Should teachers integrate smartphones into daily classroom instruction?

In this blog post, Jennifer Carey writes about how her students used smartphones to complete in-class polls, as e-readers for books and handouts, to complete research and to conduct Google searches. “If teachers actually direct how students will use their cellphones in class as learning tools, we can minimize their role as a distractive presence,” she writes. 


 

As an early adopter of smartphone technology, I immediately recognized the incredible computing power they possess. Many students now have pocket technology that’s much more powerful and innovative than the equipment used in early manned space flights.

Still, like my colleagues, I imagined cellphones as a huge classroom management struggle.

So I set out to test a theory, with this basic premise: If teachers actually direct how students will use their cellphones in class as learning tools, we can minimize their role as a distractive presence.

I am the first to acknowledge that my teaching situation is not the same as many other educators. I teach in a small, independent school. My students generally come from a financially stable background and I teach fairly small classes (15-22). All of my students have some type of smartphone device. I understand this is not the case for all teachers. But most classrooms will include some students who have internet-capable devices, and many of the activities I will discuss here can be done in groups with just one device per group.

A good rule of thumb for any classroom use of cellphones: the lesson/activity must be engaging as well as productive. You don’t want technology for the sake of technology (and students aren’t going to be intrinsically fascinated with a device they use routinely when they’re outside of school). If the students don’t enjoy what they’re doing, they will be more tempted to use their phones inappropriately.

In Class Polling/Quizzing – One of my favorite tools to use in class is a program called Poll Everywhere. I wrote about this service in an article at my personal blog: “Poll Everywhere – A Free/Cheap Alternative to Polling Hardware.”

This is a great piece of software to use in the classroom (and it’s free for audiences up to 40). You can create quiz questions for which students text in their answers.  No expensive clicker systems to buy, set up, and maintain! If students register their cellphone numbers (a requirement in my class) you can even track their answers for impromptu quizzes or review!

Continue Reading:  Powerful Learning Practice

Jennifer Carey teaches at Trinity Valley School in Ft. Worth, Texas. She is a student of the human condition: history, philosophy, art, and culture. She is a passionate educator and a lover of new technologies and their ability to share knowledge. Jennifer blogs at Indiana Jen and you can find her on Twitter @teacherjencarey

Dr. Kathy Seifert