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The Importance of Mobile Phones in Education

Teenager Ethan Davids describes how essential his phone is to him.

EthanFrom listening to music, to taking and editing pictures of teachers, the young community have found various ways to misuse the new technology being made available to them in such small and compact mobile phones. Obviously, anything that can disrupt learning, or teaching, cannot be accepted in a classroom environment and should be dealt with accordingly. It is my opinion that as technology advances at such a blistering pace, policies such as ‘mobile phones should be switched off and in your bag’, can be modified to benefit not only students, but teachers and schools alike.

As a student who has experienced some very rowdy and distracting classes, I know that mobile phones can cause huge distractions for not only students, but teachers as well. I am also aware that mobile phones can be a danger to the school environment; however I believe they can still have their benefits in the classroom.

As a very proud owner of an Apple iPhone 3G, I could rave all day about the importance of my mobile phone. It keeps me in contact wherever I go, which not only gives me peace of mind, but also my parents! An argument I have never understood is that youngsters have become too reliant on their mobiles. Nowadays mobile phones can be as useful to people as a pencil and paper, and I have never come across an argument that adults have become too reliant on those!

The ability to download ‘apps’ to phones such as the iPhone can also make it not only personalised, but useful for people in most situations. From word processing software to a program that keeps an eye on the stock market, the range of potential uses can just not be argued with. For example, instead of waking up tired and grumpy, I use an advanced alarm clock to measure my sleeping patterns which also wakes me up when I am sleeping at my lightest. Not entirely necessary, but this could still be beneficial to anybody!

So if this level of technology can benefit from city workers to journalists, why can it not be taken advantage of at school? I have numerously thought to myself in lessons such as Spanish and English that if it was accepted for me to use my phone, my learning could be improved. Instead of taking out a dictionary, I could simply use my translator, and instead of trawling through books for a piece of literature, I could find the book online and be directed to a specific word, and so on. The fact is that these phones are really just computers, yet I am unaware of a school that is reluctant to allow the use of these.

I'm not naïve; firstly not everybody has such an advanced phone and secondly, there are bound to be people who will take advantage. But as technology becomes cheaper, more people will invest in this equipment, and surely the people who take advantage of the leniency would use their phone regardless of new measures?

Schools themselves are modernising greatly. My present school, for instance, is in the process of becoming an academy. This means that from September 2010 it will no longer be classed as a ‘school’, and by 2013 it hopes to have established completely new buildings. I am part of a group of students who have listened to the new plans, and I was impressed with the new technology being considered. Ideas such as giving each student a laptop and registering attendance online are being planned already. I think it is fantastic that schools are finally ‘getting with the times’ and are understanding the importance of ICT in education! Eventually I hope mobile phones will be looked upon in a much more reasonable way and take a more important role in education. After all, there’s only so much fun you can have with editing teachers’ faces!

Ethan is a Year 11 (17 years old) student who is currently preparing for his final GCSE (High School graduation) exams. He is a huge lover of football, and Manchester United. He hopes to carry on his education to university where he hopes to study Law and French.

This is a slightly amended version of an article which first appeared in Computers in Classrooms, the free e-newsletter. The next issue is a games-based learning special, and we're running a prize draw to give away 2 marvellous prizes. More on that later today.

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Reader Comments (9)

Mobile phones nowadays are multifunctional. They are phones/cameras/mp2s/alarmclocks/dictionaries and what-have-you. As with the internet and other new technologies, they have their advantages and disadvantages. The only thing that teachers could do is to use the advantages and teach the students some ethics with using those gadgets.
Thx. definitely agree about teaching ethics, but not that that's the ONLY thing we can teach.
Trouble is, most teachers are not technologically savvy and they are afraid of computers, never mind SmartPhones. That will change in about 10 or 15 years but by then we will be onto even better things ...
July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
It was ever thus!
I feel somehow enlightened by your article and without doubt technology has made a major contribution to the intejection of very interesting websites on mobile phones. I would also welcome the idea that students could illicit useful information from certain websites but in this instance I would suggest that new teaching strategies and guidelines must be be put into place to ensure that this venture could be undertaken sucessfully. Teachers will find that the mobile phone is a useful tool within the classroom but they are are no longer funded for ,'continual Professional development' and obviously more skills and training would be required in this area on how they could monitor the progress of their learners. Another key area I would like to put forward would be funding of these resources at this particular time when there are more and more goverment cuts in government funding.
Would the parents of students 17 - 19 years of age in FE be liable to pay for the mobile phones and the upkeep at their own expenses on this innovation or a proposal for the government to consider?

kind regards
August 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOinda Plange
Thanks, Lin. You've highlighted a couple of really important issues. There definitely needs to be professional development on teaching and assessment strategies for ANY mobile device I think, to hep teachers who are unfamiliar with using them in their classroom feel more confident.
The funding question has always been an issue. I guess at the moment it's a matter of a school or LA managing to negotiate a decent contract; I can't see government funding materialising in this area any time soon.
I have recently worked in two schools in Perth Australia where mobile phones have been allowed in classrooms as long as their usage was educational. my students used them to time their experiments with a great deal more accuracy than the plastic timers we normally endure. In the real world they will use their phones for timing anyway.

They used them to photograph their experiments and take pictures to put into their reports.I use the whiteboard quite a lot and students took photos of the board before they left the class if they didn't get all the notes down in class.

They always asked first which was just good manners. As I pointed out to them not all teachers will be as flexible and willing to embrace the new phone status so if they want to keep using them they should be polite and ask first.

They looked things up on the web to quickly check information when it was needed. I was on an excursion in the bush when students asked me about an unusual insect' the ant lion. I was able to tell them about what they were seeing and then show them pictures on my phone of the animal in it's next life cycle stage.

Early days for me and them but I loved it and so did they. I hate being in a school where we are not allowed to use them again.

Its an amazing tool whether in the classroom or out of it.
May 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersunshinewa
As a teacher of high school chemistry I believe that the use of smart technology in the classroom is extremely valuable. I allow my students to use their technology where applicable. For example, some use it just for calculators, others use it to take notes and look at the notes and worksheets that I post, others use it to research particular topics. I demonstrate some of the educational apps that are available, for example when teaching unit conversions I show them the app that I frequently use or when discussing the element of the week i showed them the periodic table app and they downloaded the app early on in the year and now use their phones, ipads, etc to look at the specifics of each weeks element.
I believe that schools have to have very specific policy on this type of technology use however and be consistent with disciplinary actions for those students who break the rules.
June 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Tunucci
Thanks for your comment, Lisa. Those are great uses for mobile technology. I completely agree with you that schools need be specific and consistent in terms of their mobile technology use.

What's the name of the periodic table app, by the way?

Did you see this article?

It lists a few science apps for mobile devices.

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