Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

From “Learning To” to “Loving” the Phone in Class


Last spring I wrote about “Learning to Love the Phone” in my Japanese MFL class. It has been a journey for me from banned item to ubiquitous tool. As I wrote before I have a simple rule. It 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.

My students use dictionary apps that are free to download and provide character readings.  They also use the phone to record quick conversations to show mastery of a topic. With 5 minutes to record a conversation that utilizes the  particular point, they can immediately send me their ‘proof of learning’. My senior students also use the phone to access Edmodo as a class discussion tool. They are quick to respond to posts using their phones; much faster than if I relied on them being at a station. Next semester I am branching out to use polling and other phone based options – like Socrative.

However it isn’t just my students that have their phones at the ready. Mine is now out on my desk full-time. My phone is a great tool in documenting my classes. What do I use it for?

Activities in Progress – Photos and video of activities as they unfold are great. They give life to the ‘word based’ lesson plan and add key details into  ‘how it went’. I not only use the visual option for my own records, but also in promoting department activities (note: student faces/identifying features are always blurred – I use iPhoto/iMovie options for this). It’s not only the sights but also the sounds of the room that are important. I take advantage of the recording function, and the ability to discreetly hold it in my hand to sample student interaction.  It’s quick, easy and when I collect enough snippets – easily merged into an ‘audio collage’ of the activity. My students know that I do record on the fly and will never publish anything that identifies them.

Final ‘boards’ – My language lessons can be quite organic – driven by thematic topic, or student need. Sometimes, instead of the computer, I use the whiteboard for these kind of notes. My phone helps me to quickly capture what the boards end up looking like. I have a record of not only what happened but information for the next time that I plan to do the activity.

Evernote Access– This year I am committed to using Evernote to record my year in teaching.  One of the reasons is the ability to use my mobile to access and add to anything in my notebooks. Photos from class can quickly be added to notes. My audio clips are also easily added to my daily lesson plans. No need to load/transfer etc. Simple and effective for me – and one of the selling key features for me of Evernote.

Leading by Example – I have my phone out and open on my desk. I use it just as the students are asked to do in my class. My phone is out and upside down unless its being used. What I am not doing is texting or checking Twitter or Facebook during class time. Perhaps the most powerful thing about using my phone – modelling proper etiquette and use in the class environment.

There are many more phone possibilities that I hope to explore in the future. What do you use your phone for?





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