Celling It: Mobile Phones in the Classroom
From time to time, I like to check out various education-related Twitter feeds to see what’s trending. One topic that seems to generate a lot of chatter is the use of cell phones in the classroom. To date, teachers’ experiences of using mobile phones in the classroom are mixed: some report great success in using them to sustain student interest and to teach content in a new way, while other teachers experience problems with students focusing not on classroom content, but on texting their BFFs instead. What to do?
Love them or hate them, cell phones have become like appendages to most students, and they’re here to stay. While many schools still ban the use of mobile phones during school hours, other districts are experimenting with incorporating their use into the curriculum. I’ve read some great ideas presented by teachers at all grade levels who are successfully using cell phones for lessons and activities, and encourage you to do the same. For example, foreign language teachers can send text messages to their students in their target language, such as: Find something red. Take a picture outside the school office. Find the teachers’ lounge. ELL teachers can use mobile phones to help students practice their pronunciation and improve their vocabulary acquisition through Skype sessions and text message exchanges with peers, students in a buddy classroom, or with the teacher. Students can use free apps to create drawings and “paintings” on their phones (as does renowned artist David Hockney), record themselves playing a musical composition, or conduct interviews or oral history projects. For those students without cell phones in class, students can work cooperatively in groups. Teachers can send text messages to their classes with homework reminders, additional class notes, and study questions. Mobile phones are also being used in “flipped classrooms,” where teachers record the demonstration or lecture component of their lessons for students to view outside of class as homework – which in turn frees the students to practice the content and complete the work in class, with the teacher offering guidance as needed. Thus, while the use of cell phones does present some challenges, the benefits may well outweigh the risks. If your school is receptive to using cell phones in class, why not try it?
This week I’ve highlighted three resources from the Gateway’s collection that make creative use of mobile phones in the classroom, and all are aligned to the Common Core. We’ll be featuring many more lessons and activities using cell phones for learning throughout the week on the Gateway’s Twitter and Facebook pages, so be sure to give those a look. Also, be sure to check out Peggy’s column (linked below) for her take on the subject.
Out of This World
Subjects: Astronomy, Language Arts
Students use cell phones to learn about the solar system and animate their own planets. I really like the creativity of this lesson, as students develop animations of planets of their own creation. They have to factor in items such as gravity (and how it affects their planets’ orbits), how their planets compare to Earth, which galaxy or solar system it belongs to, and so forth. This lesson is a product of EdTech Magazine, an online publication written for IT professionals at both K-12 schools and institutes of higher learning.
Using Basic Digital Cameras to Engage Reluctant Writers
Students will use digital cameras to record a frozen, dramatic scene from a relevant class text, and then use the scene to retell the original narrative. I like that the students must distill a few key events from the text in order to create their frozen scenes, and then retell the story. This lesson was produced by Scholastic, a children’s publishing, media, and education company.
Subjects: Communications, Business
Grade: 9-12, Higher Ed
This lesson has students use their mobile phones to explore the interpersonal skills that a successful entrepreneur needs to possess. The class will also explore the importance of communication and decision-making through discussion and group activities. I like the real world component of this lesson, where students need to think about how to effectively (and efficiently communicate), and how communication is evolving in the digital age. This lesson is offered by a teacher through Scribd, a free online publishing platform that bills itself as the world’s largest online library.