If  you have a child that’s a tween or teen, you know they are rarely seen without their cell phone. In fact, most kids have smartphones that are capable of enormous technical feats. One such student is Emily Saleme. Emily is rarely without her cell phone and the Westerville North High School (Ohio) senior said she is “attached” to the device and called it her “first priority” in the morning.

http://tinyurl.com/93ac8aySaleme said, “I use my phone as like an alarm. I wake up to it, … [sometimes I even] fall asleep texting people.”

With this level of technological connection, it’s no wonder parents and teachers alike are concerned that cell phones are disruptive to the learning process and consuming too much of our children’s time.

Unfortunately, the technology conundrum is a cultural problem. Everyone in our society thrives on up to the minute reports and we aren’t likely to revert back to prior levels of limited engagement with our mobile phones. In an effort to avoid alienating tech-savvy students and leveraging their penchant for smart phones and mobile devices, teachers are seeking ways to incorporate cell phones into the everyday learning process in the classroom as well as after hours efforts.

To accommodate the pervasive use of cell phones, some districts have relaxed the rules for cell phones in schools.

“Some teachers are o.k. if you leave it on your desk. Some teachers won’t let you have it out,” said Westerville North High School Junior Grace Zaher. “We can still use it at lunch, whenever we want.”

Zaher said she receives text messages from teachers ahead of important tests. She described the reminders as helpful, particularly in her chemistry class.

“I really like getting my chemistry teacher’s texts. I’ll be studying the entire chapter, and she’ll say there may or may not be an extended response question on part of section two,” Zaher said.

Others like WNHS Junior Markaila Gordon, use her cell phone to check grades, get homework assignments and study.

“Since we are on our phones all the time, we know how they work,” said WNHS Junior Markaila Gordon. “For some people, it is easier for them to use than to write. I think it is faster and more efficient.”

Some teachers have are seeing the benefits too.

“We had some students who maybe said have said three or four words the entire semester,” said Damon Mollenkopf, Westerville North High School Advanced Placement History Teacher. “All of a sudden, they are giving me these fantastic contributions via twitter or via texting or via email.”

Mollenkopf has allowed students to use cell phones in his classroom at least four years. He says the devices are not required but allowed.

“It’s about trying to differentiate and trying to create as many different ways to get kids on board with what we’re doing,” said Mollenkopf. “It really has forced a lot of people in education to rethink how we do things.”

Mollenkopf uses the following social networking services to engage students in classroom discussions:

  •  Twitter
  •  Remind 101
  •  Todaysmeet
  •  Skype
  •  YouTube
  •  Evernote
  •  Vine

Saleme is a former student.

“Sometimes outside of class, we’ll tweet at him. We can have Twitter discussions. We can tweet questions or anything we see throughout the day,” said Saleme. “He lets us have our phones on the desk. If we had a text message from our parents or anything, we could just like grab it.”

Mollenkopf admits the temptation for students to send text messages to friends is real.

“They are probably going to text their friends, but they’re probably also going to be texting about something that’s going on here,” he said. “Where I found that it started working, my anecdotal evidence, I can get online and I can see kids using twitter or writing blogs at 9:30 on a Saturday night. Tell me when was the last time you saw a kid working on anything school related at 9:30 on a Saturday night?”

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