Making Mobile Devices Work for Your Classroom
Three years ago, Tennessee’s Greeneville High School instituted a policy that shocked its peers. Many were downright incredulous. Some were even scornful. The school began allowing—even encouraging—their students to use their mobile devices in class.
With unauthorized mobile device usage capable of subverting individual student attention, disrupting entire classrooms and generally sidelining the important educational work at hand, at least according to popular instructional dogma, what compelled them to commit such a foolhardy mistake?
Says district Greeneville City Schools Virtual Learning Coordinator and foreign-language teacher Jason Horne, “If you polled most high school teachers across the country what the top three problems in class are today, most would say mobile phones. And yet we simply don’t have that problem at all. Instead of marginalizing their use, we’ve appropriated them as a learning tool.”
Horne continues: “iPhones and Droids are essentially tiny laptops. And kids—and adults, too—use these devices all day, every day. It’s become so pervasive, seamless and thoughtless that it’s not even noticeable. It’s just part of what we do and who we are as a society. So why make something so fundamental and helpful taboo?”
“We should empower students to find answers on their own, not discourage it,” sums up Horne.
Some of the way Greeneville High School classrooms are using mobile devices:
- In lieu of costly hardcopy dictionaries and reference books, students in English, foreign language and math classes use their devices to define words, find facts and get help with calculations
- Classes of all kinds are using Poll Everywhere as an extremely inexpensive and effective audience response system, enabling teachers to instantly gather live and anonymous responses in any setting
- Several classes have adopted the game “Textas Shootout”—invented by Greeneville High School Biology and Chemistry Teacher Janet Ricker—to reinforce learning and make it fun: the class divides into teams of two, a sheriff is elected, and the teacher asks trivia questions; the first team to text the answer to the sheriff gets a point; the winning team gets their picture taken with fake moustaches and superimposed on a an Old West Wanted poster!
- Language classes utilize voice mail, such as Google’s, as a recitation tools: students spread out dictate their French oral exercise or memorized Shakespeare passage into their teacher’s voice mail via their mobile devices, allowing the teacher to grade them at his or her leisure, saving valuable class time
- Science classes texting as a communication device when they’re spread out in the field gathering data
To learn more about Greeneville’s mobile device policy, how their classrooms are using mobile devices and its consequences on discipline (the short answer is “none”), read the full article.