The Dashed Dreams of Digitized Learning
The 2010’s saw the proliferation of laptops, tablets, and all kinds of devices in classrooms. Consumer devices that were originally designed for entertainment or work productivity were repurposed for educational content delivery, digital textbooks, and new “individualized learning.” Personal computing and internet- connected devices were believed to be an equalizing force that would narrow the gap between the digital have and have-nots. The decade saw a major change in how students interacted with and used technology. No longer reserved for research in the library, computer class, or sitting at a workstation with a special software program; devices were now everywhere, all the time. A student having ubiquitous access to a world of instant information would usher in a new era of equity and improved education outcomes.
A Brookings Institute paper in 2013 summarized the promise of personal internet devices:
“Mobile learning represents a way to address a number of our educational problems. Devices such as smart phones and tablets enable innovation and help students, teachers, and parents gain access to digital content and personalized assessment vital for a post-industrial world. Mobile devices, used in conjunction with near universal 4G/3G wireless connectivity, are essential tools to improve learning for students.”
In December 2019, mere months before Covid school closures, followed by virtual and hybrid school modes across the US in response to the Covid pandemic; an MIT Technology Review article titled ‘How Classroom Technology is Holding Students Back’, detailed the alarming results that a years long push that the “device for every child” movement had achieved.