It used to be that the sight of a phone in class, not even mentioning an annoying ringtone (!), was against the rules. Fighting the phone became a constant battle. Then one day I decided to stop fighting and embrace the phone. And an amazing thing happened. It has ceased to be a contentious object and is now a ubiquitous one – just as it is in many student’s lives.
My phone rule: Your phone is out on the desk, upside down unless being used. Your phone is on mute and if it goes off, you apologize and rectify it immediately. If you are caught sneaking texts or Facebook updates you will not be using your phone for the week. I’ve only had to do this once.
As a Language Resource – There are so many dictionary apps out there that our class readily promotes the good ones. To meet our criteria they must be free to download and consistently useful. In my Japanese language classes this means that the app provides both the Chinese character and phonetic character readings as well as a variety of uses of the point in context. Our current favorite – Kotoba.
Demonstrating Knowledge – I teach a language and in the past we might look to writing alone, or presentations to show understanding. Students can now opt to demonstrate knowledge through a quick conversation recording. Do you get what we have been learning today? I ask you to demonstrate it by recording a quick clip of you and your partner using it in context. They send the clip to me as part of their homework.
Class Discussion Tool – The phone has really improved the ability and desire of kids to participate in in-class discussion. They can link into Edmodo (our tool of choice) at any time. I notice that kids are quick to respond to what others have posted – and the fact that they can do so on their phone, and in Japanese, seems to increase the desire of kids to take part in the activity.
I haven’t branched out into polling, collaborative presentations and the myriad of other uses that a smartphone has as I’m aware that not all kids possess this technology. But if school is preparation for real life I hope that my students are seeing the proper time and place for the phone.