One reader pointed out that if schools provided wireless access, wifi-enabled phones would obviate the need for data plans.
Stacey Foreman, mother of two grade-school-age sons, said she wouldn’t question paying for monthly plans if they assisted learning. "Kids are native to digital information--we're making it harder for success by pretending that media aren't evolving. Lugging around outdated textbooks and completing paper worksheets are barriers to learning in this day and age.” Lots of students feel the same way. Project Tomorrow report found that 53 percent of middle and high school students surveyed said that their biggest obstacle to using technology in school is the inability to use devices such as cell and smart phones.
For many parents, the issue of phones in classrooms is about educational gain and safety.
Rashmi Sinha, mother of a preschooler, said her primary concern in sending her daughter to class with phone in hand would be its educational benefit. "How would usage be monitored? How would we be sure kids are using devices to learn? Mobile usage is a skill they need anyhow, but I'd want to know the teachers’ plans before I paid."
Therese Jilek, a Wisconsin-based parent, would request schools to provide a plan for learning, instruction and supervision practices that involve mobile devices. She’d want built-in safeguards and student instruction on safe Internet use, she said.
When it comes to accessing online textbooks with mobile phones, 61 percent of parents said they like the idea, according to the Project Tomorrow report.
"With the Kahn Academy, DIY University and other [resources], eventually we will deconstruct the economies built around traditional educational institutions and all that goes with them--expensive books, curricula, etcetera,” said Jean Hagan, creative director and the think tank Institute for the Future. “The technology is just the enabler, but we are on the brink of education reform like the U.S. has not seen in decades."
The inevitable question looms: What happens to those families who might want to, but can't afford to pay for expensive data plans? The issue bounces back to schools providing wireless Internet access -- and how much of the Internet is blocked. Goes to show how dependent schools, parents, and educators are on each other.
[Additional reporting by arts and culture commentator Emily Goligoski: @emgollie]