By Terry Funk

Ciampa, K., & Gallagher, T. L. (2013). Getting in Touch: Use of Mobile Devices in the Elementary Classroom. Computers In The Schools30(4), 309-328. doi:10.1080/07380569.2013.846716
Summary: This study shows perceived benefits including increased self-directed, autonomous learning with the use of IPod Touch devices in elementary schools. Other perceived benefits included: greater student motivation, increased productivity and engagement (students were able to work at their own pace), immediate feedback gave individuals challenge (competing against oneself) to improve and stick to tasks, and promoted inclusion (students struggling as well as gifted). Students became experts, and were tech savvy (even in primary grades when teachers thought they would need more direct instruction on using the devices, students were  knowledgeable of how and what to do). Buddies with 5th graders and Kindergarteners also helped students learn from one another. Students were able to use the apps to find their own means of supporting the curriculum. Assessment tools helped teachers track student progress, and work individually with students who needed more instruction. A majority (82%) had access to mobile devices at home and the IPod Touch tool was considered a bridge between learning at school and at home and a tool of their generation. Negative perceptions included 1) access at school does not necessarily compensate for the lack of it at home, and parents felt pressure to acquire similar devices for home 2) parents were concerned about safety and access to the Internet without filters and 3) parents want a balanced approach to learning that includes tech tools as well as manual methods for acquiring basic literacy and numeracy skills 

Evaluation: This research is important because there are too few actual studies of mobile devices in the classroom. It points out both perceived positives and negatives of mobile device use by parents, teachers and the principal at one elementary school. More studies with larger populations and feedback from students over the long term are necessary. The use of mobile devices in classrooms needs to involve not only drill and practice activities but also spark creative enterprises whereby students become producers of content. This study shows that teachers often lack the technology training to integrate its use efficiently and innovatively, and need more collaborative professional learning opportunities.