Smartphones and education

As education is concerned with learning, and learning (in its truest sense) involves embracing change, it goes without saying that the tools teachers use should also change. Only when it comes to using mobile phones in the classroom, many teachers—myself included—are stuck, despite the reality that our students are glued to their phones 24/7.

Some teachers argue smartphones are a valuable classroom tool, while others (like me) are resistant, banning them for multiple reasons—mainly, as they are potential distraction. Or when taking an exam, to avoid cheating (which is pictured.)

Theoretically, I believe mobile phones hold great potential as smart technology has the capacity to motivate collaboration and contextualize learning. In remote places such as Africa, smartphones are helping to transform education, particularly its reach.

In my experience teaching, technology largely depends on the user. Letting adult students, who are generally better able to concentrate on tasks, use their phones in class isn't the same as allowing teenagers, who are apt to Whatsapp or buy shoes. With teens, who see their phones as a tangible extension of themselves, banning phones is a futile fight.

It's simply too practical a tool with countless functions to be overlooked. I believe trusting students to use their mobile phones wisely in class does instill a level of respect that teachers benefit from.

But how can teachers harness it?

I once did a workshop on this topic and time flew, though I remember nothing of the actual lesson. I spent 20 minutes trying to set up a WIFI connection, 30 minutes registering and trying to navigate the program and perhaps 2 minutes answering a question. That doesn't mean the second time I used the program it wouldn't be seamless and I did have fun. Only the education part escaped me.

Are you for or against? Here's a longer debate.

Last modified onWednesday, 29 April 2015 14:29
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