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Not enough computers? Phones will do.

favicon I’m not at a 1:1 school. Far from it.

Our school has no laptops, no tablets. There’s a computer lab downstairs, but that is shared with everyone, so you can use it every three weeks or so.

I used to collect old desktop computers. At one point, there were 12 computers in my classroom, thanks to donors. It was impressive. But they took up a lot of space.

In small classrooms, mobile devices rule. I’ve written grant proposals for laptops and netbooks. (I don’t believe in tablets.) So far, I’ve had no luck.

So I’m stuck with one computer in my classroom for student use. It’s a great machine. But when there are 23 students wanting to type and revise their essays, one computer just does not suffice.

The good news is that my students are getting better and better at using their phones as mini-computers. And technology is catching up, too, and bringing more functionality to smaller screens.

Google announced today some significant improvements to Google Docs on Android. Because my entire writing program is based on Google Docs, and because many of my students already use their phones for academic work, this update — which allows for full collaboration — is a big deal. Take a look.

Of course, writing on your phone is far from ideal. I find that students make many more errors when drafting on their phones. In addition, revision is more difficult because it’s harder to see the entire document and its organization. Nevertheless, I’m impressed with what my students can do.

Given the state’s budget cuts to education, it doesn’t look like my school will be getting huge numbers of computers anytime soon. But the good news is that more than 90 percent of my students have fairly sophisticated phones. So I’m pleased that phones can serve as a makeshift substitute.

I hope that phone technology will continue to improve. Maybe the next steps are pico projectors (to display a larger screen) and virtual laser keyboards (for easier typing).

And while the techies are doing that, maybe they could throw in a built-in printer, too? favicon


  1. Laura V

    My kids have synced their iPhones to our school’s networked printers. You’d have to work with IT, but printing from the phones ought to be doable!

  2. Mark Isero

    Thank you, Laura! Yes, I’ve spoken with IT a couple times. I don’t think it’s going to happen. (Don’t students need Wi-Fi for that?) I used to fight more to get things done, but I’m afraid that I have lost my energy on all-school tech projects. Google Cloud Print looks promising (and doesn’t require IT support), but it’s clunky and not ready for prime time.

  3. Wil J

    Check with Logitech’s community outreach department. The wireless keyboards sound like something they would like to support.

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