50 Reasons It’s Time For Smartphones In Every Classroom


intelfreepress-smartphones-in-every-classroom50 Reasons It’s Time For Smartphones In Every Classroom

by Terry Heick

There are many ways to use a smartphone in the classroom, but it continues to be a touchy subject.

Privacy, equity, bandwidth, lesson design, classroom management, theft, bullying, and scores of other legitimate concerns continue to cloud education’s thinking about how to meaningfully integrate technology in the learning process.

To be clear–learning can happen in the absence of technology. Integrated poorly, technology can subdue, distract, stifle, and obscure the kind of personal interactions between learner, content, peer, and performance that lead to learning results.

But increasingly we live in a world where technology is deeply embedded into everything we do. Thinking about it simply in terms of “digital literacy” puts you about 5 years behind the curve. It’s really much more than that–less about being connected, and more about being mobile.

There will be growing pains, and I’m sure educators that have brought in BYOD programs into their school can come up with 50 reasons it won’t work. But most of those 50 are a product of the continued poor fit that exists between schools and communities–the system and the humans it serves.

Soon, the argument won’t be about smartphones, but rather steeper technology–contact lenses that record, and bendable, wearable mobile hardware that offers AI-produced haptic feedback to guide how students research, skim through information, or connect through media (all media will be social).

Which will make an iPhone or Nexus 5 look like an abacus.

This an argument less about smartphones, and more about meaningfully embracing what’s possible in 2015 and beyond–a stance that could see education finally take a position of leadership in the use of technology to support how we make sense of the world around us.

50 Reasons It’s Time For Smartphones In Every Classroom

1. Students could Google anything–just like you do

2. Used, they’re incredibly affordable

3. They can therefore reduce rather than increase equity and access

4. Self-directed learning will be a core tenet of future learning. This means technology, and the most mobile, affordable, and accessible kind of technology is a used smartphone

5. Another core tenet of future learning? Mobility. Which requires mobile technology.

6. Texting in class is a classroom management problem–or even a matter of instructional design. It is not a technology problem

7. Related gadgets like wearable technology are already here. Smartphones are already dated technology, but they can serve as a bridge to the near future

8. Workflow in classrooms is now based primarily on physical media, which often means shoehorning in technology. It’s time for the reverse

9. Students can create their own workflows

10. The hardware isn’t overwhelming. Technology isn’t the point of learning, and should not overwhelm awareness, curiosity, interaction, or critical analysis in favor of mass publishing and communication.

11. It’s easy to turn them off, put them in airplane mode, etc

12. Push and location-specific notifications have tremendous potential for personalizing learning

13. Security issues go both ways–personally I’d prefer my teenager to have a smartphone on her at all times

14. Geo-tagging, game-based learning, and apps with adaptive learning algorithms that differentiate for you–or for the student, rather. Have you seen The Sandbox?!

15. Tumblr–easy grab-and-go blogging

16. Students can create their own IT department or tech support teams

17. Yes, there is a have vs have-nots with iPhone 5s versus dated Android phones. This is not a reason to ban them from the classroom

18. NFC technologies are getting smarter and more integrated into our lives, including beaming almost anything digital from here to there–to share, broadcast, publish, display anything in real-time

19. Wi-Fi Direct makes peer-to-peer sharing of data instantaneous

20. They support project-based learning, game-based learning, sync teaching, and dozens of other related learning trends

21. Evernote–cloud-based everything

22. QR Codes help accommodate mobile learning

23. 3G is nearly ubiquitous and 4G is getting more common. (And even a disconnected smartphone is 100xs more useful than a calculator.)

24. Podcasts (a technology underused in the classroom) can be recorded, shared, broadcast, saved, or socialized anywhere

25. They can be used as clickers to give teachers real-time data from quick assessments

26. Backchannel conversations

27. Augmented reality allows for the overlay of physical environments with real-time data

28. Voice-recognition and voice-activated apps are getting smarter–and could be a boon for struggling writers

29. This would decenter the teacher

30. This would liberate the teacher

31. This would utlimately empower the teacher

32. Every student has a voice

33. Students can have choice in terms of apps, platforms, social channels, assessment style, and so on. Smartphones can support this

34. Smartphones can supplement laptops, tablets, and other learning technology

35. Smartphones can function as a productivity hub for challenge-based learning–reminders, to-do lists, calendar updates, social messaging, emails, etc

36. And they’re already in the pockets of most students

37. Digital citizenship is a perfect segue to teaching human citizenship

38. Digital literacy is as important as non-digital literacy

38. Every student using a smartphone would naturally democratize what is otherwise an academic oligarchy

39. YouTube is the most popular and diverse media channel on the planet. It may be time to let them use it how they want, when they want

40. Students continuing to learn without access to the hardware and software they’re accustomed to using on a daily basis only further alienates and discredits schools rather than “cleaning them of distraction”

41. Easy, persistent access to their previous thinking–i.e., digital portfolios

42. White noise apps

43. Don’t you stream music while you work? I do. Doesn’t have to be Eminem–could be Mozart, Gregorian Chants, or white noise

44. Headphones, earbuds, and other related peripherals are becoming increasingly common-and useful (see #42)

45. Yes, it very well may be that we are becoming addicted to technology as a culture. Banning them in schools while pretending that your classroom is the last bastion for humanity is lunacy

46. Kindle, iBooks, and other reading apps

47. Access to virtual libraries, museums, networks

48. reddit, while quiry, is a community that models critical thinking, the nuance of content, and a celebration of learning

49. Ease of data collection for teachers

50. It’d immediately disrupt everything from district filters and school policies to the role of students in the learning process, and the transparency of student work and performance in the classroom

Image attribution flickr user intelfreepress; 50 Reasons It’s Time For Smartphones In Every Classroom

  • Calvin Gaunce

    I have one reason why it’s not time for smartphones in the classroom – we are not ready.

    We won’t be ready until there is a radical change in American schools. You did a great job highlighting educational uses of the smartphone but didn’t mention how they would be adopted in the current school system. How do you manage 30 students with smartphones?

    Many of these uses empower the student and some suggest learning outside of the classroom.

    9. Students can create their own workflows

    20. They support project-based learning, game-based learning, sync teaching, and dozens of other related learning trends

    27. Augmented reality allows for the overlay of physical environments with real-time data

    It would be great if students had the opportunity to use smartphones in ways you have described, but these technologies completely disrupt the physical classroom. You also mentioned other growing technologies that could find there way into schools. These will disrupt the classroom even more. Technology can have a great impact on learning, but it evolves so quickly that we can’t follow it. We need to get ahead of it.

    It isn’t time for smartphones in the classroom. It’s time to rethink the classroom.

    • terryheick

      See, I was all prepared to argue with you, and then I got to the last sentence, and you started speaking my language.

  • vero

    I don’t speak english verywell … I’m in Belgium . But many people haven’t money enough to buy a smartphone : some people in my town don’t have money enough to eat , have warm and buy a smartphone …. and the school to !
    I try to use QR code to give link to mathematics exercises url …. but nobody try to find the url !
    and the people who have a smartphone don’t like use it as calculator : only to take a picture , to phone , to send short message or to listen some music !

  • Ivy

    Students have admited to me that they long for the days when they did not have a phone because they weren’t distracted with wanting to check it during class or wondering what gossip has come through. That’s reason enough to leave phones at home. Kids can use the from desk phone like many of us did when we were kids and needed to call home. And if the front desk is closed, they can call from the supervising adult’s phone.

    • Ivy

      *kids can use the school receptionist’s phone – front desk, not from desk

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  • Murray Shaw

    Student writing skills seem worse than 10 years ago, so I don’t know whether it’s a good idea to introduce these things into one of the last settings where they are still required to communicate without them.