Teachers of the 21st century are no longer just intercepting notes as they circulate the classroom. What used to manifest as a simple distraction on a slip of paper has evolved into a tiny symphony of beeps, ring tones and vibrating phones.
As technological penetration increases, cell phones are not the only things becoming smaller; cell phone users are younger, and teachers throughout the country are feeling the effects.
According to TIME magazine, “77 percent of teenagers (12-17) have [cell phones], and 75 percent of all teens text.” As cell phone use becomes more common amongst children and teens, the debate as to whether or not mobile phones should be permitted in schools has grown not only amongst teachers, but also amidst parents, administrators, policy-makers and commentators.
Those who oppose student cell phone use argue that the cons outweigh the pros and that cell phones are problematic in the classroom, distracting students from lessons, increasing the risk of cheating and sometimes even resulting in theft.
Although cell phones have the potential to pose a number of problems in the classroom, technologies offered by cell phones can be harnessed to improve student learning.
For example: text messaging serves not only as an engaging and motivating learning tool, but also as a differentiated learning device. By utilizing the lines of communication offered through text, cell phone use in the classroom adds value to the educational experience.
Although the idea of permitting students to text in class may appear problematic at first, with the appropriate supports, teachers can take advantage of the technology and, in turn, create more meaningful and engaging learning experiences. Here are a few examples as to how teachers can utilize text message technology in their classrooms and increase student engagement and content mastery:
Group texting is an excellent way to communicate with students outside of the classroom environment regarding assignments, deadlines and events. Online tools like Celly, WeTxt and Remind101 allow teachers and students to create groups or cells in order to communicate via chat or group text.
Group texting is not only time efficient but effective, allowing teachers to send students coursework, instruction and details, and offering students a channel to communicate with each other and the teacher to clarify lessons and assignments.
Silent In-Class Discussion
Using texting in this fashion creates an active learning environment, increasing student engagement and motivation. The discussions can be both formal and informal, providing a platform for students to brainstorm, respond to and discuss content material, posit questions and theories, all while the remaining silent though still visible to the instructor.
Using online software applications, like Socrative and PollEverywhere, teachers can create classroom polls or quizzes that are recorded in real-time. Students can submit answers directly from their cell phones and results are displayed online in a matter of seconds.
With this technology, teachers have the ability to pose questions to students throughout a class or at the end of the lesson, utilizing formative assessment methods to gauge student understanding and content mastery.
With the growth of technology does come the growth of distractions. That being said, with the appropriate training, support and structure, the use of cell phone technology in the modern day classroom is packed with potential.
Teachers who create and implement tech-based learning experiences are not only creating engaging and motivating classroom activities; they are also providing differentiated opportunities for students to master learning in the 21 century classroom.
Melissa Woodson is the community manager for @WashULaw, one of the premier LLM programs offered through Washington University in St. Louis. In her spare time, she enjoys running, cooking, and making half-baked attempts at training her dog.