Using cell phones in the classroom as a learning tool

Lori Kurowski
Phoenix Education Examiner

The annual “Speak Up” campaign for education, has emerged with some interesting data regarding student use of mobile devices. The results are excellent news for teachers and schools considering mobile devices in learning. Below are a few of the findings from the report.

Among high school students
• 85 percent report having an iPod
• 70 percent have a laptop or netbook
• 30 percent have smart phones

For the first time since 2003, when asked to identify the major obstacle to prevent use of technology in school, students in grades 6–12 said “I cannot use my own cell phone, smart phone or Mp3 player in school.” Previously, the top response was “school filters and firewalls.”

11% of teachers and 16% of parents dismiss mobile devices as having no positive impact on learning. (This means that overwhelmingly parents and teachers agree that mobile devices can have a beneficial impact on learning!!!)

The most recent PEW study on Teens and Cell Phones conducted by Amanda Lenhart has uncovered some interesting (although not surprising) data. Below are a few of the highlights:

• Cell phones help bridge the digital divide: Teens from low-income households, particularly African-Americans, are much more likely than other teens to go online using a cell phone.
• Most schools treat the phone as a disruptive force that must be managed and often excluded from the school and the classroom.
• For parents, teens' attachment to their phones is an area of conflict and regulation.
• Girls more fully embrace most aspects of cell phone-based communication.
• One in three teens sends more than 100 text messages a day, or 3000 texts a month.

The Explorer school, in the Paradise Valley School District in Arizona, is allowing students to use their cell phones as learning devices in the classroom. Administrators and teachers say that the use of cell phones is engaging students in their learning and cutting down on classroom expenses. Students who don’t have a phone are able to share with other students. Teachers send assignments via text messaging, and students are able to complete assignments via their cell phone. Teachers say that they can’t possibly stop all students from bringing cell phones to school, so they might as well use them as a learning tool.