Study shows middle-school students increasingly using smart phones, tablets for homework

For The Baltimore Sun

From Liz Atwood: If your tween doesn't have a smart phone or tablet yet, I'll bet it's on the Christmas wish list. Yet as pervasive as mobile devices are, I was still astounded to see a new study from the Verizon Foundation that shows more than one third of middle school students are doing their homework with the help of a smart phone or tablet.

The study found smartphone use crossing income levels and ethnicity. Nearly a third of children from the poorest households said they used smartphones for homework. Nearly half of Hispanic kids and 46 percent of African-American kids use the devices to help with homework.

But the study finds most kids can't use their smartphones and tablets in the classroom. Not surprisingly, the Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, wants to change that. The organization is working to increase access to mobile devices in the schools.

I'm all for using whatever tools are available to teach kids. My tween has an iPad and my teen has a smartphone. These are amazing devices capable of bringing knowledge to a screen at the touch of an app. But there is a big disconnect between what the devices can do and what the kids want them to do.

The smartphone is practically glued to the 16-year-old's hand, but he rarely takes his eyes off his text messages. I've tried downloading books to the iPad, but the tween would rather watch videos on YouTube.

 I teach at a college that gives iPads to freshmen. Some professors let the students use them in the classroom and some do not, but I know that it's hard to keep a student's attention when she's fretting about what her boyfriend is saying about her on Facebook.

Sometimes the technology goes beyond the brains and hormones of a teen.

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