So about an hour ago, I was sitting in front of my computer thinking about what my last blog post for this semester should be about. I was having some trouble coming up with a topic. A couple of ideas crossed my mind, but those topics didn’t really interest me. I needed to get away for a bit, so I put on my running shoes, plugged in my headphones, and pressed shuffle on my iPod. Right then and there, I knew what topic I wanted to discuss… electronic devices in the classroom.
There is a rule in our school handbook that says cell phones, iPods, and other electronic devices are to be put away during the school day. Any student caught using their cell phone or listening to their iPod at any time between 8:00 and 3:05 is subject to their phone being taken away and a detention. If it happens a second time, the electronic device must be picked up by a parent.
So “hand it over.” But why? Yes, I understand that these devices can be misused. Of course I don’t want the 25 to 30 kids in my classroom texting, playing games, checking Facebook, or listening to music during class when they should be learning. However, there can be a lot of value in these devices if we allow students to use them as learning tools.
There are so many educational apps available now that many students with smart phones can play games or view tutorials on different subjects. Poll Everywhere allows students to text in responses, so the teacher can assess student understanding. Students can listen to podcasts with their iPods as well as take photos and record videos, which can be edited. Instead of looking at texting as the worst thing a student can do in a school, we should view it as another way for communicating ideas. In addition, many cell phones are just as efficient as graphing calculators, if not better.
Students will be much more engaged in the classroom if they are allowed to use something that they couldn’t live without. Last year, I was able to obtain a few iPads and iPod Touches for my Pre-Algebra classes. At the time, we were discussing slope and linear equations, so we found an app on those topics. Students were able to view and read an explanation, try some sample problems with immediate feedback, and then, test their understanding. Every student in both of my Pre-Algebra classes were fully engaged in this hands-on activity. I wish I had some data to work with to determine how effective the app was in their learning, but based on their engagement level, I felt that it was a success.
Will every student use these devices appropriately? Probably not as it is not always possible to monitor what students are doing. On the same note though, are all students taking notes when the teacher is in front of the room lecturing?
I know that this shift from no phones to using phones in classrooms is not going to be easy, but it is something that schools need to start considering. The video below notes that some schools already allow cell phone use in classes. It is obviously not something that is going away. My prediction is that cell phones and other electronic devices will become a major component of the school curriculum. The more students are allowed to use these devices in schools, the more they will be engaged in the classroom. And the more that students are engaged in the classroom, there will be more learning and less misuse of electronic devices.
Cell Phones in the Classroom: Learning Tools for the 21st Century. (2009). Retrieved November 14, 2011, from YouTube Web site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXt_de2-HBE
Ramirez, M. (2010). No Cell Phones. Image. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from http://www.educationandtech.com/2010/08/is-it-legal-for-schools-to-fine.html