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Tech Fanboy Corner: What’s Trending? Computing Devices, Computing Device Usage

Background: While our blogs usually provide a balance of education and technology news and analysis, this blog is primarily about technology. Because it was Elliot, the tech fanboy’s birthday, Cathie, the educator, graciously acceded to the fanboy’s request to “roll around” in data about technology. But readers can rest easy: Cathie’s tight editing kept the fanboy on the train tracks — more or less.

Changes in Computing Devices
In 2011, in announcing the iPad 2, Steve Jobs self-servingly called this epoch the Post-PC era. While traditional PCs were stationary, Post-PC devices were mobile. (Laptops swung both ways with 7- to 9-pound behemoths being transportable, while the 2- to 3-pound featherweights approach tablet availability.)  

The impact of those Post-PC devices is now being felt: starting in the fourth quarter of 2012 through the latest reporting of data (third quarter 2013) shipments of PCs (desktop and laptops) have decreased each and every quarter while Gartner, a tech research firm, predicts that shipments of tablets will increase 54.3 percent this year! Gartner predicts that “tablets will outsell PCs” by 2017, while IDC, another tech research firm, more aggressively predicts tablets “to surpass PC sales by 2015.”

IDC predicts that more than a billion smartphones will be shipped in 2013. A Billion. There are only 7 billion people on the planet! In the United States, Magid Associates estimates, “74 percent of people now use a smartphone and 52 percent use a tablet.”

Let’s move to people who are 0- to 8-years-old. In a new report, Common Sense Media finds that:

  • “Among families with children age 8 and under, there has been a five-fold increase in ownership of tablet devices such as iPads, from 8 percent of all families in 2011 to 40 percent in 2013. The percent of children with access to some type of “smart” mobile device at home (e.g., smartphone, tablet) has jumped from half (52 percent) to three-quarters (75 percent) of all children in just two years.”
  • “Seventy-two percent of children age 8 and under have used a mobile device for some type of media activity such as playing games, watching videos, or using apps, up from 38 percent in 2011. In fact, today, 38 percent of children under 2 have used a mobile device for media (compared to 10 percent two years ago).”

Changes in Telephones
Hurricane Sandy took out the hardwired, copper-based, phone system in Mantoloking, NJ. And, Verizon has said it will not rebuild this copper-based network because it is simply too expensive with parts too hard to find. “The traditional landline is not expected to last the decade in a country where nearly 40 percent of households use only wireless phones.” While copper-based phone systems have connected American homes for over a century, currently, less than 10 percent of American homes have only a landline phone.

Changes in Watching TV
A.C. Nielsen Co. notes that the “average time spent watching television” in the U.S. in 2013 is 5.11 hours per day. That number appears to be relatively constant over the last 10 years, but what is dramatically changing is this:

  • Second screen: Magid Associates reports that “37 percent of smartphone owners and 56 percent of tablet owners are using their devices while in front of the TV.” What are folks doing on that second screen while ostensibly watching the first screen? Well, 1 in 4 are watching another video!
  • Watching video on mobile devices: While some folks are watching video on a big-screened TV and using a mobile device as a companion, the number of folks who are using their mobile device (smartphone, tablet) as the primary device for watching video has doubled in one year!
  • From watching videos to creating videos, dramatic shifts are occurring:
    • YouTube found that “in 2012 the amount of time spent watching gaming videos on YouTube doubled.”
    • “Over the past four years, the percentage of American adult Internet users who upload or post video online has doubled from 14 percent in 2009 to 31 percent....”

In this week’s blog we have dipped our toe in the waters of technology changes. While we are all swimming (treading?) in that water daily, it’s hard to see the changes so we felt it was time to get onto a raft and report what’s trending. Over the next few weeks we will discuss the implications for K-12 of these trends, e.g., can you imagine when today’s 2-year-olds enter kindergarten and they are confronted with paper-based books?

About the Authors

Cathie Norris is a Regents Professor and Chair in the Department of Learning Technologies, School of Information at the University of North Texas. Visit her site at

Elliot Soloway is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of CSE, College of Engineering, at the University of Michigan. Visit his site at

Find more from Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris at their Reinventing Curriculum blog at