digital technologies for students and
inadvertently discourage their usage
for school-sanctioned, instructional
purposes. The proposition to simply
let students use mobile technologies
is naïve. Mobile technologies cannot
be an island of freedom in an otherwise controlling and constricting
learning environment. Such contradictions lead to mobile technologies
as a source of disruption and subversion by students. We must do the hard
work to make schools places where
students are trusted with their own
learning. It is within a larger commitment to respecting students’ agency
that mobile technologies can lead to
expanded learning opportunities.
Third, as students use mobile
technologies, they generate large
amounts of data, consciously and
more often without explicit consideration or awareness. Such data can
be powerful when used to customize
learning experiences for students.
But, the same data can inadvertently
limit possible trajectories of learning
through dynamics analogous to the
6 Additionally, given
the realities of funding and liability,
one could easily imagine arrangements where corporations provide
technologies to schools in exchange
for access to students’ data—deals
that are already in place. These trends
raise weighty and far-reaching questions about the purpose of schooling
in a democratic society.
If classrooms, schools, and society
are inequitable, the introduction of
mobile technologies into classroom
spaces will not fundamentally alter
these inequities. Equitable learning
does not simply transpire through dis-
ruptive innovation that uses technol-
ogy. We need to engage in the difficult
work of understanding and address-
ing relationships of power, authority,
and knowledge in the classroom. We
must create learning environments
where students and their cultural
practices are valued and built upon.
We need spaces where students feel
connected to their peers and adults.
We must nurture classrooms where
students engage in democratic de-
liberation about issues of equity and
9 We need to address the soci-
on mobile technologies while what
mattered to them most, like band
and music, were cut at their schools.
Students were exceedingly frustrated
that adults and outsiders made super-
ficial assumptions about what would
engage them rather than valuing stu-
dents’ real, context-specific desires
The second commitment must be
to teachers. We must unsettle problematic discourses that attempt to
explain the failure of technological innovation through teacher resistance
or complacency. We need to shift our
focus away from “training” teachers
to use particular technologies. Rather, we need to start from a place that
respects teachers’ professional expertise and, from there, facilitate the
space for teachers to access and leverage technologies as one set of tools in
a repertoire of pedagogical resources.
As I have argued elsewhere,
7 technologies should be considered in light of
the texts, tools, and talk they make
available for teaching and learning.
Technology in the classroom is successful when pedagogy is effective.
We must learn to trust and support
teachers as they closely consider the
possibilities and limitations of technologies in their specific contexts and
decide to leverage them (or not leverage them) accordingly.
Profound dilemmas about the use of
mobile technology emerged the deeper
we engaged with issues of implementation.
8 First, who will provide the technology? If schools provide them, how
do we address issues of liability? How
can policies be formulated so they do
not limit access to students if they or
their parents are unable or unwilling
to assume liability? If the assumption
is that students use their own devices,
what expectations arise for students to
purchase and possess up-to-date, compatible devices? Similar challenges
emerge in terms of data plans.
Second, a recurring issue that came
up in our work was that students felt
they lacked freedom with mobile tech-
nologies in schools. Schools are often
required to limit access to websites,
social networking sites, and modes
of digital communication. But these
limits change the very meaning of
etal inequities and injustices in which
schooling is embedded. If we simulta-
neously address these needs, mobile
technologies can benefit all students.
Otherwise, as history has shown us,
the introduction of new technologies
in classrooms will continue, for the
most part, to reproduce existing pat-
terns of success and failure.
Mobile technologies have permeated our society. There is no question
whether we should incorporate them
into schools or not. They are already in
schools and will most likely become a
more significant part of our daily lives,
both in and out of schools. To those
who say, “let’s just get on with it,” I say
certainly. But let’s do it in a manner
that deeply wrestles with the challenges and quandaries of mobile technologies, and in ways that honor the complexities of teaching and learning and
respects the agency of teachers and
students. Else, the “just do it” attitude
will get us nowhere.
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Thomas M. Philip ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate
professor in the Graduate School of Education and
Information Studies at UCLA.
This work was partially supported by a National Science
Foundation grant (MSP-0962919).
Copyright held by author.