Smart Phones and Education: Using the Tools at Hand

GirlsUsePhonesInClass lowres Smart Phones and Education: Using the Tools at HandWhen’s the last time you went a full work day without checking your phone? When’s the last time you made it half the day without doing so, for that matter? Or purposely went somewhere without it?

My guess is that these things don’t happen very often. And yet, we routinely ask students to do just that.

The advent of the smart phone transformed cell phones into so much more than a simple phone. Now that we are able to access the internet from out phones, we are able to access any information at any time. No longer do questions have to wait until you are near a computer to be answered. Instead, they can be quickly looked up on the go, solving many a friendly dinner arguments in the process.

This same connection that makes smart phones such a powerful tool for adults can serve the same purpose for students.

Higher education students use smart phones to check emails/receive notifications about class before ever leaving their dorm, ensuring they are better prepared once they arrive. They are also able to quickly check for updates between classes in case anything has changed since they left their dorm that morning. Teachers are able to send out last minute location or scheduling changes with the assurance that students will actually see the information before class time.

For younger students, phones can be used to teach valuable research skills they will need later in life. If they have a question on an assignment, they are able to find the information on their own while the teacher helps another student. If they want to learn more about a topic covered in class, they can quickly research it on their phone.

A recent study by Verizon Wireless found that 39 percent of middle school students use their phones for homework once they leave the classroom and are able to use the tools available to them. While many may worry about the effects on lower income students once cell phones are allowed in the classroom, the same study found that 29 percent of students with household incomes under $25,000 use smart phones for homework. Additionally, 49 percent of Hispanic and 42 percent of African-American students admitted to using their smart phones when completing homework.

And yet, 88 percent of the study participants said they were not allowed to use their phones in school.

As student ownership of smart phones continues to increase, it is time to embrace them in the classroom. Not only for all the help they are able to provide students, but also because they are already using them. Let’s embrace smart phones in the classroom and start teaching students cell phone etiquette, the proper way to conduct research and the many benefits of being only a few clicks away from any information they may need.

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