Technology is changing the learning landscape for the youth
Nowadays, technology, most especially with the ever-present mobile devices and internet, is nothing new to kids. In fact, it has become their means of communication and tool for entertainment. It has become such an everyday device, that some teenagers even turn to their mobile devices to finish their school work.
Clinical investigations conducted at Cork University Hospital revealed that 91 percent of parents who owned touch-screen devices stated that their children knew how to use them. Another 50 percent of the parents surveyed said their kids, as young as two years old, can unlock the devices.
Schools have also adopted the use of mobile devices such as iPads, netbooks and interactive whiteboards to cater to the increasing demand for children’s technology. In a Speak Up 2010 survey conducted, key findings revealed that 45 percent of district administrators reported positive results in the implementation of technology-based classroom settings.
Research suggests teachers experience a higher level of engagement when they use tech devices in delivering lessons and facilitating discussions. Students, as observed, actively made choices regarding how to solve and manipulate displayed information. They also demonstrated higher decision-making skills than the usual classroom setting. Teachers also reported on students gaining a sense of empowerment and equality—in using computers often used by professionals and in relating what they have learned in real life.
However, despite the growing technological adoption among schools, there are still several challenges that educational institutions should address. About 300,000 students from 6,500 private and public schools were asked regarding the major obstacles they faced in school regarding the use of technology. Access restriction of websites and the prohibited use of their own mobile devices at school were the top issues for students. On the other hand, their top suggestion is for the Bring-Your-Own Device (BYOD) policy to be implemented in their schools.
Surprisingly, around 20 percent of preschoolers and second graders admit ownership of smartphones. About fifty-one percent of middle schoolers and 56 percent of high schoolers had their own smartphones. Admittedly, 67 percent of parents said they are willing enough to buy their children mobile devices, provided that schools allowed it.
BYOD challenges and solutions
Sixty-two percent of parents with high school children said that schools and teachers are doing a good job with technology-aided learning. Most schools favor the BYOD policy for this reason and for its cost effectivity since parents provide their children with their own mobile devices. However, there are three common problems that come with it, according to Secure Edge Networks.
One problem is network overload, which is the inability of a network to cope with the amount of connected wireless devices. Depending on the wireless network infrastructure, some schools are not equipped enough to support a large number of mobile devices. When this happens, networks crash and wireless connection slows down.
Online programs can hang or crash, websites may not load, and access to information can take from too long to forever. All these can happen to students when they’re in the middle of a test or an important deadline. A solution that could prevent network overload is the integration of wireless networks with up to five times higher throughput.
In case of network congestion, students may rely on mobile network signals to connect to the internet. However, even this avenue encounters difficulties. Signal disruption may occur and eventually, this affects the ease and efficiency of learning, which against the selling point of BYOD.
A solution to signal disruption is to strengthen indoor mobile signals that will improve data connection quality. An example of this is the network extender, a single plug-and-play unit, launched by mobile tech innovator 5BARz International. The network extender supports all frequencies and spectrums—2G, 3G, 4G and LTE.
Network security is another challenge in the BYOD policy. One issue on this is the concern on students’ unfiltered access. As mentioned earlier, students want to do away with restricted access, which can lead to a whirlwind of problems, such as hacking, age-inappropriate websites and even unauthorized access to servers. One solution is to integrate a system allowing teachers more control of the network. For example, the school management can use a system that clearly identifies teachers from student users. This way, students are given limited access to networks and websites, even while using their mobile devices.
Technical support is also a loophole for the BYOD policy. Uniform, school-provided devices usually come with technical support, in the form of teachers equipped with the technical knowledge or IT professionals who can troubleshoot the devices. However, with BYOD, there are hundreds of devices with different configuration settings. Teachers may not have the time or skill to troubleshoot each device. The solution would be to initially set a rule in the BYOD policy stating that students are responsible in troubleshooting their own device.
The huge advantage that the emerging technology-based classrooms bring is more developmental skills for students. Growing in popularity, the BYOD policy is a great prospect for schools. However, there are still certain measures and new technologies to develop before BYOD can be fully—successfully and safely—adapted by educational institutions. Nevertheless, technology-aided learning is paving the way for a more interactive learning experience inside the classroom.