Study: Technology in Schools Lags Use of Tech at Home

Attention, parents — it appears that you're on the cutting edge of technology. At least when compared to K-12 schools.

A recent study once again points to a disconnect between the role technology plays in the lives of students inside and outside of class. Although more than a third of middle-schoolers now report using smart phones when doing homework, the number of schools that use them to aid traditional instruction continues to lag substantially.

The use gap is especially disheartening of light of the finding that students in schools that use gadgets like smartphones in class report more interest in subjects like science, technology and mathematics. With the ongoing shortage of STEM professionals in the United States, this kind of interest is something that schools should be doing their best to encourage – they should be embracing the use of technology during lesson time rather than discouraging it.

The data comes from a national survey commissioned by the Verizon Foundation and performed by TRU. The results show that more than two thirds of students polled are not allowed to use tablets to learn while in school, and even fewer schools – less than 12% – allow the use of smartphones for this purpose.

"Our research supports the fact that mobile technology can inspire and engage students today," said Rose Stuckey Kirk, president of the Verizon Foundation. "We need to meet children where they are and leverage their use of mobile devices to increase their interest in STEM – especially since STEM jobs are increasing at three times the rate of jobs in other fields, and the number of graduates in the US earning degrees in STEM is decreasing."

While schools around the country continue to underestimate the usefulness of technology, the Verizon Foundation continues to encourage its use in the academic sphere. To that end, the foundation partnered with the Technology Student Association to launch the Verizon Innovative App Challenge to allow students to design their own solutions – in the form of a mobile application – to the problem of lack of kids' engagement with STEM and related subjects.

Ten winning teams – five from middle schools and five from high schools – will be selected. These team members and their advisors will receive in-person, hands-on training and ongoing virtual support from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Mobile Learning at the Media Lab to help build their apps using MIT's App Inventor and bring them to the marketplace. Winning team members will also receive Samsung Galaxy Tabs and their schools will receive $10,000 cash grants from the Verizon Foundation to enhance STEM education.

MIT's Center for Mobile Learning at the Media Lab will join in the judging to determine the winning entries. Also among the judges will be executives from several big technology firms including Vodafone and Samsung, and several highly-respected scientific entities like the New York Hall of Science and National Geographic.

Those who wish to participate can submit their entries between December 1st of this year and January 18th of 2013. Details of the contest are available on the Verizon Foundation website.

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