“Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic.” Says Arthur C. Clarke. Yet with all its magic, most educators would agree that a cell phone is the most distractive gadget in the classroom. While this is true, the usefulness of a cell phone as a learning tool has gained prominence especially among university students and cannot be ignored.
You cannot put a ban on pens in schools because students can pass notes during class. The pencils have also survived even though you could poke someone in the eye. Why then wouldn’t phones survive? This is a new time in education and with dwindling budgets, we need to rethink. These mini computers walk through the doors each day, let’s put them to work.
Smart phones are invaluable in academics. They can enable access to the internet for research and referencing; access to e-mail; the ability to snap a picture of the day’s homework assignment scribbled on a whiteboard or take a short video of a key lecture moment; have Apps like Evernote to store, catalog, and annotate smartphone photos; have Apps like ResponseWare that convert smartphones into classroom “clickers” that can answer multiple-choice questions; can record lectures with Voice Memo and other third-party note-taking apps; can use QR codes to find relevant websites with a simple click, and for keeping track of schedules and dates.
Cell phones are different from a computer lab filled with computers or a cart of netbooks because the cell phone is personal technology. Most students have invested a great deal of time learning about the features of the cell phone, how to navigate and the limitations of the phone. Clearly, learning on the cell phone can extend beyond the walls of the school or the confines of a class period.
They are also helpful for recording Lectures. Many teachers are structuring their lessons in what is being coined “Flipped Classroom”. These teachers are recording their “lectures” using video or audio and students are listening to that outside of class as the homework and in class they are completing the practice and the teacher serves as a guide, re-teaching as needed. On most cell phones with a data plan students can watch a video of a previous lesson of an appropriate clip on You Tube.
One can also use a phone to deliver Materials. As more curriculum materials are delivered digitally, creative teachers are delivering materials directly to students on their personal cell phones. One such platform is School Town (only downloadable on modern phones and is not free). This learning platform makes it possible for teachers and students to collaborate in discussion areas and chat with each other making blended learning a real possibility.
There are also tremendous teacher Apps like Dropbox which allow computers and phones to interact together. So the photo I take on my cell phone can be put in my Dropbox app. Next in line of cool apps for the classroom is Evernote. This handy app lets you type a text note, or clip a web page. If your phone has a camera you can snap a photo, and also grab a screenshot. Like dropbox it doesn’t matter what device you are on, they all sync together.
In conclusion, there is only so much you can do with a smart phone. Every university student should invest in a good phone to avoid the unnecessary costs of photocopying and the like. Teachers should equally toe the line.
The writer is a Language Consultant