A favorite sign I’ve seen in a school hallway is one that mandates “NO VISIBLE CELL PHONES!” It is my favorite because of the sheer lunacy behind the message: “We know you have them, and we know you use them, but please hide them from us.” Okay, it has been a few years since I have seen that particular sign, but the sentiment remains in most schools. We know the students in 7-12th grades have cell phones. Nearly all of them do, even those who come from the most impoverished homes. And schools usually do everything they can to discourage their use. To add to the irony, most of these phones are smartphones with data plans. While schools across the nation scramble to get a computer in the hands of every student, we are at the same time ignoring that most of them already carry one in their pocket.
If educators need some convincing, allow me to share eleven of the hundreds of legitimate uses for phones in secondary school settings, and invite you to try a few:
- On-the-fly reference (dictionary, thesaurus, maps, etc.)
- Graphing calculators used in math, chemistry, physics and engineering classes
- Use a program like polleverywhere.com to do quick formative questions without clickers
- Send out reminders to students via text without collecting or sharing numbers via celly.com
- Access thousands of texts for free, many of which are currently used in literature texts, with wattpad or related apps.
- Twitter can be leveraged to allow for on-the-spot commentary and reflection, and can be posted on-screen
- Language learners can record voice, use translators, and text with students in other countries
- Students can do basic background research with Wikipedia or other resources as the project progresses
- Students can access and edit online documents on Google Docs or Evernote at any time
- Students may record crucial portions of lecture or instructions, and convert to text for further review
- Integrates smoothly with Edmodo.com, Moodle, Blackboard, Blogger, or whatever classroom site is used