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How to Use Cell Phones as Learning Tools

Meg Ormiston

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Cell Phones as Learning ToolsRegardless of your school’s cell phone policy, the reality in most schools is that students have phones in their pockets, purses, or hoodies. Why not get these tools out in plain sight and use them for good and not evil?

 

Here are some easy to use strategies to use cell phones in the classrooms.

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Why Use Cell Phones as Learning Tools

Cell phones are different from a computer lab filled with computers or a cart of netbooks because the cell phone is personal technology. Most students have invested a great deal of time learning about the features of the cell phone, how to navigate and the limitations of the phone. The other reason to really rethink the cell phone debate is because learning on the cell phone can extend beyond the walls of the school or the confines of a class period.

 

Some people may want to ban cell phones from classrooms, but I disagree. We didn’t ban pens in our schools because students can pass notes during class. The pencils have also survived even though you could poke someone in the eye. And the amount of paper that is generated in most schools is almost criminal. This is a new time in education and with dwindling budgets , so we need to rethink possibilities, stretching every dollar. These mini computers are walking through the doors each day, let’s put them to work.

 

Before you consider trying any of these ideas, make sure you understand the policies that are in place and your have checked with your administrator.

 

Cell Phone Learning Strategies

 

Recording Lectures: The “Flipped" Classroom
Many teachers are structuring their lessons in what is being coined “Flipped Classroom”. These teachers are recording their “lectures” using video or audio and students are listening to that outside of class as the homework and in class they are completing the practice and the teacher serves as a guide, re-teaching as needed. On most cell phones with a data plan students can watch a video of a previous lesson of an appropriate clip on You Tube.

 

Use Cell Phones as Your Student Response System
Using www.polleverywhere.com and your students’ cell phones, you can track instant answers from all your students. It’s free for classrooms of 30 people or less.

 

Gina Hartman an eMINTS Instructional Specialist at Francis Howell School District in Missouri shared a fantastic new Web 2.0 site named http://wiffiti.com. The teacher creates a wiffiti screen and students can text in their opinions.

 

One teacher used this to summarize Act 1, Scene 1 from Romeo and Juliet. They texted in the short summary and it showed up on the screen. In another classroom the students had think about the time period that Andrew Johnson was in office and text something into the wiffiti screen that would have been something he would have tweeted back then. I love this example, talk about engaging students.

 

Delivering Materials
As more curriculum materials are delivered digitally creative teachers are delivering materials directly to students on their personal cell phones. One such platform is School TownThis learning platform makes it possible for teachers and students to collaborate in discussion areas and chat with each other making blended learning a real possibility.

 

Awesome Teacher Apps

DropboxOne of my most beloved apps is dropbox. Dropbox allows all my computers and my phone to interact together. So the photo I take on my cell phone can be put in my Dropbox app and now it is available on all my devices, love it!

 

EvernoteNext in line of cool apps for the classroom is Evernote. This handy app lets you type a text note, or clip a web page. If your phone has a camera you can snap a photo, and now you can also grab a screenshot. Like dropbox it doesn’t matter what device you are on, they all sync together.

 

Solving Common Problems Using Cell Phones in Class

 

Students without Cell Phones / Smart Phones
Other issues arise because not every student has a cell phone. The easiest way to work around this is to have students working in groups, collaborating and solving problems together. Now we only need one cell phone to report out the group work. If we get creative, any problem can be solved.

 

Wireless Access
Wireless access might be another problem. Smart phone users will usually try and find a wireless network instead of going through the provider signal. With all these added devices your network may be burdened. Also cell phone reception is an issue in many schools. If this is the case, you may want to focus more of the group work or homework-related cell phone strategies.

 

Keeping Cell Phone Use Appropriate
Thinking about using cell phone in the classroom we need to make sure we involve our students in the conversation. Let them teach us about how to reduce the fear of theft or inappropriate use. Every student should be reminded every day about appropriate technology use, and what to do if the rules are broken. We need to help students understand the ramifications of things like cyberbullying , sexting and posting things to social networking sites.

 

Where do you stand on the cell phone in class debate? Share your thoughts or your creative ways to use cell phones in school in the comments section!