Europe Leads Push for Mobile Devices in the Classroom

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.

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Photo credit: flickingerbrad


Chad A.
Chad A6 years ago

I cannot control the use of electronic devices in my classroom (I teach in a Korean university). The only tool I have to try to keep the students focused on the task at hand is being as interesting as possible.

Mobile devices probably do have a place in the classroom, but I just need to find a way for my students not to text back and forth while I am asking them questions!

iii q.
g d c6 years ago

why not???

AndyNoMail O.
Past Member 6 years ago


Dr Clue
Dr Clue6 years ago

The thing that troubles me about an electronic textbook is the temptation for somebody to press but a button and change history.

Zuzana K.
Zuzana K6 years ago

Thank you John Mansky! I agree. I feel the increase in technology use is damaging, not only in detracting from teacher's work, but damaging the kids' skills - my brother who is very smart got bad marks because he was unable to finish writing an exam - because he always writes his notes and homework on computer so he has no skill/practice writing by hand! I think it is horrible to be encouraging all this technology for that reason, and what about divisions between economic classes - a ipad is much more expensive than books! My favourite teacher of history was one who forbid typing up homework so that we have writing by hand regularly - whilst I admired her for it she was unpopular for that reason, yet come exam time I'm sure they were very grateful for it.

John Mansky
John Mansky6 years ago

How about a centrally located Command Center with Pupils taught at home. Wait,now there's too many unemployed teachers? Too much of one and not enough of the other! Keep Electronics OUT of schools. Except maybe in Science Class! Besides, Blackboards last a good long time and Chalk is inexpensive...

Magdalen B.
Magdalen B6 years ago

They're just something else to go wrong.

Berny P.
berny p6 years ago


Craig Zimmerman
Craig Zimmerman6 years ago

I do not want tax dollars subsidizing Apple. We have taught generations of kids using textbooks and they did very well.

Zana Zatanique
Jan Alexanian6 years ago

Investing in Educations is almost always a good thing. The cost of iPads or similar may end up being cheaper for school boards to purchase than actual textbooks. Many school boards are struggling to pay for newer editions of textbooks or enough to supply all of their students. And that's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how these devices will be used.

Yes austerity measures are in effect or will be in many of the European countries. But not all are in the same state as Greece or Spain. Most of the examples given were for Britain. This is a logical way to cut back costs, without cutting teaching staff.

Makes sense to me.