution. But, while isolated schools or school districts have experimental pilot projects, many educators are still pretty wary of mobile-based learning, and some even ban mobile phones from being on campus.

Why all the skepticism? Some teachers worry that instead of using their phones for a sanctioned classroom purposes, students will spend their time texting or playing games. School districts also worry about the possibility of a lawsuit from angry parents if a student accesses inappropriate websites using the school's wireless connection, or, for example, engages in online bullying during school hours. However, those kinds of worries aren't insurmountable, and actually teaching kids how to properly use their mobile phones is a smart solution.

Some educators don't believe that mobile phones actually do help kids learn. Mobile learning is so new that there's not a whole lot of academic research indicating that using phones in the classroom actually boosts student achievement. Harvard professor Chris Dede, who's done extensive research on the issue, says that, "We know from generations of work that devices are catalysts"—which means that while the mobile phones themselves aren't going to make kids learn. When teachers receive professional development on how to use mobile phones to enhance their regular lessons and combine that with, "changes in content, new forms of assessment, and linking people together," we'll start to see more adoption.

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