Monday, July 25, 2011

It's Time for Leaders to Embrace Cell Phones in the Classroom

More and more technology-friendly teachers and education leaders are embracing cell phones as the best way to engage students and use technology efficiently and effectively.  It's time to reverse the trend of draconian cell phone policies in schools and launch new initiatives across the country.

The November 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine had an article entitled Cellphonometry: Can Kids Really Learn Math From Smartphones? about corporate-sponsored educational technology in the form of smartphones. The pilot program, called Project K-Nect, provides students several North Carolina high schools with tech that student wanted (far more than laptops or even video game systems). The initiative has proven very successful, as the students take advantage of being able to connect with each other and their teacher for help pretty much whenever they want.

We all know there's a huge push for expanding funding and access to technology in schools across the country, but I think it's safe to say we're a long way from cellphones and smartphones being considered part of that push. Harnessing the ubiquity and simplicity of cell phones for education is a challenging new frontier that I think forward-thinking educators should be pushing for.

The most obvious challenge is not in funding or availability; there's plenty of funding and phones are a cheaper option than most other student-centered technology (some students could bring their own, lowering the costs even more). The real problem is in gaining acceptance from teachers and administrators who seem to enjoy spending their time banning and/or confiscating cell phones instead of figuring out how to take advantage of the situation.

If you're skeptical, here are some great articles on this subject:

From Toy to Tool: Cell Phones in Learning

Cell Phones in the Classroom: From Banning to Embracing [video]

Making the Case for Cell Phones in Schools

The Contraband of Some Schools is The Disruptive Innovation of Others with BYOT (Bring Your Own Tech)

An earlier version of this article appeared on my blog on Leadership in Educational Equity.