Apple’s latest high-profile innovation into e-textbooks has many American educators considering the possibility of utilizing mobile devices like smartphones and iPads in the classroom on a regular basis. However, the actual use of electronic learning tools is actually much more prevalent in Europe, and has been for several years.
In fact, “as early as 2001, David Whyley began directing national government funding toward hand-held computing devices for students as the head of a school in the Midlands of England” (Education Week). By 2006, dialogue about the educational possibilities of mobile phones was underway.
European educators have embraced hand-held technology as a way to allow students to learn through multi-media by incorporating “photography and videography, data collection and orienteering” (EW).
The question is: how have mobile devices affected education in Europe, and what can the United States learn from their experience?
Electronic learning is exciting for students and has generated enthusiasm for going to school and learning, especially in elementary school classrooms where devices like iPads have been introduced as part of the curriculum. Having a classroom system organized online also makes it easier for parents to get involved in their child’s school experience, by checking what homework they have been assigned. But British administrators still worry about electronic devices fueling mischief or distraction, and emphasize that the school must have control over what students are doing on their iPads or smartphones.
“Experts predict that within five years, all pupils [in Britain] will be learning on handheld devices” (The Guardian).
Despite the United States’ initial reluctance to hop on the mobile education bandwagon (I sure didn’t hear anyone talking about e-textbooks when I was lugging a 25-pound backpack around in 2006!), Apple’s interest in the issue will surely speed things along.
Photo credit: flickingerbrad