If cell phones DID exist during my secondary schooling, you can bet your sweet cheeks I’d be texting, surfing, words-with-friendsing, and USAToday-ing till my battery died. Fact is, I can’t recall all that much about those years with the exception of two to three teachers (like most). The vast majority of lectures, readings, and worksheets were motions I went through; small stages of comatose until (like Pavlov’s dogs), I heard a bell ringing to queue my next movement. Survey your students today, and they’ll likely say the same.
If you’re a teacher today, the “cell phone battle” is one you’ve likely taken one of three stances on. First, you’re opposed, finding little to zero value in their use. Next, you’re indifferent, and it doesn’t really matter when, how, or if they’re used at all. You might take it up, you might not – you’re just putting in time. As long as it’s not disrupting or getting in your way, it doesn’t exist to you. But Third, you may be seeking new and interesting ways you can harness that enthusiasm toward effective learning. The cell phone battle isn’t a battle at all for you. You’ve recognized technology isn’t going away and you seek meaningful ways to engage your students.
And if you’re on the fence (or looking to lean closer toward choice #3) – here’s a few ways you can engage your students for that small window of time you have with them each day.
- Allow students to answer questions directed at you by seeing who can “Google” it first. Encourage web browsing and surfing, but direct where it’s going. Even if you know the answer, let an eager student take the credit. You’ll find monitoring isn’t NEAR as big an issue when you’re saying, “SURE, you can use your phone in here.”
- Pair ’em up! There’s always more than one way to find the answer, and two searches are better/faster than one. Plus, there may be students who find the race for information a healthy competition they haven’t enjoyed in previous learning environments.
- Encourage your students to add to what you’ve taught them! While you’re teaching, ask students to elaborate or expound on the topic. If you’re discussing the fall of communism in Russia during 1991, ask for other details that need to be shared to understand the BIG picture.
Don’t forget it’s YOUR DOMAIN. Set the proper time and place when phones can and can’t be used and you’ll find that more times than not – your students will respect the boundaries. Take the opportunity to teach the value in having up to date information at your fingertips and watch a transformation take place in your classroom. Do it tomorrow.