Module 4: Blog Post 2
In Response to "Adventures with Cell Phones"
Are student cell phones a nuisance or an asset in the classroom? School boards, administrators, and teachers have gone to great lengths to prevent student use of cell phones from interfering with learning. Sometimes, however, your greatest nemesis can become your closest ally.
The war against electronic devices in schools is a futile and misguided one. We do not even hold ourselves to the expectation for students to silence, put away, and ignore their personal devices for eight hours. Faculty meetings are the best example; the greatest perpetrators of cell phone use policies are teachers themselves. As adults we have embraced and come to rely upon our personal devices to engage in the world. Are teachers using their devices during meetings to engage in the content? Usually not, although efforts could be made to incorporate their devices to raise engagement much along the same lines as students.
In “Adventures with Cell Phones,” Kolb illustrates instructional practices where “a basic cell phone can be the Swiss Army knife of digital learning tools” (2011, p. 41). Integrating personal devices into instruction 1) increases the time spent on teaching and learning that occurs inside and outside of class and 2) facilitates learning anytime, anywhere at the student’s appropriate pace. Not only is instruction more effective, but integrating students personal devices into instruction teaches them responsibility through mobile etiquette and the utilization of these skills in future professions.
As new technology is developed and marketed to education, district budgets, federal grants, and state funding are decreasing. A race is on to become a “technology campus,” but campuses are ill-equipped to supply every student with an iPad. Student cell phones are free to the district. Instructional practices that utilize students’ personal devices can be integrated using a basic device that has text-messaging and camera capabilities.
One practice uses Google Voice as a quizzing tool. Students call the teacher’s number, listen to a prompt, and then record their response. The messages are archived and available for MP3 file download. The teacher can then send a text message back to the student as feedback.
Other practices involve taking pictures on the camera phone to Geotag and create maps. Digital storybooks can also be created using the camera on phones. Yodio (yodio.com) allows students to create collaborative storybooks. Other projects use apps such as Fickr and Photobucket to photo share.
In addition to photos, students can interact with the curriculum through Classroom Response Systems at no extra charge to the school. Two sites, Polleverywhere.com, Wiffiti.com, and Textthemob.com allow students to respond to polls, questionnaires, and surveys through text and then see the results live on the screen.
Before diving in and asking students to go straight to the cell phones during instruction, it is wise to provide some instruction on cell phone safety. Kolb provides several specials, sites, videos, and references that help students examine and understand the special issues regarding cell phone activity (2011). When educating students on cell phone etiquette and safety, the teacher must become the mentor for appropriate use of personal devices in the school community.
Digital Dossier YouTube Video of “Digital Footprints”
Libraries as well as classrooms have the potential to expand students’ academic experiences. Through the use of cell phones, students can tap into a myriad of resources and tools as readers and researchers. QR Codes or smart tags can be used to allow students immediate access to information.
A QR Code could be placed on a display of summer reading titles that links students to a review of one or more titles. All the student needs to do to access the information is to scan the code using a free app such as Microsoft Tag. New releases can be accompanied with a tag that takes students to the book trailer or author’s website. Immediate access allows students to engage in reading as a lifelong habit. One librarian goes so far as to post codes in the bathrooms, strategically pulling students, who may not step foot into the library, into an exciting story with one quick scan.
Another use of cell phones in a library includes using social media apps for readers such as Goodreads (http://goodreads.com). The Goodreads mobile app has a feature that allows readers to scan a book’s barcode and automatically add it to a shelf. During one ten minute trip to the library, a student could virtually stock his or her “to be read” shelf for months or add books they have read to their shelf for friends to peruse. Goodreads also provides a place to explore lists, write and read reviews, and connect with authors.
Phones can also be used as personal storage devices with apps like Evernote. As students research, they can take pictures of text, write notes, and email themselves documents to be collected in a “notebook.” They can even share notebooks with collaborators. Evernote is also accessible through the website (www.evernote.com) where students can download content to evaluate, synthesize, and publish their findings.
We seem to always be on the search for the next engaging tool or practice. Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel and spend an enormous amount of time engaging students in classroom instruction, let’s use what students bring to the table—their digital lives—to create a dynamic, collaborative, and creative learning environment.
For more ideas to engage students in reading visit the Nerdy Book Club blog post “Passive Aggressive Book Promotion.”
Kolb, L (2011). Adventures with Cell Phones. Educational Leadership, 68 (5), 39-43.