The Enormous School Cell Phone Conundrum

Last week I read a great article describing how teachers and students might use mobile phones in the classroom.

All sorts of apps promote student learning, but it takes time an patience to identify the good ones.

All sorts of apps promote student learning, but it takes time and patience to identify the good ones.

Will Ferriter, the proprietor of The Tempered Radical blog, posted an article Interview on Cell Phones in the Classroom, that explains his personal views — based on years of teaching experience — about using student mobiles should be used in the classroom.

“Our goal,” he writes, “shouldn’t be to ban access to powerful tools for learning. Instead, our goal should be to show the students in our classrooms how to take full advantage of the learning potential sitting inside their purses and their back pockets”.

Read the entire blog post which addresses — broadly — the opportunities for learning that digital devices offer  21st Century students. Lots of educators may disagree with Ferriter’s view, but the fact is we fight a loosing mobile device battle. Students own these devices, and while they are always close at hand and the kids know how to use them to connect with others, most have no understanding for the true learning power of these devices offer. We could help them learn a lot more and become more thoughtful about using their mobiles.

To read more specifics and get ideas about using devices, check out 44 Smart Ways to Use Smartphones in Class, a 2013 article by John Harrison over at the Getting Smart blog or How to Manage Cell Phones in the Classroom, a 2015 blog post at Edutopia. Another article by Will Ferriter, Cell Phones as Teaching Tools, appearing in Educational Leadership appeared in 2010 and demonstrates that his thoughts about digital devices remain constant.

Conundrum defTwo years ago, during a middle school interview project, I suggested that students ask permission to record, but not videotape, each interview and with permission use their phones. I thought there would be no difficulties, but — surprise — there were many. Middle schoolers could record sound, but most of those could not figure out how to download. Some could not record at all, Eventually everyone mastered the required skills, but throughout the activity I mulled over how it was a shame that students could videotape anything but not — just as easily — record a conversation that takes up less space on a device. I was surprised at how many skills the kids did not possess the skill at the beginning of the project.

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TED lectures and the TED Lessons Worth Sharing site offers teachers and students content on every conceivable topic.

Schools everywhere need to hurry up and figure out how to incorporate digital devices into students’ daily learning lives — helping kids understand the learning power that they carry around and guiding them to concentrate on digital device learning tasks. Getting into power struggles, or worse yet, violent fights, is not acceptable. Somehow we have a way-behind educational world — one where kids, preadolescents, and teens are carrying around digital tools and school policies are, simply said, way out of touch.

Teenagers can lose control, make errors, and drive adults crazy, inside and outside of the classroom, but that doesn’t mean that adults and educational leaders should continue pretending that cell phones are’t ubiquitous the center of controversy and act, in a way, just like adolescents.

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