Monday, June 8, 2009

Cell Phones in the Classroom

Texting on a keyboard phoneImage via Wikipedia

When this topic is brought up for discussion there are often those to the far right and those to the far left, very few in the middle. Most traditional educators look at cell phones as distractions, disruptions and even a way to cheat. However, most forward thinking educators view cell phones as a way to connect students, allow them to communicate and collaborate and also teach proper use and digital citizenship.

As technology continues to change and our cell phones become more than just a device for placing phone calls or sending text messages - shouldn't we as educators look at how to integrate these devices rather than find ways to remove them? Too many times I hear of educational leaders searching for a solution to ban cell phones, enforce punishments for cell phone use or seeking a way implement a cell phone jammer. What if we took all that time and energy of searching for a way to remove these devices and applied it towards finding a way to safely and effectively implement them into daily instruction.

What if our educators took time out of each day to reinforce the proper, safe and secure way of using these devices - not only inside the walls of the classroom - but outside as well? Don't you believe that would begin to reduce the number of inappropriate uses (sexting)?

I firmly believe that these devices have a place inside our walls. Too many school districts do not have the funds to implement a 1:1 solution where they go out and purchase a device for every student. But how many of those same students already have a Wi-Fi, Internet ready, app store / iTunes loaded device sitting in their pocket? Imagine every student in your high school utilizing a device they already own and you simply have to provide a safe and secure environment for them to use it? Isn't that a better use of dollars?

It was announced today that as a part of the new iPhone upgrades - iTunes will start offering textbooks through its online store. Apple has taken a bold step by partnering with major textbook companies - realizing that positions their device to be a major player within K-12 and Higher Education.

My district is not ready to allow our students to bring cell phones in tomorrow. But my hope is that we can begin educating our faculty/staff and administration on how to effectively implement these devices, rather than continuing to spend valuable time and resources researching how to remove them.

How is this issue being handled in your district? Are you currently allowing cell phone usage in your classrooms? If not, why? Do you want these devices in your school? What sort of potential do you see for their use?

Here are some reads I came across today discussing this issue:

Students Turn Cell Phones on For Classroom Lessons
Industry Makes Pitch that Smartphones belong in the Classroom
Cell Phones as Classroom Learning Tools

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Me1000 said...

I think the cell phone must first be understood primarily as a device for mobile computing more than communicating before K-12 school will embrace it.

I watched a demo at WWDC where an ebook reader allowed you to copy text from a book, then paste it into another application WITH MLA CITATIONS! That's HUGE!!!!!!

That said cell phones will always be for communicating, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but tend to be abused by the bubble gum chewing girl (if you know the stereotype I'm getting at).

I used a cell for all four years of high school, in class. I was only caught once, (by Mr. Koch! XD, and I was using it as a computer and not a communications device). I used it for texting classmates, for tweeting, for looking up news, for following MacWorld coverage live, and for other not so ethical things regarding tests (you can't take away my diploma now, right? ;) hahah)

I used it for getting messages to and from my parents too.

There are plenty of reasons for having phones in schools, EVERY SINGLE STUDENT uses their phone in school, it's not really a distraction. Every teachers knows students use their phones in the classroom, and most of the time when they see a student using it they never say anything because they know it's not a distraction.

It all depends on how the teacher runs their classrooms. I was in some classrooms where the teacher doesn't care if you have your phone on your desk, then there are those who watch like eagles for the slightest hint of you using a phone.

Actually embracing, and encouraging teachers to embrace, phones as mobile computing devices is the first step though.


JDS-CIO said...

Agreed Randy - thanks for your feedback from someone who just left the K-12 walls as a student. It has to start with a cultural change with the teachers and leaders.

Jeff Nelson said...

Good blog and great comment.

The future of 1:1 computing will be the convergence of smart phones and cloud computing. "The network is the computer". With apps and resources on the network, a smart phone can be an excellent, low cost, ubiquitous, client device.

If you're going to KySTE, be sure to check Brenda Nix's session on
Wed. 3:30-4:30, "Cell Me On The Idea: Cellphones in the Classroom".


Knaus said...

There's a great on going discussion on regarding textbooks.

About cell phones. Many are against web 2.0 in the classroom due to hardware cost and network bandwidth. Cell phones take those two out of the question.

Now, let's look at distractions. It's all about the teacher. When was the last time you, as an adult, sat in a meeting and didn't send an email or text message? Right, happens all the time. It's not a distraction. You can still pay attention to the meeting.

Students are even better at this than adults. let them have a cell phone to complete work. More power to them.

Here's one reason I'm against it. Typing. Typing a blog post on a cell phone is annoying. On a smartphone with separate keys, it's better. There needs to be a way to use a full keyboard to type.

All that being said. I'd gladly let me students use a cell phone in the classroom. I even let a student try to use a PSP. Typing is near impossible on that though.

Visit me on

Brenda C. Nix said...

I presented a few of the things I plan to show at KySTE next week during the graduate technology course I taught last week. Teachers were really receptive this year. I think that many people are starting to see opportunities instead of obstacles.

Adelina Moura said...

Great discussion.
I'm a Portuguese teacher and I let my students useing cell phone in classroom. I've created a mobile website to support learning process.
Podcasts, quizzes, videos can help students in learning.

GoKnow said...

This is indeed a great discussion! If I can add an image, here is a 7 minute that the Pearson Foundation made of a classroom using cellphone computers in Keller, TX. 5th Grade. Downloading it will take several minutes; it is 40 megs. But it is worth the wait.

Brenda, can I sneak a peak at your presentation? Cathie Norris and I are presenting at NECC (June 30) on cellphone computers in the classroom and we would love to incorporate others stories. We kinda only know ours at this point.

Thank you for listening!
Elliot Soloway