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Your Students Are Addicted to Their Phones So Take Advantage of It!

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2e1ax elegantwhite entry Stop Banning Cell Phones

I often think of the great book On Their Side by Bob Strachota when working with students, especially those who are hard to reach. I recently read an argument that claims phones don't belong in school. Looking through the lens of On Their Side, it is difficult to imagine scolding students for using phones and outright banning them are effective ways to engage our audience.

If schools are supposed to prepare students for the next steps in life, how is banning phones justifiable? Neither phones nor students' addiction to them will disappear when they arrive on college campuses and at employers' doors.

In a time when many students prefer to take notes and write papers on their phones, schools can establish themselves as archaic dinosaurs by resisting their students' preferences, or they can utilize phones to reach students.

Some Awesome Apps

Phones have some apps that teachers should use in instruction. Here is a small sample of apps teachers can utilize in the classroom.

Alice Keeler documents that Google Keep (Android, iPhone) is a great app to give students the ability to draw on images, scan text, and take offline notes

Teachers can take their students on 360-degree field trips with Google Expeditions (Android).

Spheros are a great way to teach coding, angles, and problem-solving using Lightning Lab (Android) or Tickle (iPhone).

Students can quickly upload video from their phone to an online editor with the WeVideo app (Android, iPhone).

Students can take beautiful sketchnotes with Paper 53 (iPhone) and Procreate (iPhone).

Students can "measure and record data in real time, including movement, light and sound" with Science Journal (Android).

This fall some forward-thinking educators plan on using Pokémon GO with their students. How will you use students' phones to enhance instruction? 

A Note About Socioeconomics

Not all students bring smartphones to school. Of the students who do, some will have iPhones and some will have Android. Teachers can use this as an excuse or take this into account and have students work in groups to take advantage of these apps. Teachers can survey students at the start of the school year to take a smartphone inventory. 

Lastly, a Personal Anecdote

I presented about being a connected educator at my district's internal conference in June. As the session was about to begin, the internet went down. I could have given up, but I knew that my participants had phones. I directed them to install the Google Classroom app (AndroidiPhoneon their phones. Once installed, participants could easily access the session resources I had placed in Classroom. Some didn't install the app and just looked on with a partner. I used my phone's mobile hotspot to go through resources on my laptop even though I did not have the right cable to connect to the projector. Amazingly, with no internet and no projection, we had a successful session about being connected educators thanks to smartphones!


Does the internet ever go down at your school? I hope this anecdote convinces you how phones can save your lesson when this happens.

Thank you for reading these ideas about phones in the classroom . If you want to discuss further, please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom

Thank you Canva, the tool I used to make the image for this blog post.Background for the blog post image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/Calhan_High_School_Senior_Classroom_by_David_Shankbone.jpg


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Tom Mullaney is a Digital Learning Integration Designer for the San Francisco Unified School District. Tom's education experience includes Special Education, Social Studies, and educational technology coaching in New York, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. He is a Google for Education Certified Innovator and Trainer. Tom hosts the Sustainable Teaching Podcast and contributes to the BamRadio Network EdWords blog. Use his TED-Ed lesson to teach your students about the French Revolution. Contact him on Twitter, @TomEMullaney or via e-mail, mistermullaney@gmail.com.

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