Can Cell Phones in the Classroom Be Educational Tools?


Students Using Cell Phones in the ClassroomThe odds are that you will find cell phones in the classroom no matter where you are, unless you are in a school enforcing a zero-tolerance policy. Kids in elementary school are already engaged on an almost constant basis with personal devices. While the initial reaction to smartphones in the world of education was to eliminate phones from lessons, today there are so many ways to promote productive cell phone use in class. With the right tools and the right attitude, an educator can transform cell phones from a constant distraction into one of the coolest educational tools.

There are some great apps for education which are designed specifically for cell phones. One of my favorites is Kahoot. With the motto “make learning awesome” Kahoot allows teachers to create multiple-choice games based on the information they are learning in class. The games can include images, text, videos and diagrams. Students answer questions on their cell phones and the results are recorded in real-time on the teacher’s main device. Kids thrive on challenge and competition, and Kahoot encourages them to relate to the material in a fun, interactive, technological platform.

Another great app for productive cell phone use in class is Remind. This app does exactly what it sound like: remind students and parents about upcoming assignments, projects, due dates and events. Unlike E-mails which can be tedious to compose and easily get lost, Remind messages pop up just like a text message, on the screen of a cell phone, where they are sure to be seen. Remind messages are even compatible with non-smart phones which can only receive SMS messages.

In addition to all of the specific apps which actively engage students on their cell phones in class, there are lots of more general ways to take advantage of these cool tools. Dictionary apps are great for language classrooms, and much more realistic for students. Lets face it, no one walks around today with a paper dictionary in their pocket, but students are likely to look things up on their phones. By training them in proper use of dictionary apps, and pointing out which ones are the most accurate and useful, educators are giving students a convenient tool and life skill. You can even compare a few different translation apps to teach a whole lesson about language accuracy in translation and why all translations are not created equal.

Sometimes it can even be helpful to let students play music on their phones.Playing music out loud can keep the energy level up and help the students stay alert while collaborating or working on individual assignments. By creating guidelines for playing music during work time in class, the teacher can establish herself as a realistic educator who is in touch with the students’ needs, but still in control of the class. You may even want to consider assigning a designated dj for the day who is responsible for putting together a pre-set playlist of approved songs. This gives the students a sense of responsibility and eliminates the complication of arguments over music tastes.

Let’s face it, cell phone use in class is on the rise and as educators we can either choose to embrace the revolution or fight a constant uphill battle. Simple acceptance of the reality is not enough, the best thing we can do for our students is take full advantage of all the amazing tools cell phones have to offer to our classrooms.

How have your classroom cell phone policies evolved (or not) over the years? What exciting and innovative tools have helped you engage students with their smartphones in the classroom? What challenges have you faced? We would love to hear from you. Please share your input in the comments below.

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