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Using Cell Phones to Support Teaching and Learning

Using Cell Phones to Support Teaching and Learning

After letting two students use the calculator functions on their cell phones to solve the crisis of being two calculators short for a school-wide math exam, the principal at Passage Middle School, Virginia, decided that he might be on to something. Hoping to capitalize on the excitement expressed by students allowed to use their cell phones, he instituted Phone Fridays in math class and challenged students to come up with ways to use their phones to enhance learning. Students started using the phones’ calendar function to keep track of homework schedules and the camera function to take pictures of the notes on the classroom’s whiteboards. They created blogs and podcasts related to their homework and supported their math work both with the phone’s calculator and by using the stopwatch function to time their speed at doing calculations.

Positive student reactions led the principal to invite other interested educators to join in the cell phone experiment. Before allowing cell phone usage on a broader scale, each educator had a discussion with his or her students to set ground rules for usage. All the classes came up with similar rules, and a school policy was developed: Cell phones could be used in class only for working on assignments. Text or video could be sent only with the educator’s permission. No photographing or video- or audiorecording of people was allowed without their permission, no posting to websites was allowed without permission, and online safety precautions were to be taken when publishing from a mobile phone.

Educators began using cell phone applications for polling and to set up an online text messaging board to discuss homework. One educator used the cell phones while teaching, asking students to answer questions via text messaging rather than out loud. As student answers came in to the educator, they were displayed on a screen at the front of the class, identified by the student’s cell phone screen name. Students also used their phones to look up definitions and information. English educators, in particular, found the cell phones useful as they started using blogs to engage their students in writing. Students started using their phones to take photographs outside class for posting to their blogs and then composed blog entries about the photos. One class used Twitter to generate stories in class.

Source: Submitted to the NETP web-site, edtechfuture.org.

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