Cell Phones in the Learning Environment: Missed Opportunity?

student iPhoneArticle by Laura Ketcham

The great education technology debate is on:  Cell phones or no cell phones?  Many districts and school administrators laid down rules that cell phones are not to be used in schools.  If students are caught using cell phones they are typically confiscated for the day and may have to be picked up by parents from school administrators.  Concerns over socialization, cheating, inappropriate use, and having access to unfiltered Internet are valid points of why not to use cell phones in education.  However, preliminary research has proven, if implemented correctly, the use of cell phones in education can be a motivator and increase learning outcomes.

Since children already have the technology with them, why not take advantage of it?  With good planning, management, and supervision, I believe cell phones can be an advantageous learning tool.  While all children may not have the exact same cell phones, many similar features are included with the most of today’s cell phones.  Another concern is that all students do not have cell phones.  These children may have to complete activities using traditional methods or follow along with another child.  Kids should be taught that cell phones can be used for an educational purpose.  The more we use and infuse the ideas of appropriate use, the less the kids will use them for negative or inappropriate behaviors.  Below is a list of ways that you can incorporate cell phones into your lessons.

Ideas for Incorporating Cell Phones into a Lesson

  • Kids can use the calendar option of their cell phone to add in assessment dates, homework, and other needed notes for assignments.
  • Cell phone texting options can be used in lieu of a response system.  Poll Everywhere allows kids to text in their responses to a question and you can immediately gauge understanding and re-teach a topic if needed.
  • The calculator function of a cell phone can be used for solving math problems.
  • Educational podcasts can be infused into your lessons and kids can load and listen to them on their cell phones.
  • Children can use the clock functions for a stopwatch, timer, or to access times around the world.
  • The photo and video functions can be used to capture class lectures, material from the board, or for creative assignments.
  • If available, they can use educational apps (applications) like dictionaries, calculators, flashcard creators, Google Earth, read public domain books, view the Constitution, use periodic tables, and access scientific calculators.
  • Kids can use their cell phones to leave voice comments on VoiceThread, an online Web 2.0 application where students create photo slideshows with comments.
  • The Internet can be used for basic research or fact finding when classroom computers may be unavailable.

Keys to Infusion of Cell Phones in the Classroom

  1. Have a purpose and a goal.
  2. Set ground rules – any violations of the rules should have appropriate consequences.
  3. Plan ahead – Decide how the technology will be implemented and have a back-up plan in case the technology fails to reach the children.

Recommended Reading about Cell Phones in Education

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Photo by Hackerfriendly

Free Educational Resources by SmartTutor.com



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