Learning Untethered: Conclusions From a 5th Grade Tablet Pilot

Samsung Galaxy

Learning Untethered is a “collaborative exploration” that introduced seven-inch Samsung Galaxy tablets running Android 2.2, a mobile data plan, and using Internet filtering from Kajeet into an Oregon fifth grade classroom.
The authors drew three important conclusions:

  • The quality of student writing on 7-inch tablets and netbooks was essentially equivalent. Student preferences, however, regarding which device to use for creating content varied. In general, though, students prefer to use laptops for large projects (e.g. content that requires substantial editing) and mobile devices for quick notes (e.g. content that requires essentially no editing at the time it is created).
  • For the purposes of writing, mobile devices share many of the limitations of writing with pencil and paper – it is linear and cumbersome to edit, though fairly straightforward to create. Although mobile devices are great for capturing pictures, video, voice and even draft writing, laptops with their bigger screens and keyboards and mature software are at an advantage for editing and polishing large projects as well as at combining multiple media.
  • Although Android devices have anumber of desirable qualities, including a lower cost and an open ecosystem for apps, the relative immaturity of the Android ecosystem prevents us from being able to recommend Android devices for school implementations at this time.

The study also found “no need for device management software as students took ownership of their devices, their learning, and the management of their device images.”
The authors make interesting observations about “organic” shifts in classroom roles and culture and note that “students essentially eliminated down time from their day while self- differentiating their learning.”
Authors Marie Bjerede and Tzaddi Bondi made a great contribution by facilitating, supporting, and observing the pilot project.  Download the report from their site: http://www.learninguntethered.com

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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