How can I cope with cell phones in my classroom?

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 | communication, technology

When the use of cell phones in the classroom becomes a problem – because its use is viewed as distracting to learners – some schools ban its use altogether.  You can imagine how learners resist this restriction.

Most learners in schools – even the poorest ones – have cell phones in their pockets or bags.  Efforts to curb the explosive use of these devices are bound to be countered with learner schemes to use them in an illicit way.

Isn’t there a better way to handle the situation?

How about using the fascination of learners with their cell phones to improve learning?  This can be done if innovative ways are found to harness the phones in the hands of learners as teaching and learning tools.  This approach has many apparent advantages:

Learners already own cell phones – you do not have to buy technology devices for them.

You don’t have to introduce technology into the classroom – it is already there.

Since the instruments are the property of learners, you don’t have to protect equipment against vandalism.

Children love their cell phones and are keen to show off what they can do with them. 

Pilot projects are under way to determine practical applications of mobile phones in the classroom.  A few simple uses are already evident:

By sending an interesting text message (SMS) in a target language to learners on a regular basis (even after school hours) their literacy is enhanced.  Imagine how you could build the vocabulary of your class.

Mobile ‘novels’ are already available where learners receive bite size instalments.

When learners use the camera function of cell phones, they can record images of science experiments, or other visual displays, for future revision.

Some vendors of educational software are developing programs suitable for classroom use.  With a cell phone a learner can see and hear, without disturbing the rest of the class.

The ubiquitous use of cell phones makes them ideal tools for teaching and learning.  Keep your eyes – and minds – open for developments in this area in the future.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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1 Comment to How can I cope with cell phones in my classroom?

Mark C
Tuesday, 4 January, 2011

I will still object to cell-phone use in a classroom. While from a philosophical point of view it all sounds kwaai, but from a practical point of view it isn’t. In a country or school where there are disciplined learners, maybe. Our schools have too much crime and too many distractions to use cell-phones in the classroom. In fact, not so long ago in the Argus it stated that some universities are banning its use during lectures. In fact, laptops with wireless internet are not allowed. Reason? Students are distracted by other things in the classroom..Facebook, Twitter and Mxit. If you think that students will be interested in maths on a cell-phone in a classroom as opposed to twittering about last night’s party, think again.

Not so long ago your wrote about sexting and bullying. How are you going to control this in school? What if schools get sued as a result of the above-mentioned? How about the sex videos which were shot on school grounds with mobile phones or fights recorded for distribution? How about cell-phone theft which is so prevalent in schools? In fact how will a teacher control discussion in a classroom while students are busy speaking to their friend wherever? How about drug-dealing going on in classrooms where cell-phones are used?

You see Kobus, these will not be your problems to deal with. These will be made the school’s problems. You don’t or will not deal with this because you will not be a principal or teacher in this situation. Well, principal or teacher you must prepare for these eventualities. This may be correct but for how many things must the teacher have on his/her hands to control?

My point also is and still remains this: Teach on a Cape Flats or township school and experience these problems firsthand.

While I have no problem with allowing the educational process continuing after school hours have been completed (on a cell phone) I am against the use of cellphones in classrooms. I most probably will get flack from Lorraine who worked on a project that included cell phones and I would welcome her input to change my mind on this.

My son’s high school have banned them from the school and I am in full agreement with it.

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