Korbey, H. (2013, June 25). Students speak up: Trust us with devices. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/06/students-speak-up-trust-us-with-devices/
Unprecedented numbers of students have access to a smartphone, and use them daily in class. During the school day, middle and high school students text, use Facebook or Twitter, and take pictures. Despite most schools having a cell phone ban during school hours, teens easily hide phones in backpacks and pockets, and turn phones to silent mode. The article was concerned with middle and high school students, but even elementary-aged children are familiar with tablets, smartphones, and other digital tools. Although 80 percent of high schools have access to smartphones, schools are hesitant to utilize them in any meaningful way. Part of this hesitation stems from inequality and the lack of teacher knowledge. Some schools are aiming to increase professional development with technology and provide students with tablets.
There are definite pros and cons with allowed electronic devices in the classroom. As noted, though a large majority of students have access to smartphones, there are still significant numbers who do not. Would projects be assigned in groups, or would there be school provided devices? Will the school provide wifi and Internet access, or will students rely on their data plans? More thought than simply bringing in phones to class one day is required.
The Project Tomorrow survey also showed 7-20% percent of students used technologies to text with teachers. I would be very hesitant to have students text teachers, especially with various editing and photoshopping capabilities. I would suggest using Edmodo, or something similar, as a communication tool instead. Online communication sites are also available on mobile formats. Apple devices include FaceTime, but there are other options if needed.
Some limitations also include the small screen size of many smartphones. Reading a newspaper article may not pose much difficulty, but an academic article or textbook may become difficult. Tablets and laptops would be a better option, or smartphones with larger screens. Some websites are not mobile-friendly, and would have to be checked before used in the classroom.
Lastly, there are many teachers who simply do not feel comfortable with technology. Yes it is a part of life now, but even if a teacher is open to the idea, the knowledge may be lacking. For some individuals, even attending classes may not be enough for the teacher to feel really knowledgeable or comfortable with the technology. It also assumes that the teacher has a smartphone or tablet to use to prepare for the lesson and use for examples.
However, if the teacher is knowledgeable and there is equitable access to the technology, using various devices in classes could be a great learning tool. Research for projects and assignments could be started under the teacher’s supervision, with instruction on how to determine a source’s credibility. Teacher’s could provide step-by-step instruction on how to access databases with students following along in class.
Creative and fun assignments could be created with QR codes, geocaching, and other activities. Phones and tablets are more portable that textbooks, notebooks, and pens, so assignments could be taken outside or around the school.
There are also simpler assignments teachers could use. Google Forms, peer-editing, group notes, and student collections of resources for a particular unit of study. Group work can be easily divided and worked on without having to coordinate schedules or photocopying. Presentations no longer need to be narrated PowerPoints, but can be screencasts, videos, and more.
At a simpler level, these devices are timers, stopwatches, music providers, can access online grades, set reminders, check the weather, and notetakers.
Schools and classes do not need a complete overhaul to a completely digital format, but incorporating technology students already posses would likely be a positive. If a teacher tries and it fails spectacularly, then examine why it failed, and improve upon it. Teachers don’t need to use smartphones and tablets every day, but should try it and see how it goes.