Mobile Phones in the Classroom

This post is for my Internet Tools for Teaching master’s course. This week I had to interview educators who have used or are using cell phones in the classroom. I’ve always been interested to find out more about how they are being used as an instructional resource in the classroom and how educators deal with challenges that occur.

For this assignment, I interviewed Mark Case– a high school physical science teacher at Southern Guilford High School in Greensboro, NC. I also interviewed my long-time friend Shane Sweet, a high school Health and Physical Education teacher in Alpharetta, GA.  Here is a summary of how they use cell phones with students.

How they use the cell phones:

  • Mark:  Students use phones to access Instagram and twitter to work on homework, share ideas, work on projects that are due in class. Students use a variety of text quiz sites to take a quiz. They get alerts for tests, and projects by signing up for Remind 101. They use their phones to photograph experiments, make video lab reports, look up information from the internet, document their work.
  • Shane: I use them as a extra resource. Most of the health textbook/material is outdated so I am always having to come up with new stuff. I mostly use it for the internet. I use QR codes to help them find the site.

School Policy:

  • Mark: Our school does not have enough bandwidth for students to use WiFi so data and connection is on their own. The official school policy is no cell phone usage, but I have gotten permission from administration for students to use them for class purposes. My policy: a phone on TOP of the desk is a tool. A phone below the desk is a toy. I confiscate all toys and return the to parents. I don’t care what the reason the phone was below the desk, it is a toy and it is taken. “I was just checking the time” does not cut it. Too bad, so sad. Parents will be mad.
  • Shane: Our school policy is that we have a flipped sign saying technology NO or technology GO. This is supposed to tell the students when it is acceptable to use them on assignments and when it is not. It seems to help but it is hard to remember to keep flipping the sign.

Parental Involvement and feedback:

  • Mark: I have several parents that have signed up for the Remind 101 text alerts and now follow on the twitter back channel. Every parent that does so loves to know what is going on.

Challenges:

  • Mark: The big problem is students trying to take advantage of the policy and use the phone for a variety of things other than class. I take them when they abuse the policy. Then they fight and come up with a host of excuses. There is no where near enough bandwidth to use wifi.
  • Shane:  slow internet,  finding apps. Not everyone has one, some kids don’t have smart phones. Theft. Keeping everyone actually working and not sidetracked or on a game.

What they have learned: 

  • Mark: I have learned that I have a LOT more to learn how to use technology in my class especially a BYOD policy. Schools are NOT ready for this policy yet. They have no good way to police and monitor school work is being done.

I think Mark said it best- often times the more you learn, the more you begin to realize you have so much more to learn. Using cell phones in the classroom with students isn’t easy, but as you can see it can be a powerful learning tool. With the right guidance and policy, cell phone use in the classroom can empower students to take ownership of their learning and can promote a more personalized learning environment.

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