Education

Laptops or Cellphones? The New 1:1 Debate

By Katie Ash — July 01, 2009 1 min read

The debate about 1-to-1 programs, which aim to equip every student with a laptop or mobile device, that took place at one of the last sessions at NECC, hosted by the Anytime Anywhere Foundation, was not so much about whether the initiatives are necessary or not, but rather what kinds of mobile devices should be used for 1-to-1 programs. On one side, Gary Stager, a visiting professor at Pepperdine University and ed-tech expert, argued that laptops are the appropriate device for such programs, while Sharon Peters, who works with Teachers Without Borders, discussed how cellphones and netbooks could be important devices to explore.

Stager explained educators’ fascination with mobile devices as being “terribly excited over very little.” He went on to say that trying to find educational uses for cellphones made teachers look silly. “You can create things on a cellphone,” he said, “but I’m not sure you can create good things or deep things.” Although mobile devices are less expensive than laptops, they cannot be used as a traditional computer, and “we add cost and increase frustration” by trying to make mobile devices behave like computers, said Stager.

Peters, however, talked about how mobile devices like cellphones and netbooks have many advantages, such as being portable, having a low cost, having a wide-range of functionality, and being relatively ubiquitous, especially in developing nations. She conceded that mobile devices do have constraints, such as small screens, small keyboards, and a limited ability to program or code. But with a focus on how the tools are used rather than the tools themselves, there is a lot of potential for educational opportunities, she said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.