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They don't call 'em SMART for nothing

A funny thing happened while us parents were busy wringing our hands over smartphones corrupting our children’s souls, turning them into emotionless zombies, destroying their short-term memories and snuffing out their ability to date and socialize normally.

Kids started learning on them.

On any given night during the hours and hours spent on homework in my house, my kids’ cell phones are clicking and buzzing away. They scan papers then text copies of the PDFs in messages to their classmates. They use drop boxes to work in study groups. They rely on flashcard apps and YouTube videos to review before tests.

My ninth-grader submits her English papers to turnitin.com, an online plagiarism-prevention technology that checks her work for originality and correct grammar, then allows her teacher to post comments and feedback. She never panics anymore about forgetting homework assignments or due dates because most of her teachers use an Edmodo social networking app to share class calendars and daily assignments. 

Once a week, my eighth-grader receives a text from a Remind101 app her English teacher uses to make sure she remembers to complete her Reading Plus, an online reading program that builds speed and comprehension.

At our high school’s open house last month, my daughter’s young biology teacher told parents that she encourages students to have their phones out during class. 

I share her enthusiasm. I don’t even have to wake up my kids anymore in the morning – the alarm clock on their cell phones does. 

Parents of elementary-age students may still struggle over the “right” age to give their children cell phones, but once a kid hits middle or high school, going mobile is a must. It’s become a BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) world. Some of my kids’ classes don’t even have enough textbooks for everyone, so students are asked to pull out their phones to access the books online during class. 

One in four teens are now “cell-mostly” Internet users who say they primarily go online using their phone and not some other device, such as a desktop or laptop computer, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. About 78 percent of teens now have cell phones, and almost half of them own smartphones. Among 12-year-olds, 58 percent now have a cellphone, up from 18 percent in 2004.

Sure there’s a lot of texting, bullying and shallow networking. But there are also some pretty incredible opportunities for learning. 

MIT has recognized what’s going on and created the MIT Center for Mobile Learning. The Center focuses on the design and study of new mobile technologies and applications, enabling people to learn anywhere anytime with anyone. 

Recognizing that the digitally disconnected are at a huge disadvantage, Miami-Dade County Public Schools launched a $63 million plan to give all students access to a laptop, tablet or other mobile device by 2015. Last summer, educators said some of the leased devices could be distributed as early as this month. 

In this mobile, smart world, they can’t move fast enough.

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