Voices From the Field
Supporting Cell Phone Use
in the Classroom
ell Phone use is increasing, though it is still repressed more than accepted as an educational tool in US high schools. This article discusses how cell phones have been used in a charter school for at-risk students, as well as how and why they should be used on a broader basis. Also discussed are some future possibilities for cell phone use based upon the emergence of web 2.0 applications that support mobile phone use. My first experience llsing a phone in the classroom was early in the age of the Net. I was in a school with only three phone lines going out, and I needed one of them to get online. After about four hours of crawling through the ceiling and ductwork, I was able to connect my 2400k mo dem, and use a text based lynx browser. Computers in school are now highly dependent upon the telephone in order to appropriately access the Internet, which has been integrated into most school curricula. My students were in my class, with its computers, be cause they were at-risk of failing. The school had invested a large sum of money on both hardware for the lab and the software, but the software was "skill and drill", and the students quickly learned to click through it, showing im provement, but learning nothing. That's when we "Borrowed" the image of Snoopy on his doghouse (from the comic strip, "Peanuts"), in fighter pilot mode, and be came "ACES Around the World". The students were taught how to use the Lynx browser to find out infonna tion, and they became the school's internet search service. Want to know how to say "Merry Christmas" in fifty lan guages? Ask an ACE student. Want to know how many miles an African elephant travels in its lifetime? Ask an ACE. The students became the information experts of the school, and it changed them. No longer were they the "dununies" of the school, i.e., knowledge challenged. They were the information experts. Their grades improved, and they "graduated" from my program. More than ten years later, I was working mUltiple ad ministrative roles for a charter school for inner city HS students in Cincinnati. Our students were HIGHLY at-risk; many of them had been in knife and gun fights, and had the scars to prove it. I was setting up a literacy program for these students when I discovered Google SMS. For me, it was an "Aha" moment. By using Google SMS, students who would never, ever use a dictionary had access to Google through their favorite medium, the cell phone. The results were much the same. Students who were previously the "dummies" in their old school were the information experts again. The spread of the "news" that their cell could access infonnation through Google was viral, and they used it. While I have moved on to work as an assistant profes-
Florida Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
sor at Dakota State University, my beJief in the use of cell phones in schools is unwavering. However, I recognize that there are balTiers to cell phones being adopted as a tool of aca demic instruction. While a few of these may reside in the cell phone, the ma jority reside in the educational system.
How does the dynamic interaction between you and your students change if you can say, "Please put away your cell phones, we are not ready to use them yet" instead of, " Put away your cell phones, you know they are not allowed during class time!"? All over the country, cell phones have been banned in schools. By doing so, schools have banned a thin client to the world's most powerful webservers, while at the same time complaining that they do not have the funds to keep up with technology. While schools do need to teach appropriate use, they are fairly experienced at that, letting stu dents know when to put away books and take out paper and pencil for dec ades. Clearly, schools are not reticent when it comes to telling students what to put...
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