Cell Phones: an Educational Tool

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Cell Phones: A Tool in the Classroom
In today’s society, smart phones are a part of a student’s average, everyday life. No matter what people are doing, they find time to look at their phone and make a call, read a text, check e-mails, or search something on Google. Even though people find so many uses for them throughout the day, they are a controversial subject to talk about in their use in the classroom. Many schools have policies strictly prohibiting the use of smart phones in school. For schools to ban the use of smart phones is a major mistake. They only look at cell phones as a distraction to students, and don’t understand that this generation is dependent on the technologies of today. What educators need to do is ask themselves how they can incorporate the technology of today in the class room so they can see what positive effects smart phones have on education.

The most effective use of smart phones is also one of the most basic: internet access. The internet is inarguably the biggest source of information that exists, and we have access to it right in the palm of our hand. The internet allows us to access information through online databases, encyclopedias, textbooks, books, and more. George Engel and Tim Green write the following: “An important 21st century skill students should have is the ability to use available resources to locate information. One goal of a 21st century classroom is to transform students from passive to active learners. A step toward achieving this goal is to have students become researchers (Prensky, 2010). As researchers, students need to be able to access information. Internet access is critical to this skill. Therefore, when computers are not available, students can use cell phones to gather information via web searches, social networks, or other resources (Rodgers, Runyon, Starren, & Holzen, 2006). This kind of activity trains students to use a resource that most possess to acquire information when and where they need it.” (Engel)

Not only do cell phones offer access to the internet, they also have downloadable applications that serve as educational resources. Some of the more popular applications that exist on smart phones are graphing and scientific calculators that can be used in a trigonometry, algebra or statistics, translators that can be used in a foreign language class or even English class, Maps that can be used in a History class, and Kindle where there are downloadable books, NoteTaker where students can take notes, and Document to Go where students and teachers alike can transport files that can be used in any class. At Great Neck South High School, physics and astronomy teacher Andrew Tuomey used apps downloaded onto his student’s smartphones to look at constellations and study the stars. He said, "In a district like this, so many kids have them and even if a kid doesn't have it, they can look with the person next to them.. The students love using their phones....If the kids like to do something and you can make it educational, I am all for it." (Tyrell)

A teacher can’t teach if they don’t have the attention of the class and every teacher has had that class that never stops talking. One way to increase student participation and subordination is to have something that they can relate to. Students always want to be on their phones, so if a teacher finds a way to let them use their cell phones and learn at the same time, they will have the attention of their students more times than not. (Tyrell) For example, a pre calculus class spoke about the concept of matrices for the first time and had no knowledge of the subject. The students were asked to search any information they could find on their phones about how a matrix could apply to math. “As the students worked on this activity, they were able to find a variety of information about matrices on their cell phones. All of the students were engaged and actively participating in this inquiry activity. Once the...
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