Cell Phones in Education

Mar 1, 2011 by

Here a a few facts from The Pew Research Center about teens and cell phones:

  • One in three teens send over 100 text messages a day- that’s 3,000 a month!
  • 72% of all teens (that’s also 88% of teen cell phone users) text message.
  • 75% of all teens ages 12 – 17 have their own cell phone, up from 45% in 2004.
  • While some teens are avid texters, a full 22% are not, sending only between 1 – 10 text messages a day.

You can take a look at one of their recent slide presentation on Teens and Cell phones below:

Given the largely ubiquitous nature of the cell phone,  it’s natural that educators would start thinking about them as a potential learning tool.  And even for teens without cell phones, many have adopted devices like iPod touches, which have texting capability, as well as access to apps, which provide yet another window to try to leverage existing technology to squeeze in a little more learning around the edges.
Liz Kolb has written a book called From Toy to Tool: Cellphones in Learning for ISTE. She is an instructor at the University of Michigan, and has a PhD in Learning technologies, and her website, From Toy to Tool, has fantastic resources about the potential of using cell phones for true learning.

One of the interesting things I learned about from Liz’s site was a new web based service called Studyboost.com, where students can essentially create study questions, share questions with classmates, teachers and more, and have questions texted to them at different intervals, to give them additional practice or prompts. I’m going to give this one a go with my own kids, to see if this additional prompt helps them use their long bus ride a little more effectively. While I see this as basically a “flash card meets texting” app, for vocabulary and math facts, it may be really useful, but time will tell.

Overall, I’m intrigued by the creative ways folks are finding to make use of technology already in the hands of many students. Recently, I was at a presentation and SMART has a beta trial of software that would let you use almost any internet-capable device- cell phone, ipod, etc. as an audience response “clicker” device in the classroom, allowing for on the fly assessments and interactive quizzes, using devices already in the hands of most students. This could be a real benefit for school districts all over, feeling the financial pressures growing, and not sure where to get the most for every dollar spent on tech. This would help leverage the devices a majority of students already have in their pockets for something more than entertainment.

The days of every handheld device being a mere toy or distraction are ending, and instead, we’re finding ways of using the available tech in innovative ways to enhance student learning, which is exciting.

Have you thought about where the cell phone fits into education? What do you think are the pros and cons? What would you like to try?