Unlocking opportunities (and students' minds) with mobile tech

By: Libby Jacobson

On the morning after Labor Day 1995, I boarded the noisy #9 bus for my first day of school. Eleven years old and armed with a backpack full of spiral-bound notebooks, #2 pencils, glue sticks, markers, and erasers, I was ready to crush the sixth grade.

Inside the classroom, my classmates and I were greeted by our teacher’s name spelled out on the familiar black chalkboard. All summer, an old film strip machine had gathered dust in the corner near a single Macintosh Performa – the “classroom computer” that would be shared among all 30 of us.  To a student in 1995, classroom technology wasn’t markedly different from what the class of 1990 or 1985 might have seen – though advances in graphics and printing had at least made our Trapper Keepers flashier.

Today’s classrooms are embracing technology like never before. Students have a variety of multimedia and interactive learning tools at their disposal that would have blown my eleven-year-old mind. Encarta and "Number Munchers" may still be around, but today’s students have such tools as interactive touch screens instead of white boards, personal tablets, educational apps for math, science and foreign language. For homework and further study, there is Google Earth or Wikipedia, and real-time access to expert educators in any subject imaginable.

Many of the most innovative solutions in classrooms rely on mobile technology. Mobile tech has enabled true collaboration, unleashing new ways for kids to fully tap their creativity and access information. Whereas art class “back in my day” largely consisted of painting shapeless figures with pasty, dried out tempera paints, today’s students can shoot, edit and publish their own videos or animations in just minutes using almost any mobile device.

With tablets, students have the power to research and look up reference material independently, instead of counting on the teacher to have all of the answers. And interactive educational apps give teachers the ability to tailor curricula to student needs, and kids a hands-on, customized learning experience rather than having to memorize textbooks or listening to endless lectures. Thanks to mobile technology, the classroom of 2015 presents students with learning opportunities and advantages that were unthinkable twenty years ago. When coupled with in-depth training and support for educators, introducing mobile tech into the classroom has shown promising results.

As important as technology is for educators and students, devices, apps and training won’t be enough without access to sufficient spectrum to continue powering these digital education initiatives. The amount of mobile traffic zipping through the airwaves is expected to increase dramatically as mobile video streaming continues to grow and the Internet of Things comes online. As we’ve explained before, these trends indicate the need for Congress to act to allocate new spectrum for commercial mobile broadband to meet consumers’ voracious appetite for mobile bandwidth and to continue to power connected solutions in industries like education so that future generations of students can benefit from the transformative power of technology in the classroom.

Verizon and the Verizon Foundation have been proud to support, along with our partners, several educational programs like the Innovative App Challenge and the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program. Read more about Verizon’s work in education.

Libby Jacobson focuses on social, digital and external communications for Verizon’s federal legislative, regulatory, and public policy teams. Libby is also the curator and editor of Verizon’s Public Policy blog, the hub for Verizon’s positions on regulatory and legal issues surrounding the information and communications technology industry. Before joining Verizon in 2012, Libby learned the digital communications craft as an analyst with a DC-area, social media PR firm, while moonlighting as a blogger. Libby lives and works in Washington DC, and is a Verizon FiOS enthusiast.