But ask kids what they think, and there’s no debate: Laptops, smartphones and tablets are the future, they say.
Released last week, the Student Mobile Device Survey reveals that students almost unanimously believe mobile technology will change education and make learning more fun. The survey, which tallied the responses of 2,350 U.S. students, was conducted for learning company Pearson by Harris Interactive.
According to the survey, 92% of elementary, middle and high school students believe mobile devices will change the way students learn in the future and make learning more fun (90%). A majority (69%) would like to use mobile devices more in the classroom.
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The survey results also contained some surprises. For example, college students in math and science are much more likely to use technology for learning, and researchers expected to see this same pattern in the lower grades.
"[We] found that students in grades 4-12 use tablets almost equally in math, science, history and social studies, and English/language arts," Pearson’s senior VP of market research Seth Reichlin told InformationWeek in an email.
Other surprises cut along racial lines. The survey found that Hispanics in grades 4 to 12 are more likely (36%) than white (30%) or black (28%) students to own a tablet. "We expected the opposite based on differences in median family income," Reichlin wrote.
Similarly, black and Hispanic students in grades 4 to 12 were more likely than other students to own a smartphone (51% of black students, 49% of Hispanic, 40% of white).
Overall, the survey found that more than one-third of 4th and 5th graders (36%), and a third of middle school students (34%), currently own a tablet. A quarter of all students intend to purchase a tablet within the next six months, the survey found.
Asked about their use of tablets, one-third of elementary, middle and high school students said they have used one for schoolwork this academic year; another 44% said they have used a smartphone for schoolwork.
Interestingly, among students who use a tablet for schoolwork, more than half (52%) use a device that they own personally, rather than one borrowed from the school.
Younger students are more eager to use tablets in class than their older peers, according to the survey. Also, although two-thirds of elementary and middle school students said they would like to use mobile devices more often in class, only 61% of high school students and 43% of college students said this.
"It is particularly interesting to note that as students rise to higher levels in their education, the way that they rely on mobile devices to support learning changes as well," Shawn Mahoney, VP of product design research and evaluation for assessment and instruction at Pearson, said in a statement. "While smartphones and tablets are still important tools for high school students, it appears that they are looking for more full-featured productivity devices, such as laptops, to support their learning activities."
The Student Mobile Device Survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Pearson between Jan. 28 and Feb. 24 among 2,350 U.S. students, including 500 elementary school (4th-5th grade) students, 750 middle school (6th-8th grade) students, and 1,100 high school (9th-12th grade) students. The survey also included a national sample of 1,206 college students.