Yes! Today it seems like everyone has a cell phone. Students as young as kindergarten come to school carrying cell phones. So, what is a teacher to do? Tell students to turn off their phones and stow them away in their backpacks? Reprimand students who are using their phones during class? In the book, Toys to Tools, author Liz Kolb says, "Cell phones are not just toys; rather, they're essential tools students use to communicate with the world around them." Cell phones can be used to enhance instruction. Secretary of State, Arne Duncan would like to see cell phones being used as an educational tool. Check out this video where Duncan says "yes" to cell phones in the classroom.
Concerns About Using Cell Phones in the Classroom
Many teachers, administrators and parents have concerns about cell phone use and believe that cell phones will be a distraction. Questions have been asked such as; “What about students who don’t have cell phones?” “Will students be more inclined to cheat on tests?” Kipp Rogers, principal at Passage Middle School, has changed his AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) to allow cell phone use in classroom learning. He said, "For the most part, the kids respect the rules. I never had any problems with kids using them inappropriately in my class. We spent a lot of time talking about their digital footprint and that what they do can be tracked.” He said he initially worried about "the haves and have nots," but students work in teams for most assignments requiring cell phones, so there is always at least one phone among the group.
It is important that if choosing to use cell phones in the classroom that rules and consequences are set up. Like Passage Middle School, create an AUP specifically for cell phone use for students and parents to sign. Set up cell phone procedures in the classroom. For example, where should the phones be when not being used?
5 Tips to Get You Started
- DO NOT attempt to change policy (yet)
Many districts send home Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) for parents and students to sign. And many of those AUPs ban the use of cell phones on campus. Rather than changing policy create a permission form to send home in addition to your school’s AUP.
When creating the permission form be specific. Outline what will you use the cell phones for, what resources will you be using, and what projects the students be assigned. Tell parents you will be teaching about mobile safety and invite them to class when you introduce the assignment. Even if parents don’t show up the invitation is what is important.
- Survey Students on Cell Phones
Before you can use cell phones with your students it is important to gather some information from them so you can better plan your instruction. Find out how many students have cell phones. What type of phones they have, what their phones do, and how much memory their phones have. Ask mobile safety questions. Find out what students think is considered cheating, especially when it comes to cell phones.
- Talk with students about cell phone safety & etiquette and create a social contract for cell phone use
It is very important to cover cell phone safety and etiquette with your students. Many students don’t understand that everything they send via text is public. Over the years more and more kids are getting in trouble for the types of text messages that they send. Some content in those text messages can be considered cyber bullying and can even lead to criminal charges. It is important that students get educated about appropriate cell phone use. The Digital Dossier video is a great 4 minutes video to show students about their digital footprints.
4. Start with OPTIONAL homework/EC projects outside of classroom.
As students to complete these types of assignments so you can learn from the experience and make the necessary changes. Get student feedback about the experience. Use that feedback to plan future lessons.
5. Start with what YOU are comfortable with.
There is SO much that you can do with cell phones in the classroom, but DON’T overwhelm yourself. As time goes on, you will become more and more comfortable with trying new things with cell phones. Be patient!
Links and Lesson Ideas
Students can create mobile podcasts using:
- Students can send pictures and movies they take outside of class. Students can call a drop.io number provided by teacher and leave a message that is up to 90 minutes long
- Katie Titler is a Spanish teacher in WI has her students create an avatar using Voki to take oral exams. Watch thisvideo to learn more about how Katie uses Voki with her students.
- Voki’s for ePals
- Writing and Fluency (1st and 2nd grade)
- Text homework alerts
- Text a word of the day, science facts, math facts, problem of the day, history facts to students
- Take a few lines from Shakespeare and have students translate the works to “text speak”
QR Codes are bar codes for cell phones. Teachers can create QR codes using websites such as Kaywa and ZxingProject. Once the codes are created students can take a picture of the QR code and receive information on their phone. The information could appear as text, a URL, picture or video. Here are some examples of how teachers have used QR codes in their classrooms:
- A math teacher puts QR codes on math worksheets, so when look students take a pictures of the code on their phones they will see a video tutorial that will help them with the assignment. Rather than a video, teachers could have the code display text that gives students helpful hints.
- A 4th grade teacher prints off QR codes for different locations on a map. Students can learn about local areas, history, and environment by using their phones to read the QR codes.
- Teachers can create a QR code for a specific place in a book that the students are reading that gives information or gives the students an assignment for that specific part of the book.
- Check out this video where the teacher explains how he uses QR codes with his students.?
- Tumblr is a site where students can use their phone to add text, picture or video that will post directly to their blog.
--Posted by Camille Cole