Many of us have smart phones, how often during the day (when you’re not at work) do you pull out your cell to check the weather, check you calendar, check the time, or even look up the answer to a question that has everyone stumped. Cell phones aren’t just communication devices, they are calculators, cameras, appointment books, and just about any other use you can imagine (there’s an app for that).
Generally, schools have cell phones on the banned list, or at the least they need to be powered off. I can even remember a time, long ago, when students were supposed to not bring them in the school at all, or check them in at the office. That gave way to just have them powered off while at school. Last year, I started relaxing that rule a bit in my own class for specific projects. In one project, students went outside to snap photos of trees and upload them to projectnoah.org where they can share their photos with others and get help from the projectnoah community on identifying the species. Projectnoah also has an app, and once you have it on your phone you can snap and upload any nature picture to their site, thus cataloging all the local species of the area. This is collaboration as it was intended, not just two kids working together, but working with a global community to solve global problems. This would not be possible if students did not carry mini-handheld computers – the cell phone.
Another site I’ve used is edmodo.com, which also has an app. Edmodo is set up like facebook, but its a closed system, where you create a class and invite your students. Only those students have access to the class page. There you can post assignments, have discussion and even give them practice quizzes. Last year was the trial run, and one thing I learned is that students were more likely to use the app, than they were to go home and get on their PC’s. This shift in computing is worldwide, as people stop being tied to their desks and laptops, but now have phones and tablets to access while on the move. At the end of a class, I would often allow students to get the cell phones out, log onto edmodo to take the practice quizzes or contribute to the online discussion there.
I realize that some teachers will not be as comfortable with using phones and other technology in the class, and I do realize that it won’t work for every class either. For instance, I cannot allow physics students to use their phones as calculators, that just causes trouble and opens the door for cheating. I guess we all have to work out how to proceed in this digital age and discover what is the best way to use the technology to inspire and motivate students, and deliver content.
Related Article: “Is the Cell Phone the New Pencil?”