Thursday, May 28, 2009

Those darned cellphones. Do they have a place in the classroom?

As intermediate and secondary teachers, we gnash our teeth over the cell phone debate. "Should I allow cellphones in the classroom?" "Why am I disparaging students with phones? "Am I opening pandora's box if I allow cellphones in my classroom?"

As this debate rages on (sometimes beyond our control), I am suggesting that there are effective and useful options for utilizing the cellphone in the classroom (yes really!!) Many dollars have been invested in the 'clicker' technology to meet students on a level that they are familiar with and at a level that sincerely engages them. But why not embrace the technology that they come to the table with? Why not allow a student to utilize what they are comfortable with as a method for assessment (both formative and summative) or as a method for collaboration and communication?

While surveying polling options via the Internet one day, I found an intriguing site., and I wondered why this particular application couldn't be utilized in the classroom. provides instant feedback
to survey questions by asking respondents to text their selection to a given text messaging number provided within the website. Feedback based on respondent results is given immediately (sounds a little like the CPS system or 'clickers' to those that have used them) Not to diminish the effectiveness of clickers in the classroom, I've used them and enjoyed the results, but we have students possessing a powerful technology in their sometimes grubby :) little hands, why don't we use it as a tool for learning?

I myself do not have an effective cell phone that utilizes the more advanced options such as utilizing twitter or Internet access, but there are those that do. If twittering were allowed in school, students could be put in groups (with one sophisticated cellphone user per group) and the groups could interact and twitter responses to questions via their group cell phone. This solves the problem of 'everyone' having the most sophisticated phone and yet again allows the students to use the tools that they come to the table with.

Do you have an opinion? Have you tried to use cellphones in the classroom? Did it work? Why, Why Not? Please let me know your experience or thoughts!