Saturday, April 26, 2008
Cell Phones in the Classroom?
To ban or not to ban? Whether it is nobler in the end to embrace the cell phone as a learning tool or banish it to the locker where it can safely sit untill the end of the day. Every school seems to tackle these issues in different ways. Some schools ban even the presence of the cell phone, while some choose a path more geared towards managing their presence. For example, some schools allow students to use cell phones during lunch but they must remain out of site and off during the rest of the day. Like many issues, there is no cookie cutter solution to the problem.
What about viewing phones as a learning tool? Do they have a use in the classroom? There is a growing number of educators who are using phones as a learning tool. Below are a few ideas. Before we start, a great resource on the topic is the blog of Liz Kolb, a PhD student at the University of Michigan. Her blog cell phones in learning is a true treasure.
Let's look at the value of five simple tools and their classroom applications: Drop.io, Gcast, Chacha, Google, and Jott. These powerful tools are all free of cost and I'd bet almost every student in your class knows how to use them already.
Drop.io: Drop allows students to store and save digital media that they've captured with their phone. A student takes a picture or a short video clip with their phone and then sends it to their drop box. Sharing the url allows anyone from the class to access the drop. Applications? Think about a group of students on a field trip with the end project of making an album of their learning experience on the trip. Another use would be projects involving interviewing various people. Students could take a pic of their interviewee, record the audio on their phone using a tool I'll share later, and Drop it all in the same place for sharing.
Gcast: Good and bad with this one but if used well it replaces the need for a digital recorder. Gcast offers free accounts where you can register your phone and then record audio directly in digital form as a podcast that can be shared if desired. Students with unlimited minute phone plans could easily use their phone to record classroom lectures. If we allow digital recorders why not the phone? Interview applications would also apply. Some teachers might fear being recorded but come on, is there anything in that classroom that shouldn't be recorded? We certainly hope not.
Chacha: All I can say about Chacha is Wow! Chacha, founded in Indianapolis, adds the power of web searches with the intelligence of people. You can search Chacha on the web but you can also use your phone to call 1-800-2chacha and ask a question. Chacha records the question emails your audio file to a chacha agent who searches the web for you and texts you an answer. It takes a minute or two but it is all free and amazingly accurate. Imagine students using their phones to look up answers in class. If you don't do anything else today, use your cell phone right now and ask Chacha a question.
Google: Everyone knows of google as a powerful search engine but you can also register your phone with google and send text message questions to google and google will text you back again for free with the answer. Pretty cool and usually a little quicker than chacha but usually not the same quality answer.
Jott: Jott has many applications. Jott essentially records a voice call from your phone converts it to a text message and emails and sends a test message to the number of many people you designate. One growing use of Jott is communicating homework assignments. A teacher can program all her students in a Jott list and call it 3rd hour Math. She or a designated student can call Jott and record the homework each day. You can even add parent emails to the list and make sure they are notified as well. Our coaches have taken an affinity to Jott for communicating with their teams quickly. Our girls soccer coach uses Jott to communicate new practice times and unexpected changes. Pretty cool!
Below is a survey for your school's current policy regarding cell phones. Please click below to help us share our current practices. In next week's post I'll share the results.
Cell Phone Survey