Getting closer to the school year is dangerous for me. I tend to have thought after thought going through my head and I get all of these ideas to do things in the classroom and I never make the conscious effort to write them down anywhere. Well, today, I am. Those that follow me and others who know me understand and know my passion for using cell phones and other mobile devices in the classroom. Today, I started examining and thinking about using these devices from a different angle. An angle where I honestly feel it is my responsibility to help my students use these devices in the classroom and to teach them how to use them responsibly.
I can hear teachers screaming now saying, “Not me, it isn’t my responsibility!” Yes, there are many skeptical teachers out there who believe these types of devices have no place in the classroom. Others, already feel overwhelmed with the Common Core Standards and don’t want to add one more thing to their plate. Though teaching students how to use mobile devices may have its challenges, it doesn’t add to my existing curriculum, it enhances it. My passion for using mobile devices goes deeper than just being excited about the latest and greatest flashy items that can be used in the classroom.
1. Students Learn Differently – I have mentioned before how students grow up with technology in their hands. From cell phones, Ipads, Kindles, and Nooks, it is easily accessible to students. Think for a moment if a middle schooler has a question about anything in general. Where do you think they look for that answer? You got it, the internet! In addition, according to Pew Internet Studies about 75% of students ages 12-17 possess cell phones. Those cell phones are used for texting (hmm, I smell writing opportunities here), emailing, surfing the internet and accessing social media outlets. Our language arts department adopted Schoology for the upcoming school year ( a social media site for teachers and their students). The bottom line is we can’t shove text books in front of our kids day after day or even have them do drill and kill exercises. The best teachers I ever had from elementary to college were the ones that kept the class or students engaged. Mobile devices can help me as a teacher to keep my students engaged.
2. Collaboration – One of the biggest reasons I love using mobile devices in my classroom is for collaboration. Literature circles are an easy way for teachers to expose their students to numerous novels and at the same time teach the students responsibility by assigning roles to each group member. Keeping the spirit of the Common Core in mind, I add cell phones into the mix and my students not only collaborating with technology, but now the conversation can take place beyond the walls of the classroom and students start discussing the book without any prompting by me the teacher. Social media sites like Schoology also allows the students who don’t have mobile devices, to still interact via desktop computer. In another instance, my students can collaborate on their writing via Google Docs. For the past two years my students have been amazed at how Google Docs works and what it can provide. Students instantly become connected learners when they collaborate on a piece of writing by their peers. Google Docs was awesome for the writing group my colleague and I put together this past school year. Watching students’ writing transform and go through the entire writing process is amazing. The finished product is no doubt better with Google Docs because of the collaboration amongst students.
3. Digital Citizenship – To me this one term brings everything into focus for me. Part of me almost thinks as teachers we all have a duty to discuss and model this for our students. Again, some teachers may give the proverbial eye roll and bark out, “What about the parents?” I know it may sound funny, but the parents are in just as much need to learn about digital citizenship. Last week I proposed to my principal an “Ed Tech night” where parents get to engage themselves in what their child may do during a school day with technology. In addition, I want to discuss with parents digital citizenship and what that means. I want to talk to them about how students are using their cell phones in inappropriate and why it is inappropriate. Furthermore, discussing with parents what cyber bullying looks like and what affects it can have on another student. Hopefully by engaging the parent as well as the student, some issues can be eliminated and parents will have a better grasp on why I use mobile devices in my classroom. Needless to say, my principal is embracing the idea and we are meeting about it next week.
I am not sure if my reasoning is reasonable or even understandable, but I do know I am passionate about my job, my students, and the reasons it is important to implement mobile devices into my classroom. When I hear in the hallway how much my students love my class because of how I use cell phones, I get pumped. After all, you don’t hear students say they enjoy language arts class.