Try It Tuesday: Use Cell Phones for Learning

Let's face it. Cell phones are a big part of modern life and most of us can't imagine doing without one. Not only do we use them to stay in contact with friends and family, most of us are also using our cells as part of getting work done. 

Rather than fighting cell phone use with your students--or banning them altogether--try experimenting with ways to use cell phones as a tool for learning. This not only works WITH students' natural desire to use their phones, it can also introduce some cool ways to re-engage and connect with youth. Finding ways to incorporate cell phones in the classroom will also build the necessary tech skills that students need to succeed in the work world. 

Use "Class Pager" to Run Class Polls, Send Reminders or Assess Learning

Class Pager let's you set up a text message "classroom" where you can send and receive group text messages without sharing any cell phone numbers. You can use it to:

  • Run class polls--get student opinions on anything. 
  • Assess learning--send a question to the group and see who "gets it"
  • Send reminders or inspirational quotes.

Class Pager works on any device and all cell phone numbers are hidden so you don't have to worry about privacy issues. You can also schedule messages for later, so you could load up a whole bunch of reminders, etc. and then let Class Pager do the work for you when it's time to send them out. 

Use Nearpod to Create Interactive Presentations 

With Nearpod, you can create interactive multimedia presentations that students can access through their smartphones or via laptops or tablets. You can also search for presentations uploaded by other educators and use them with your class. You can monitor and assess individual and group learning, giving you better information on who "gets it" and who needs more help.

Check out this Introduction to Nearpod presentation and this Nearpod presentation on how to engage your students using Nearpod. 

Use the Camera and Video Features

Everyone loves their cell phone camera and there are lots of opportunities to use pictures and video to document and share. Some ideas for using cameras and videos:
  • Have students videotape their responses to interview questions or to give a 30-second commercial about themselves. 
  • Have students record interviews with each other about an assignment or class question.
  • Have students take pictures of things they see that illustrate or document issues you are discussing in class. You can create a class photo album that documents this learning using Flickr
  • Give students a quote (or have them come up with some themselves) and then have them take pictures that illustrate the quote. They can upload their pictures to Picmonkey and create an illustrated quote by putting the quote text over their image. With Picmonkey they can also create collages of images. 
  • Have students create an illustrated "How To" guide to anything--they can take pictures of each stage of the process, examples, etc. and use these to illustrate their guides. For example, they could do their own guide to "Dressing for the Interview." This could include advice on finding the right outfit, where to find the right clothes, etc.--all illustrated by your students!
Engage students in coming up with more ideas about how they could use their cameras and videos to document and demonstrate their learning. They will definitely have some creative ideas!

Create a Podcast

A podcast is an audio recording that can be uploaded to the web and then either streamed through a device or downloaded onto a phone, mp3 player or tablet. Students can easily create their own podcasts by using the voice recording features on their smartphones and then uploading to the web. Here's a good article that describes the process for creating, uploading and sharing a podcast. Some podcast ideas:
  • Do an interview with someone.
  • Do a panel discussion.
  • Do a "how to" or explanation of something.
  • Tell a story about something you're passionate about.
  • Advocate for a cause.
  • Sell something--an idea, a product, a service.

This is another area where students could probably contribute a lot of ideas if you give them the option of creating a podcast to demonstrate learning. 

Some Final Words

As with all the Try It Tuesdays, push yourself to try new things and be experimental. You may think that it's not a good idea to use cell phones in the classroom--maybe you need to test your assumptions by working with students to find ways to make cell phones work with learning. 

And remember, you don't have to do everything at once. Talk with your students about some of these ideas and see which of them seem the most interesting or exciting to try out. Then work with them to find ways to make it work. You can't fight technology--and it's really not a good idea to do it anyway. Students will need these skills to be successful in work and life. 

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