Why Smart Devices are Needed for Students
As an educator I have encountered many different fads and technologies. Some are silly, some have a use, but none have been as amazing to the education of students as the advent of the smart device. Smart devices are things like the iPhone, iPod Touch, Android phones and devices, tablets and more. More than any other evolution of technology these devices have made it possible for the learning and education of students to continue beyond the classroom and into everyday life. The reality of the matter is that smart devices improve the education of users, save time and effort for parents, teachers and students, as well as improve student safety when used right. Parents should seriously consider getting a smart device for their children.
The purpose of school is education, but education does not stop when school is out. Many of the reasons teachers assign homework is because they are trying to keep that process going. Sadly this often results in busy work. This can teach, but it is not the most effective means. On the other hand, if students have smart devices that can access free and cheap educational applications then the learning does not stop at the school doors. It is amazing to see how many educational programs are available for free. Things like Khan Academy (khanacademy.org), which only needs internet access to allow students to get customized tutoring and learning. But even when those free programs are taken out of consideration, the massive number of educational applications available amazes. As for cost, consider that just a back in the early 2000’s the cost for a basic PC educational program was at least $30. Now educational programs in the form of mobile applications are available for as little as 99 cents! Even then, if that is just too costly there are many free options such as the one I mentioned above.
Saved Effort & Time
I cannot think of how often I have been confronted with a question in homework from students or family that stumped me. That is so frustrating. Since we live in a world of specialization and there is so much to know it is next to impossible to remember all of it unless we are the Rain Man. In either case, educational apps solve this problem. As designs in programs become more user friendly, applications interact with the learning more effectively. Better still, most application stores offer user review sections as well as opportunities to try trial versions of the apps. This means that your student has access to the best with little to no cost in time and effort. Furthermore, there are many blogs, such as Android in Education, that review learning applications. These are excellent sources for information. Not only do these help your student, they can help you too. I for one use a speed math application to improve my ability to solve math problems in my head. I use a dictionary & thesaurus app that helps me look up the words I need when writing lessons and articles. The only limitation for uses of these devices is imagination.
Student safety is key. Considering the tragedies of school shooting and bombings all over the world anything that can improve their safety is essential. This is why it is a wonderful thing for student to have smart devices. Even if parents cannot afford data plans for smartphones most schools have wi-fi networks open for student use. Since there are many applications that enable text messaging and calling over wi-fi this means if there is an attack on a school the students can call for emergency services. Additionally, students can also call for help in the case of medical emergencies. Students can also keep in contact with parents and guardians. This makes it possible for parents to be aware of their location and safety status.
I have heard parents and teachers say that smart devices, especially smartphones, are a distraction at best and a means of cheating at worst, but this does not have to be the case. In reality there are many tools that parents can use to prevent students from being distracted from using these devices as learning tools. Applications call app lockers actually allow the parents to lock certain applications or types of applications so they cannot be used without a password. Furthermore, especially on Android devices, parents can actually set time frames for when those apps will unlock automatically as well as how long the student can use that app before they get kicked off of it. In classrooms, the teachers can require that students turn the smart device off and put them on the desk face down to prevent cheating. The reality is that the uses of these devices as learning tools far outweigh the minor problems that result from them. This does mean that parents and teachers need to do a little extra work, but considering the effort, time, and money saved in the long run there is very little excuse for students not to have a smart device of their own.
Smart devices are a key to our educational future. Gone are the days of “summer dumb” with the regular use of these devices for education. Gone are the days of students being stuck and failing classes if they don’t have access to personalized tutors. Students can explore their full potential by using these small pieces of technology to learn and grow. The reality is that these devices are one of the greatest leaps in educational advancement since the TV. And like the TV there are uses that do not teach. Consider this however, is it a bad thing if students are entertained. Game play, in its own way, teaches needed problem solving skills. In fact, without play students would not learn as effectively so it is not all bad when a student spends a little time playing Angry Birds. This is not to say that it should be his or her entire world, but neither should homework be. When taken into consideration of getting a smart device for your student please also consider that most smart devices provide cameras, music players, audiobook readers, and much more in addition to the ideas listed above. Cameras can be used for creativity, for safety, for communication. Music inspires humanity to create and has been proven to improve learning. Audiobooks offer a different format by which student can read and explore new worlds & ideas. They have also been proven improving literacy and vocabulary. No matter how you cut it, the use of smart devices in school and out is a must. Be it an iPod Touch, a Samsung Galaxy Player, a Kindle Fire, a Nexus 7, no matter the size they all are very useful. So this next birthday, Christmas, or just the next time you want to tell your kid, “I love you!” give them the gift of learning with a smart device of your choice.