How to use cellphones for learning
Mobile devices are taking over the classroom — in a good way.
For years, educators have regarded cellphones and tablets as distractions for their students. But lately, instructors have discovered smart new ways the devices can enhance teaching, as well as learning.
“It makes no sense that some teachers and schools prevent students from using the most powerful information tools in the history of the world,” says R. Lewis Cordell, an instructor in the education program at the University of Phoenix San Diego Campus. “Students typically have access to this important medium everywhere except the place that should be embracing it — the classroom.”
Cordell, a longtime high school teacher, insists that mobile devices not only facilitate learning in and out of the classroom, but that they also can improve communication between teachers and students.
To enable him to use cellphones and tablets effectively in class, Cordell says he first taught himself how the group messaging features work on his own devices, and then checked out available applications (apps) for creating presentations, monitoring grades and providing innovative teaching ideas.
“Teachers can then set up a private control group that will let them curate sharable information,” Cordell says, referring to texts from students that, once approved by their instructor, can be sent to everyone in class. For this purpose, Cordell likes the Celly® social network, which works with any mobile phone or tablet. Celly members create “cells” in which they can exchange group messages, polls, reminders and web alerts.
“Students can use a system like this to ask questions about an assignment,” he says, “and teachers can use it to send exam reminders, messages about materials to bring to class the next day or to take a survey among students or post feedback on a recent assignment, right in class.”
Even more basic apps, such as the Tegrity® course recorder, allow students to record a lecture or organize classroom notes while they’re taking them.
Among other popular apps is the iStudiez platform, which allows students to keep track of their class schedules, grade point averages and homework assignments. The Evernote® app can synchronize text, pictures and web pages related to single topics about which students might be writing term papers, across all of their technological devices. And the Amazon™ Student program lets users scan textbook bar codes to determine which sellers offer the lowest prices.
There are challenges, Cordell admits, to using cellphones and tablets as teaching tools. Most important for instructors, he says, is to set hard limits and stick to them. “I tell students right up front, ‘No watching YouTube™ [videos], no online shopping, no anything that isn’t specific to what we are doing in class today,’” he says.
Despite any obstacles, Cordell believes mobile devices are fast becoming a classroom necessity. “We’ve seen them as disruptive, as telephones,” he says. “But technology has turned them into small, hand-held computers that can also make telephone calls. And they are the future of classroom teaching.”
Celly is a registered trademark of Celly Inc.
Tegrity is a registered trademark of Tegrity Inc.
Evernote is a registered trademark of Evernote Corp.
Amazon is a trademark of Amazon Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.
YouTube is a trademark of Google Inc.