Cell phones and smartphones differ drastically from previous school technology.
1. The students know how to use these technologies. They use them daily. They text, they take pictures and send the pictures, they take videos/movies and send them, and they access the web. Teachers do not have to spend class time in teaching students the new technologies. Even when teachers “teach” a new program such as Yodio, the students already know how to take pictures, upload them to a program, know how to record their voice and how to send their voice files. Teachers save all the time they used to spend in teaching how to use a new technology which often was many days.
2. The students always have these mobile learning devices with them. They may forget their notebook. They may leave their textbook home. They may be without a pen. Their dog may have eaten some critical papers. They may have lost their password onto the class website. However, they will have their cell phone or smartphone with them.
3. The students can use their own mobile learning devices. The school does not have to provide it except possibly for a few disadvantaged students. Teachers can do lessons regardless of the various types of mobile learning devices (the various companies that produce the phones) and of the various carriers. The school does need to provide access to the school’s wireless.
4. With QR codes, students can be a click away from learning resources. Students do not have to turn on a computer, log in, and then type in a web address. Many students have trouble typing in a web address even when the web address has been shortened. The student instantly go from scanning in the QR code to clicking on the link(s). Class learning time is saved.
5. Students can easily be producers of information. They can take pictures to document environmental concerns in their community and make those into a multimedia story such as with Yodio. They can audio record the interview of various people as they talk about the importance of math in their careers. The students can make a movie about the various healthy habits of their family and friends for their physical education course. They have these tools on their phones and they know how to use the tools.
6. Due to the richness of web resources, teachers can move students to higher level thinking. Students can easily contrast two images of the same incident for an English class. They can evaluate the bias in reporting the same story as they read newspapers from around the globe in a Social Studies class.
7. Students can be global in their learning. Texting can be done internationally. Students can text a science survey about using paper in school to their friends in other states and other countries. Elementary students can text math word problems which students in other countries have written in terms of things in their country. For example, a school in Costa Rica migh offer this problem, “If you are really hungry and you buy a “casado” (rice and meat dish) for 2,500 colones and a fruit drink for 400 colones, how much do you spend? What is that in USA money?
Harry Grover Tuttle is a technology integration teacher and a district wide coordinator of technology at Onondaga Community College. He is also the author of several books on formative assessment.