Monday, September 5, 2011

My students used their cellphones in class - and I encouraged it!

We started school this past week. I met 3 of my classes on Thursday and the other two on Friday. The students seem bright and eager.

One of the things I do with my students at the beginning of the year is have them subscribe to the class blogs via email so that they will get updates and be able to keep up with what's going on in class. Usually, I have them line up at the 7 student computers in my room and each student subscribes to the class blog, verifies it in their email, and then fills out the student survey (Google Form). This usually takes a bit of time since there are 24-30 students in each class.

But, this year something different happened. Many members of the class asked if it would be ok if they used their iPod Touch or smartphone to subscribe to the blog and fill out the survey. I said yes and the entire class was done in a 1/4 of the time it would normally take.

Now, I've had students use their smartphones in class before but this was different in the percentage of students who were in possession of the devices. Remember, I teach in an urban school with 95% of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch and our district does not allow students to use their cell phones in class.

Yes, I just admitted to violating a district policy. But, I truly believe that these devices are an educational tool, not problem.

Opponents say that the students will cheat, text other students, and play instead of learning. Students did all of that before there were cellphones. I've caught students cheating with a cheat sheet, passing notes, and doodling in their notebooks. I remember plenty of times where I was drawing in my notebook or even playing hangman with my friend while in class. We didn't have cellphones then.

The technology is not the problem. If you make your lessons engaging and monitor  your students, you will not have a problem. These students are coming to class with computers in their pockets. Let's use these computers for learning.


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