Using phones instead of fighting them

August 25, 2009 2:56:49 PM PDT
It's rare these days to see students without cell phones. Usually schools work hard to make sure students put them away and keep them out of the classroom, but now some educators are actually embracing them. Columbia University Teachers College introduced a course this summer that centers on how to use texting as a tool for teaching. One of the class instructors pointed out that many phones could do even more than texting, saying that they have become "mini-computers."

Class participant Juliette LaMontagne said, "I'm an advocate for cell phones in education because they provide us with affordable, accessible technology tools."

Despite the fact that students are not allowed to bring cell phones to school in New York City, the course instructs teachers that there are productive ways for students to use cell phones, even outside the classroom.

"You can use text messages, or SMS as it's also called, to get information, and you can use that in an educational setting, and you can use it to interact," said class instructor Nabeel Ahmad.

The other instructor, Dominic Mentor gave some examples.

"Teachers could text either one assignment to their students, or a couple of assignments to their students? breaking them up into groups so that they could collaborate with one another. They could collaborate either via texting with one another, or they could collaborate with the teacher."

The instructors also gave a demonstration, asking the class participants to vote via text whether they thought cell phones should be used for classroom instruction. Not surprisingly, the 'yes' votes won.

"I think it would be very useful because I think you're fighting a losing battle to oppose the fact that cell phones exist," said class participant Shilpi Balakrishnan. "Students are using it all the time anyways."

That point of view is not expected to change policy within City schools, but Teachers College plans to continue this course next summer regardless.

Web produced by: Josh Bell


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