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Parents Willing to Buy Mobile Devices for Use in School, Survey Finds

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Fifty-six percent of parents would be willing to buy a mobile device if their child is required to use it in school, and support for those purchases is strongest among parents of high-school-age students, a newly released nationwide survey finds.

At the same time, a much larger proportion of parents, 78 percent, say that if schools mandate that students use mobile tech tools, schools should be responsible for providing those devices, says the survey "Living and Learning With Mobile Devices."

The nationwide results offer insights to businesses that wish to sell technology products to schools, and to parents and students, as well a big-picture view of the prevalence of various mobile and portable devices in homes today. It also provides some clarity on parents' overall views of technology, opinions that are colored with both optimism and caution.

The survey, conducted by Grunwald Associates LLC in cooperation with the Learning First Alliance, examines parents' views of mobile and portable devices, and of apps. It defines mobile devices to include smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and the iPod Touch, and further defines them as devices that are wireless, handheld tools that use Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G to connect to the web. They can use an operating system such as iOS, Windows, or Android, with the capability to run apps. Portable devices include laptops, netbooks, notebooks, and ultrabooks.

The survey collected data from nearly 2,400 parents of 4,164 children nationwide, and it had a core sample of 920 parents who completed the full survey, with a margin of error of about 3 percent. Grunwald Associates has also produced a more detailed market research report, which is available for a fee, than is included in the publicly available survey results.

The results of the public survey showed that a strong majority of parents see the potential for educational benefits from mobiles and apps. (See a breakdown of their views on that topic in the table, below.) But nearly 70 percent also say the apps and content their children use tend to be for "purely entertainment," and more than 60 percent of parents also believe mobile devices "can be a distraction," according to the survey.

A majority of parents surveyed said that schools should make greater use of mobile devices in education. Yet it also found that families aren't simply relying on schools to take on that tech burden. Forty-five percent of parents said they plan to buy, or have already bought, a mobile device to support their children academically.

The authors of the report also offer more direct advice to businesses selling the types of tools described in the report. The recommendations include:

• Develop more content, apps, and services for mobile devices, especially those that make us of mobile devices' distinct capabilities, such as "location-based offerings";

• Do more to help parents find educational, not just entertainment content, steps that could include creating well-organized clearinghouses and databases;

• Work with parent organizations to encourage parents to make wise user of mobile technologies in school and in informal learning environments; and

• Create guidelines for describing the educational features in mobile apps and content, so that parents and others can easily judge their worth.
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