I teach online grad school classes in how to integrate tech into education. One topic I always ask students is how they manage cell phone usage in their classes. Protocols for these mobile devices have little in common today with how they were addressed a decade ago.
In 2009, a National Center for Education Statistics survey showed that about 90% of schools prohibited cell phones during school hours. Now, in 2019, that’s dropped to about a third.
Schools that do allow cell phone usage struggle with best practices. For example, most students have them but not all students. What do you do about personal devices that circumvent the school security to access the Internet? How do you apply a different set of rules for in-class and outside-of-class?
Before I get into solutions, let’s discuss the pros and cons of using cell phones in class.
In many schools, Internet access is spotty, undependable, and a challenge to manage. More schools than you’d expect still struggle with the robustness of their infrastructure. Too often, school digital devices can’t connect, or can’t connect in the volume required to run a class. Cell phones fix that. I often hear anecdotal stories of how student personal devices are allowed in class to make up this shortfall in the school’s infrastructure.
Another common reason is that cell phones are simply easier to use. When students want to do quick research on a topic, look up a word, run a calculation, or review a concept, they can hop on a cell phone much faster than logging into a Chromebook or laptop. Because mobile devices are faster, it satisfies student curiosity and builds their passion to be lifelong learners.
Third, high school students are preparing for their future. Whether that’s college or career, it will include cell phones. Why not show students the right way to use these devices while they’re still listening?
Fourth, and probably the first reason parents come up with, is that cell phones provide contact in case of emergency. The most visible example of this was the Parkland School Shooting in February, 2019. Students not only called 911 but were able to reassure parents via messaging and phone calls that they were OK. And this works both ways. Parents, too, can reach out to tell their child they’ll be late picking them up or that they forgot a book. Calling or messaging a child on a family cell phone is much faster than going through the school office.
In my summer digital citizenship classes, the biggest question I get is how to control student cell phone usage. Luckily, Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Andrew Carroll, former High School teacher, has a great analysis of the problem and discussion of solutions below:
How to control smartphone usage in classroom?
Shoulders slouched and eyes down—you guessed it right! It’s a smartphone that your students are using.
Digital devices, especially smartphones and tablets, have become an appendage for schools. In the presence of a smartphone, children don’t pay attention to the lesson being taught. Instead, they would rather stick their heads into their smartphones and stay glued to social media or texting their friends.
But it is not their fault. In a time where digital devices are ever-present, it is difficult for kids to not be influenced by them. Smartphone are making it impossible for our children to focus on anything else, least of all their studies. And it has adverse effects on their health as well. We are all aware of the negative impacts of smartphones. It is known for causing depression and anxiety among adults and children alike. Owning a smartphone may make students prone to cyberbullies, which can bring its own trauma.
In a classroom, on average, children check on their phones 11 times a day. Distractions from cell phone cause students to get behind lessons and ultimately get poor grades. Text messaging between students, in a classroom, disturbs the atmosphere. Like a ripple effect, one student using a cell phone disturbs other students as well. This leads to inattentiveness and lack of class participation. Hence, some students are left way behind than others.
For the past decade, schools have invested millions of dollars in technology. It started with a push for desktop computers which soon expanded to iPads and the wonderful apps (like art programs) that made tablets essential tools. Quickly after iPads, schools fell in love with Chromebooks and their amazing ability to allow students to collaborate and share, not to mention their ease of maintenance. Today’s focus is to give every student a digital device, much as kids used to be provided tablets and pencils.
The next game changer, according to education experts, will be digital textbooks. This is driven in large part by the affordability and portability of digital devices like Chromebooks, tablets, and laptops. Why lug around half a dozen heavy books in a backpack that too often is left behind on a sports field or at the library? Why spend a year studying information in a print textbook that doesn’t match the thinking or values of the school and its students? It’s no wonder proponents of digital books are pushing for change.
But there’s another side to the story of print vs. digital, one that is at the core of why 2015 e-book sales dropped in the United States and the UK. Let’s take a clear-eyed look at the pluses on each side of this argument. Then, when it’s time for your school to make that call, you’ll be ready.
A podcast is a topic-specific digital stream of audio files (in some cases, video or PDF also) that can be downloaded to a computer or a wide variety of media devices. They are funny, entertaining, educational, often short, and rarely boring. They can cover news, current events, history, or pretty much anything the creator would like. When you subscribe, each new episode is automatically downloaded to your device, to be played at your convenience. You can play the entire stream or select an individual episode.
Create your own
If you’re creating your own podcast, all you need is a digital device, a microphone, an Internet connection, and a topic you’re passionate about. The two most popular sites for creating podcasts are Audacity (for PCs) and Garageband (for Macs and mobile devices). Once the podcast is completed, it is saved (typically) as an MP3 which can be played through any program that accepts that file type such as QuickTime, Windows Media, SoundCloud, and even Google Drive.
Here are popular ways to use podcasts in your lesson plans:
Well-used, television has traditionally been important in the classroom. It informs students in emergencies, updates them on historic events, and now–with extensions like Apple TV–connects them on a granular level to what they learn in their textbooks.
I haven’t written about this learning tool in a long time so I was excited when AATT contributor, Sara Stringer, came up with this great article:
Even though some people feel that there is too much on TV that does nothing to educate people, or children, for that matter, there is actually plenty on television to help with education. Educational shows can be a great asset to a classroom, no matter what age the children are.
Educational Shows For Elementary
Television in the classroom is a great help for younger students. It can help them find more interest and fun in learning. One reason schools should have televisions in each room, and a great satellite or cable package, is that it can be a great tool for teaching. Those teaching elementary age children can find a lot of shows that teach everything from math to vocabulary, and even health topics. These shows make learning fun and entertain children. While kids two and under aren’t recommended to watch TV, once your child is in preschool, TV can be an excellent learning tool. Nick Jr and Disney Junior are two great outlets for educational kids shows that can work well within the classroom. Base some curriculum around what happens in the shows. Have discussions about the shows topics. Children are more likely to remember what they learn when learning is fun.
Today, whether it’s a Mac or a PC, a desktop is only one of the digital devices available in the education toolkit. First laptops eased their way into schools, pricey but popular for their portability and collaborative qualities. Then came iPads with their focus on the visual, ease of use, and engagement of users. The most recent entrant into the education digital device market is Chromebooks–able to do ‘most’ of what ‘most’ students need–at a precipitously lower price.
That means educators now have four options (desktops, laptops, iPads, Chromebooks) as they select tools to unpack education. The challenge is to understand the differences between these options and select based on personal criteria. That includes classroom needs, infrastructure, maintenance, and–yes–money. What gives the most value for the least investment?
After twelve years of teaching K-8, I know as sure as I know August comes earlier every year that kids will try harder if its fun. The challenge for us as teachers: How do we make a the geeky side of technology ‘fun’?
The answer is keyboard shortcuts–aka shortkeys. According to Wikipedia, keyboard shortkeys are:
a series of one or several keys that invoke a software or operating system operation when triggered by the user.
Shortkeys are one of the teacher tools that scaffold differentiation. Students learn in different ways. Some excel with toolbars, ribbons, drop-down menus, or mouse clicks. Others find the mishmash of tiny pictures and icons confusing and prefer the ease and speed of the keyboard. Give students the option to complete a task in the manner best suited for their learning style. Once they know shortkeys, these will be an option available when they can’t find the program tool, or when it’s nested so deeply in menus, they can’t drill down far enough to find it. Shortkeys provide an alternative method of accomplishing simple tasks, like exit a program (Alt+F4), print (Ctrl+P), or copy (Ctrl+C).
My students love them. I start in kindergarten with the easy ones–like Alt+F4–and build each year until they discover their own. Throw in a few quirky ones and you’ve won their hearts and minds. My two favorites are –> and :):
- To create the first: Type – – >; many programs automatically switch it to an arrow
- To create the second: Type : followed by ); many programs automatically switch it to a smiley face
AATT contributor, Krista Albrecht, has a balanced evaluation of Chromebooks in the classroom I think you’ll find useful. Krista is a NY State certified Instructional Technology Specialist working in public education on Long Island, NY. She has over 15 years experience in the field ranging from classroom teacher to tech teacher, to Professional Developer, to 1:1 integration specialist.
Chromebooks in the Classrooms… Friend or Foe?
Chromebooks…those little computers that everyone is talking about. Everywhere you look in education people are talking about Chromebooks, Google Apps for Education, Chrome Apps, etc. So what’s the big deal with these things? Are they really useful in the classroom to help your students achieve greater understanding? In my opinion, yes, but like any other piece of technology they do have their own list of pros and cons. So here’s one Instructional Technology Specialist’s (this girl, right here) attempt at laying out what I see to be the pros and cons of Chromebooks in the classroom. Hopefully, after reading this article, you will have a better idea of how these devices fit in your educational setting.
What is this Chromebook you speak of?
I first considered this topic at a presentation I attended through WordCamp Orange County 2014. I had several trips coming up and decided to see how I addressed issues of being away from my writing hub. Usually, that’s when I realize I can’t do/find something and say, “If only…”
I am finally back from three conferences and a busy visit from my son–all of which challenged me to take care of business on the road and on the fly.
Truth is, life often interferes with work. Vacations, conferences, PD–all these take us away from our primary functions and the environment where we are most comfortable delivering our best work. I first thought about this when I read an article by a technical subject teacher(math, I think) pulled away from his class for a conference. Often in science/math/IT/foreign languages, subs aren’t as capable (not their fault; I’d capitulate if you stuck me in a Latin language class). He set up a video with links for classwork and a realtime feed where he could be available and check in on the class. As a result, students–and the sub–barely missed him. Another example of teaching remotely dealt with schools this past winter struggling with the unusually high number of snow days. So many, in fact, that they were either going to have to extend the school year or lose funding. Their solution: Have teachers deliver content from their homes to student homes via a set-up like Google Hangouts (but one that takes more than 10-15 participants at a time).
All it took to get these systems in place was a problem that required a solution and flexible risk-taking stakeholders who came up with answers.
Why can’t I work from the road? In fact, I watched a fascinating presentation from Wandering Jon at the Word Camp Orange County 2014 where he shared how he does exactly that. John designs websites and solves IT problems from wherever he happens to be that day–a beach in Thailand, the mountains in Tibet or his own backyard. Where he is no longer impacts the way he delivers on workplace promises.
Here’s what I came up with that I either currently use or am going to arrange: