Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Integrating Cellphones into Classrooms with Positive Results

I'm happy to announce that the post below is the first guest post on this site. Natalie is clearly enthusiastic about the use technology in the furtherance of education. I hope to see many more insightful posts from her. Natalie's bio is at the end of this post. TT

The use of cellphones within the last decade has changed to include more than simply a single mode of communication. As technology continues changing rapidly, educators need to explore the possibilities for using cellphones to enhance learning in online and conventional classrooms, especially on a secondary level. Rather than being a disruption to teaching, cellphones could actually be used by teachers with students as a technology to expand possibilities in the classrooms, if educators are open to changing traditional paradigms.

With the rise of text messaging among all cell phone users (not just young people), educators can recognize the value of this exercise in orthographic knowledge and ability. Some educators regard it as a major distraction, but many want to integrate a popular mode of communication with education and are realizing that text messaging can actually be used to boost learning. Recent studies have shown that texting in the classroom has a positive effect on students' ability to write lengthier and more creative papers in general.

More teachers are harnessing the vast power of texting as an educational tool in a variety of ways. For instance, teachers can have students send in their answers to projected questions for quizzes or discussion as text messages. This simple strategy turns students' phones into a simple and flexible classroom feedback system. Software used to receive text messages from students collects responses and may even give teachers options for managing and displaying collected data.

Student responses are then more easily gathered together and made accessible both to teachers and students themselves. This type of student input can be made anonymous, which can encourage students who might not otherwise participate to do so. By the same token, tracking specific students' responses gives teachers a clear view of who's struggling with comprehension and needs additional help, or who's getting ahead with the material and needs extra challenge.

This sort of constructive use of mobile technology can and should be used in all subject areas as a dynamic tool for learning. Taking advantage of technology students already have and will be using one way or another really is one of the most valuable means of harnessing that technology for educational ends. Whether teachers like it or not, technology is the future of schooling on all levels.

Indeed, cell phone use in the classroom isn't just limited to secondary schools: elementary teachers and students are also finding similar uses. For example, texting has led to the development of a new literary form known as the "cell phone novel." This type of literature is written entirely using text lingo, such as "Ur" instead of "you're." The novels are written in the form of a text message conversation between any number of interlocutors, include minimal punctuation, and are completely open to the shorthand that characterizes text messages. Young students can use this creative and entertaining form of writing to learn narrative structure and even grammatical mechanics (albeit without the usual focus on spelling and punctuation) much more effectively than they would with the rote drills usually reserved for such topics.

It may become increasingly important to take once distracting technologies like cell phones and harness their power for the benefit of the classroom. The transition may be fraught with bumps in the road, and the boundaries of technology use clearly drawn. Education needs to embrace technology, not simply to keep up with a new generation but to actually make good the promise technology holds for learning. Because of its prevalence and flexibility, many educators already advocate the use of cell phone technology in the classroom. Students need to benefit from the increased learning that will occur with well-considered use of technology, and feel validated for utilizing skills they are already confident with. Using cell phones in class can help both educators and students streamline the learning process and have a readily available tool for increasing class cooperation and participation.


Natalie Hunter grew up wanting to be a teacher, and is addicted to learning and research. As a result she is grateful for the invention of the internet because it allows her to spend some time outside, rather than just poring through books in a library. She is fascinated by the different methodologies for education at large today, and particularly by the advent of online education. She also loves to travel and learn via interaction with other people and cultures.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Blog as alternative to school newspaper

Blogs have been great tools for various types of classwork but with today's bevy of smartphone apps that allow for direct editing, the blog is now a very viable alternative to the school newspaper. In fact, it would allow for a near real time newspaper that could be very handy for sporting events, field trips, and other events where people want to know what is going on as it is going on.

Yes, Twitter can provide real time access, but it's limit in the number of characters it can handle and multimedia is constrained to pointing at external links. Google, the owner of Blogger, has just released an app for the iPhone that will allow blog post creation and editing. The user can upload and edit posts just as they would with a computer. The posts can include photos taken by the phone. It's not clear if the app can also handle videos taken by the camera. Given that Blogger handles video, it seems like the type of feature that if not there now can be expected in future releases.

The idea of making a post from a phone is not new. It's been possible to upload posts from smartphones using email for a long time. And, in a pinch one would have to use a smartphone's web browser to edit. Having a specific application makes the entire process easier.

The only issue that you need to consider if the process by which posts are published. If you trust your field reports, you can upload the posts and publish immediately. If there are good reasons for concern, you can have your reporters submit posts as drafts and then have the editor/moderator publish them.