Going Mobile: A Cell of an Idea!

Guest post by Colleen Ruggieri

“You’re not really going to let your students use cell phones in your classroom, are you?! They’re impossible to monitor!” These are the responses I’ve received when I’ve told people that my students use IPODs and cell phones on a daily basis in my high school English class. I understand the concern—after all, it can be difficult to see every screen while facilitating a classroom of students. However, after allowing students to plug in and connect with the real world, I have found that the results far outweigh the negatives.

How many teachers have dreamed of having a classroom full of computers? In most high schools, computers are housed in labs, and teachers must take turns and sign up on selected dates. While this certainly creates equity, it does not create a sense of immediacy and connectivity with curriculum and life beyond the classroom. 

This year, while my students were studying The Scarlet Letter, the media coverage of Tiger Woods’ infidelity hit the world by storm. My students made real world connections with their phones and Ipods as they read online news sources about the scandal. Learners analyzed articles for sensationalism and bias and then went on to make text-based connections with the novel. And guess what? They actually had fun doing it. 

Sadly, somewhere along the line, this element of joy in the learning process dies in many secondary classrooms. Having a room full of mobile devices brings, as students would say, the “sexy back” into learning—and eliminates the “I wish the lab was available today” woes of teachers who do not have adequate equipment.

Another amazing way in which mobile devices can be used is for assessment purposes. Want to know if students are progressing? Have them use their phones to complete surveys. If it’s within the budget, consider software response systems for easy use on the Ipods. What a great way to save grading time and to garner immediate results.

Is it possible that students will multitask and surf the web when they should be completing an assignment? Yes! However, just as many teachers have checked emails while taking graduate classes. We are a society of multitaskers. Mobile devices are great for learning, and they provide tools that most teachers could never afford in the classroom. Yes, it takes work to successfully integrate and not merely grab student attention with gadgets. With authentic tech integration, however, teachers and students grow together—and these real world tools can bring fresh life and appreciation for the “classics” that are all too often rotting on dusty old bookshelves.

Colleen Ruggieri is the Martha Holden Jennings Master Teacher of Ohio and the Past-President of the Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts. She teaches English at Canfield High School.

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