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Learning with Mobile Technologies

By Thomas M. Philip

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 60 No. 3, Pages 34-36

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With a few years of hindsight, the previously ambitious but now notorious rollout of iPads by the Los Angeles Unified School District certainly looks "spectacularly foolish."5 Quite consistently, researchers, industry experts, journalists, school personnel, and politicians agree the plan was well intentioned, but ill conceived and doomed from the start. They lament that if the school district had a more comprehensive blueprint for selecting, using, and managing the technology, the enterprise would have been successful. This cycle of hype and disappointment continues to characterize large-scale adoptions of technology in schools across the globe.2,12 The accompanying lessons, however, are surprisingly short-lived. I recently attended an international forum with participants from across groups of stakeholders and the message was quite clear: technology in schools equals innovation; let's not waste time being negative about technology; let's just get on with it. Such a cavalier approach to learning technologies in schools and the flippant reaction to any cautions and critiques only serve to further jeopardize the learning opportunities of students who have been historically marginalized in schools.

This Viewpoint presents my reflections on struggles encountered in a curricular reform project that relied heavily on new technologies in the classroom.7, 8, 9, 10, 11, I am transparent about the difficulties we experienced in the hope that our candor will allow for pause and deliberation as others embark on similar efforts, ultimately providing them a more advantageous point of departure. Recognizing the importance of place and context, I do not expect that our challenges will be identical to what others face across varied learning environments. That said, I sincerely hope that strong proponents of the "just get on with it" position will have the courage to not dismiss our concerns as idiosyncratic.


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