Smartphones in the classroom

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Mobile phones are universally disliked by teachers and parents. Both are concerned with the constant thumb twiddling teenage obsession with texting. Most educators are well aware of the distraction mobile devices pose in a classroom because multitasking just means that you are doing several things badly. Noisy phones disturb other students and disrupt class.

However, some teachers have decided to make peace with their cell phone nemesis and are not banning phone from their classrooms anymore. Instead, they are realizing the value of the Smartphone as a pedagogic tool of great import.

Although most teachers still prefer to banish the phones during lectures, students are increasingly being encouraged to utilize cell phones to do research, record lab findings or coordinate group projects. Students can make video recordings of experiments or demonstrations to review when they are studying for exams or take pictures of diagrams and whiteboard notes that could prove helpful to them.

Teachers who have implemented the use of Smartphones claim that students are more involved in lectures and abuse their cell phone privileges less as use is not completely banned. Students are able to read their textbooks online and look up the latest news and information available on the subject the teacher is teaching. They are easily able to share this information with other students in the class. Apps designed for students help them with formulas in math, the periodic table in science and facts in history.

Of course some students will use their class Smartphone time to text, post on their social media platforms, watch Youtube or play games. Many of these students lack a sense of academic responsibility that would have them not paying attention even if cell phones were banned, says high school teacher Bob Kutschel. He claims that using Smartphones in his science class has helped students to stay abreast of the latest scientific developments.

Kutschel allows students to record demonstration lab experiments and watch Youtube videos of the same experiments on their phones. “I would not say that students get better grades by using their Smartphones,” Kuschel said. “What I’d say is that their interest level increases. They find the information they need by themselves and they ask better questions in class. They’re also reading the current science news because they know I’m going to bring it up and they want to be prepared.”

Most teachers find that allowing the students to harness the vast library of knowledge the Internet offers while trusting them to be responsible only encourages them to excel. Some students will use their class time to follow other pursuits, and others may use it to cheat on tests and assignments, but it’s still better to utilize the positive capabilities of cell phones in schools than fight the endless battle of getting students to stop using them altogether. After all, if you can’t beat them, join them!

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