Advantages of Using Cell Phones in the Classroom
Cell phones have undoubtedly become an integral part of modern society, and increasingly common among K-12 children and adolescents. According to a recent study conducted by Pearson Education, 82% of high school students use mobile devices regularly. Of course, with the increasing popularity of cell phone among students comes the sharply contested debate as to whether or not they should be allowed in classrooms. While there is a valid case to be argued by parents and educators that cell phones are disruptive to the learning environment and can lead to negative behaviors such as cheating on exams, cell phones can certainly enrich and become a useful educational tool in supplementing teaching instruction. Below is an overview of best uses for cell phones in the classroom. (Pearson Education study)
Ensuring correct use of cell phones in the classroom
Ensuring correct use of cell phones in the classroom starts with teachers setting expectations for students from the beginning. According to an Edutopia article, “Smartphones: From Toy to Tool,” teachers should develop, with the help of students, an agreement or contract regarding engagement and cell phone usage in class. This agreement should clearly outline consequences for misuse of cell phones in the classroom and for breaking the agreement.
In an article published by the National Education Association, “Using Smartphones in the Classroom,” teacher Ken Halla discusses how changing the dynamic of classroom instruction can help ensure that cell phone usage remains academically-focused. Halla makes the case for moving away from the traditional lecture in front of the classroom approach to teaching to having no front of the classroom at all. By roaming around the classroom and constantly engaging with students rather than only speaking to the classroom as a whole from the front of the room, Halla claims that it is much easier to monitor students and make sure they are staying on task. Halla argues, “It’s harder to do the negative behaviors when the phones are out and the teacher is walking around.”
Cell phones as a participation tool
Cell phones can be a powerful participation tool in the classroom. For instance, the website platform Poll Everywhere allows teachers to create poll questions. Students respond by texting their response to a number, and then live results can instantly be reviewed by the classroom. This way, a teacher can quickly determine the overall understanding of a topic and adjust their lesson plan accordingly.
Another way cell phones can boost participation in the classroom is by inviting students to use text messaging or Twitter to ask questions to the teacher throughout the lesson. Teachers allowing this mode of participation can encourage students who are more timid or shy to ask the questions, as well as to ensure that good questions don’t go missed or forgotten.
Cell phones as a resource in the classroom
Cell phones can serve as a tool for quick reference in the classroom. When it comes to double checking spelling, word definitions, or even to look up alternative word choices, apps like the Merriam-Webster Dictionary App and the Webster’s Thesaurus App are quick and easy-to-use resources. For students studying foreign languages, there are many useful foreign dictionary apps available for free, as well as apps such as the Conjugate Spanish Verbs app that can help students if they are unsure of the right way to conjugate a certain verb.
Additionally, being able to look up news articles online via cell phone is a good way for students to be able to consult and contribute to meaningful classroom discussion. News-O-Matic is an app that covers relevant news of the day through images, maps, videos, and games, and all articles are written by children writers.
Cell phones as an organizational tool
Lastly, cell phones can help students stay organized and on top of tasks, homework, projects, and deadlines. For example, myHomework App is a cross-platform app that students can access on any device that offers a convenient and intuitive alternative to the traditional paper planner. Students will receive notification reminders of upcoming deadlines, and they can easily input new assignments and projects as they come up.
In terms of keeping notes organized, Evernote is a convenient app that students can use to transcribe and access their notes across devices. Students can easily type up their notes when they study at home, and then access them in class on their cell phone by using the app. If a teacher uses the Evernote app, they can take pictures of their overhead or whiteboard notes and easily share them with students who are also using the app. This tool can also come in handy for students who, for whatever personal reason, must miss an extended period of class—teachers can keep them up-to-date on classroom notes!
Wherever you stand on the cell phone in the classroom debate, there’s no denying that each year mobile devices are becoming more and more integrated into every facet of our daily lives and that teachers will continue to integrate them, in one minor form or another, into their lesson plans and teaching styles. Hopefully this article has helped to shed light on some potential positive benefits of this rapid technological (and cultural) change, which sharply contrasts the experience many of us had when we were in school.
Do you think that cell phones can be a useful resources in the classroom? Are you a teacher with experience with integrating cell phones into your teaching style? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!