Mobile Devices 2-3 Years

Picture courtesy of Flickr.com/creativecommons/Jean Ruaud

Picture courtesy of Flickr.com/creativecommons/Jean Ruaud

The Horizon Report indicates that the education community should be on target to adopt the use of mobile devices in 2-3 years. The recent evolution of mobile devices has peaked my interest regarding their use in the classroom. The industry produces 1.2 billion new devices per year! It’s a marketplace that is in a constant state of innovation and advancement. We know the large number of students that carry these devices every day, so when do we confront the idea of using them in the classroom instead of banning them completely?

Right now both of the high schools in my district ban phones in school. The students can bring them to school, but they may not use them during the day. I would have to check on the “official” rule, but if iPods are allowed, it is most likely based on the decision of the individual teacher and only during “study hall”. I believe this is going to have to change.

The amount of students that possess these devices and their capabilities lead me to believe that we need to begin formulating a plan to manage them in schools and classrooms. Here are just a few classroom uses we could start tapping into…

  • Internet access – not for prolonged research , but certainly for quick references in class
  • Cameras – students can use their built-in cameras for capturing images for projects. Capturing images from a field trip. This could be particularly useful for capturing pictures outside of school to use with in-school assignments or quick snapshots in class.
  • The use of sites such as Poll Everywhere. This allows students to respond to questions via text messages. This can even be used for live polls and animated charts in PowerPoint.
  • Text and voice reminders of upcoming assignments, quizzes, tests, etc.
  • Yodio – use for field trips, educational trips, or even documenting vacations.
  • Students that possess smart phones have even more at their fingertips including educational apps for iPhones and iTouches.

As you can see, the possibilities of using mobile devices in education certainly garner discussion of a future plan. However, I did spend ten years in a middle school classroom and I am not naive enough not to realize there are some issues that need to be addressed.

  • Off-task behavior – Having phones in the classroom is an open invitation for off-task behavior. Is this something that can be handled with classroom management? What if students turned phones off and placed them on a table when they’re done using them for class? Just a thought…
  • Cheating – What about students getting messages providing them answers? Sure it could happen. But can’t this also be controlled by classroom management? If you can spot a student with a tiny piece of paper, or writing on their desk, how could you not spot a phone or iPod?
  • Texting – Texting in the halls after students leave the room where they used the devices for class is also a legitimate concern. I think that guidelines need to be agreed upon with administration – what’s the rule if a student texts in the hallway now? Why can’t that same rule apply?
  • Phone calls – This is a similar issue to texting. Again, why can’t the same rules apply that are in place now for a violation of inappropriate phone use.

Please understand, I am not saying that teachers need to start planning lessons using cell phones or iPods right now. But I am saying that with the development and advancement of mobile devices and the possibilities for educational use, there needs to be a vision. The discussion needs to start taking place…even if it’s between individual teachers and their administrators. Can we discuss a trial? Can we discuss possible solutions? It’s time for this discussion to start.

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