The Ten Building Blocks for Learning with Cell Phones
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October 21, 2011 By: Guest Blogger
by George Engel, Rob Griffith, Scott Newcomb, Lisa Nielsen, Jason Suter, and Willyn Webb
educators George Engel, Rob Griffith, Scott Newcomb, Lisa Nielsen,
Jason Suter, and Willyn Webb know that when it comes to preparing
students for success in the 21st century, you not only have to think
outside the ban, but also may have to dive in head first and break
it. The following is a collection of ideas each teacher implemented
to successfully break and/or work within the ban where they teach in
an effort to empower students with the freedom to use their cell
phones as personal learning devices.
The Ten Building Blocks for Learning with Cell Phones
1) Build Relationships
Breaking the ban starts with the building of relationships with key constituents. Here is advice on how to get started.
2) Embrace Research
- with self:
that leadership begins with example. There are those who are
threatened by transitions and change. To break the ban, you will need
to present yourself in ways that do not make your colleagues
uncomfortable about their instructional methodology.
- with students:
students know you care about making learning fun and relevant and ask
them if they’d like the option to be able to do work using their cell
phones. Most likely, the answer will be YES! If they are interested
provide them with homework options that enable them to use cell
- with parents and guardians:
with the parents by using the cell phone as a tool to bridge the
home-school connection. You can have a “Text-of-the-Day” to update
parents on what’s happening in the class. You can text parents
individually to share information about their child. You can poll
parents with Poll Everywhere to get their input and show their
opinions matter. You can read this article for more ideas 6 Ways to Use Cell Phones to Strengthen the Home-School Connection . Once parents are on your side and see the value personally, your job convincing other stakeholders becomes much easier.
- with colleagues:
to establish yourself as an innovative leader when it comes to
empowering students and teachers with technology. A focus on student
centered learning is key. At grade or subject meetings, offer to
support teachers in harnessing the power of cell phones for
themselves, and if they’re ready, with their students. Get them
started and model for them. Perhaps have a polling question in a
meeting or gather input with a Wiffiti board.
- with administration:
by working within the system to bring about technological change.
Become known as someone that works with what your school has on hand
and is flexible to administrative needs. When the opportunity
presents itself, respectfully present the need for change and
recommendations to update your school’s technological teaching
- with district:
known as a tech leader. Offer to participate in school and
district-wide technology decisions. Offer to collaborate with the
district technology coordinator and others to help establish a new
acceptable use policy (AUP) that will allow the use of cell phones as a
learning tool. (The AUP is a critical step toward technological
change, many districts are still working with AUP’s developed in the
late nineties.) Keep in mind that in most cases, what is acceptable
in the physical world applies to the online world as well.
today’s educational climate providing evidence that the work you are
doing is aligned to research and standards is crucial! Here are some
ways to do this.
3) Plan Activities
- In addition to content area alignment, ensure your cell infused lessons indicate alignment to the National Education Technology Standards.
- Incorporate the use of cell phones aligned to Robert Marzano’s nine research-based strategies.
careful research of the use mobile technology to building principal
and district administration. Provide specific data and examples that
are up-to-date, not out-of-date.
- Frohberg, D. (2006). Mobile learning is coming of age: What we have and what we still miss. Paper presented at the DELFI 2006, Darmstadt, Germany. (http://www.ifi.uzh.ch/pax/uploads/pdf/publication/71/2006_DELFI_Darmstadt_MLearn_Framework.pdf)
- Pursell, D.P. (2009). Adapting to student learning styles: engaging students with cell phone technology in organic chemistry instruction. Journal of Chemical Education, 86(10), 1219
- Shuler, Carly Ed.M. (January 2009) Industry Brief: Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children's Learning
- Speak Up, . (2010, March). Creating our future: students speak up about their vision for 21st century learning
- Trotter, A. (2009). Students turn their cellphones on for classroom lessons. Education Week, 28(16), 10-11
- Vavoula, G., Scanlon, E., Lonsdale, P., Sharples, M., & Jones, A. (2005). Report on literature on mobile learning, science and collaborative activity
- Wood, C., Jackson, E., & Wilde, L. (2009, July 24). Children’s use of mobile phone text messaging and its impact on literacy development in primary school.
- Compilation of Mobile technology Journal Articles and Research
is key. Create and develop a plan, lessons, and activities that you
can share with those who care and want to know what you have in store
for the use of cell phones in the classroom.
4) Pilot Program
a well thought-out plan for embedding cell phones into instruction.
Invite your students to partner with you in developing ideas to meet
learning goals using cell phones. This plan can be shared on your
class and/or school website as well as distributed to parents,
guardians, and school community members.
- Develop a well crafted outline and description of lessons and activities that could be used for learning with a cell phone.
- For lesson and activity ideas visit
administrators and policy makers to observe the lessons. If possible,
involve them as students in the class so they can actually
participate and experience first-hand an activity that promotes
student engagement and achievement.
Be willing to start small, demonstrate success and work from there.
5) Access for All
with those key in your school and district decision making to map out
an acceptable pilot program i.e. district technology coordinator,
building principal and assistant principals.
- Ensure that the pilot program includes all teachers interested in participating.
sure to invite administrators to observe and participate when you are
incorporating cell phones into the curriculum. This can be one of the
fastest ways to build relationships and get key stakeholders on
videos of what you and your students are doing. Publish on online
spaces to celebrate the work your students are doing.
interested in embedding cell phones into the curriculum has heard the
argument, but what about the students who don’t have a phone???
Well, you do the same thing as you do when your class doesn’t have
enough textbooks. You don’t say, I guess we can’t do our work. We
find workarounds. Partner or group students. Have some extras on
hand for those who don’t have. Reach out to the community for
support, but don’t use that as an excuse to not innovate instruction. 6) Partnering with Students to Use Cells for Learning
using technology for learning, Marc Prensky’s concept of partnering
with students fits in well. Bring students into the conversation and
ask them about ways they can meet learning goals in life, at school,
and at home.
A template might look like this:
Use Cell Phones for Real Life
Use Cell Phones for Learning Outside of School
Use Cell Phones In For Learning In Class
your students to partner with you around a conversation of cell
phones and learning. Capture their answers, then share these answers
to see if there are any other ideas students may want to add. The
ideas can be posted on the classroom website, blog, or wiki, with
credit given to the students who are able to take more ownership of
how they learn both at school and independently on their own.
- Sample from class whose student’s partnered with their teacher to develop ways they could use their phones for learning.
7) Parent/Guardian Permission
we use cells with students, we must have parent approval. By the
time you ask for it, you’ve hopefully already begun some home school
connection strategies with cell phones so you are on your way.
8) Acceptable use
- Here are sample parental permission to use cell phones.
like any other classroom tool, teachers need to work with students to
establish acceptable use policies. In some classrooms the teacher
just explains how the general policies apply to the use of cell
phones, in others they create a new policy, in some schools the
students help create the policies, and in some classrooms they invite
parental input as well. Collecting everyone’s thoughts on acceptable
use is easy when you use cell phone tools like Poll Everywhere and
Wiffiti to do so.
9) Cell Phone Etiquette
- Here are some sample policies
- Further reading
often complain that cell phones are a distraction in class, but how
much time have they really devoted to discussing proper etiquette?
This can be woven into a general discussion around behavior and
etiquette in different situations. Inviting students into the
conversation about appropriate etiquette and what to say to those not
exhibiting polite behavior usually works better than telling students
how to best behave.
10) Classroom Management
with the use of any technology in the classroom, when using cell
phones in the classroom you must have classroom management procedures
in place. The nice thing, however, about cell phones is that you
don’t have to worry about distribution, collection, storage, imaging ,
and charging of devices. Consider working with your students to
develop this plan, you may find that they build a strong,
comprehensive policy of which they will take ownership and be more
likely to follow. Once developed, the plan should be posted in
advance of using cell phones in the classroom.
Cross posted at The Innovative Educator, This
article was collaboratively written by George Engel, Rob Griffith,
Scott Newcomb, Lisa Nielsen, Jason Suter, and Willyn Webb using Google
docs. For information about each of the authors visit texting teacher biographies.