Stop for a minute and think about all the different ways you use your cell phone beyond making calls throughout your day. Do you use it to read and answer email? Schedule appointments? Get turn-by-turn directions? Calculate the size of a tip you should leave at a restaurant? Send a photo? Look up the meaning or spelling of a word? Log onto Facebook or Twitter?
Now, think about all of the different ways your students use their
phones on a daily basis.
The fact is, multimedia changes the ways in which people interact with the world. It also changes the ways your students learn
. The trick is to maximize their interest in these pocket-sized computers, and guide students to become analytical and critical consumers and creators.
Educators can (and should) provide explicit instruction for multimedia technology embedded within curriculum in order to equip students with the critical mind they need to make smart decisions about the use of such technology. When given the right environment, with guided and purposeful instruction, students ultimately see the device as a tool from which they can learn, and not a secret they try to hide under their desk.
To increase engagement, connect students’ real-world experiences to classroom instruction, and teach key content material, think about modeling and facilitating the use of cell phones in the following ways: Get functional.
You no longer have to worry about a shortage of equipment, because cell phones have a built-in calculator function. This is an exciting way to work on math problems. Other common functions allow you to utilize most phones as a stop watch, compass, calendar, or voice memo recorder—all of which lend themselves to math, science, social studies, and language arts classes. Take a picture—it lasts longer.
Students can record class discussion for later reference (with teacher and class permission). Lessons can be uploaded to YouTube
or the more classroom-friendly TeacherTube
, or even your school’s web page. Encourage students to take pictures of important notes, assignments, or group work, essentially creating a “permanent” record they can refer back to. E-share files.
Teachers can send students electronic files to save on photocopies. There are several ways to do this for no cost, and most programs will allow sharing between cell phones and computers. Check out Evernote
, or Schooltown
to select a free sharing method and start giving and receiving important content information with your students. There’s an app for that.
When it comes to reference guides, there are many free applications students can get for their cell phones that are very helpful—everything from dictionaries to translators. Using these applications can often make the reference process much more desirable. Make research more fun.
Most cell phones have the capability to access the Internet, which affords students instant retrieval of key information during independent, small group or partner work. You no longer have to disrupt class with hall passes or transitions to the computer lab—cell phones can do it for you. Extend and refine learning.
Students and teachers can go deeper or refine knowledge using the free Khan Academy application.
Topics such as algebra, chemistry, and more are covered in short mini lessons. These resources can be used to provide one-on-one individualized instructional help/guidance. Expand your teacher tool chest.
Shake things up by trying out some of the cool new teacher tools, such as Poll Everywhere
, which gives students opportunities to text answers to you and for you to receive instant feedback. There is also LocaModa
, which allows instant feedback but in a social media format using multimedia forms. Another website that supports student responses in real time is Socrative
. Let them go social.
Students can text, tweet, or blog responses to questions. They can text the teacher, each other, or just simply analyze, synthesize, evaluate, or criticize content text. This can be accomplished with little hassle and security using Class Parrot
. You can also check out Google Voice
for additional ways to stay in written contact with your students. Continue to think outside the box.
There are also several activities that become media-based using cell phones, such as a “take-a-picture” scavenger hunt, Geocaching, or representing learning by visual or dramatic representation captured with cell phone capabilities. Invite students to use their phones for homework fun by creating questions that were not answered during learning, and visiting ChaCha
to explore answers to share with the class the next day.
You may be thinking, “This is all well and good, but what about the students who don’t have cell phones? Or those who did but cannot use them to their full functionality due to cost?” After all, either scenario can cause a digital divide amongst learners.
The first solution to the gap requires you to think beyond a phone. Most of the functions on a cell phone are also available on an iPod or tablet, including texting. But let’s say your school cannot afford to purchase a class set of Kindle Fires. There are ways to obtain them through alternative means, such as by writing a grant.
If you have never written a grant before, then the National Education Association (NEA) offers educators tips for writing grants
to educators. You can find the right grant by asking the grants department in your district, or by visiting a site like Teachers Network
Another way you can get these devices to use in your classroom is to write up a plan, just like you would for a grant, and explain to local businesses what and how you plan to use the electronic devices. Remember to mention the participatory gap and how we all need to work together to close it. Offer advertisement options with the donation of a device, such as their logo or business card on your school website, or a cover for the device with their business logo. You can make affordable custom covers at sites like SkinIt
. Be creative!
You could also help close the divide by purchasing classroom devices slowly. For instance, you could get one with department funds and/or teacher lead money. Remember that Apple offers refurbished iPads
for a discount.
Cell phones in the classroom can be a powerful resource across the curriculum for both teachers and students in middle and high school classes. Whether students send, find, take, or create with their cell phones inside or outside of the school environment, teachers need to think about the role they want to play in this multimedia literacy. Keep in mind that the use of these digital devices affords benefits beyond measure—especially when used with the right lessons, for the right outcomes, and with the right instruction. Lisa Fisher is a passionate literacy advocate. In addition to her experiences of being an intensive reading teacher for struggling readers, a literacy coach for middle and high school, and former adjunct instructor at Pasco Hernando Community College, Lisa has written several books, including SURVIVING THE MOVE AND LEARNING TO THRIVE (2011) and READ, DISCUSS, AND LEARN: USING LITERACY GROUPS TO STUDENT ADVANTAGE (2010).
© 2013 Lisa Fisher. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise. App, App, and Away... Creating a Class of Superheroes, Recording Artists, and Famous Athletes Tips for Success with Technology in the Classroom