Mobile phones in the classroom: teachers share their tips
Jo Debens, geography teacher, Priory School, Portsmouth
The geography department at my school has been leading the use of mobile device in learning. Throughout last year the mobile@priory charter was created and led by head of department David Rogers and co-constructed by students to enable them to use mobile devices in learning. This was trialled through the geography department and found great success with students becoming more actively engaged with their learning.
Some examples of where we use mobile devices range from simply taking photos and videos to share in class or recording homework, to creating revision podcasts or animations. The point is often student choice, encouraging independent learning and allowing students to choose what approach will suit them. We have found that encouraging mobile device use has enabled our students to access resources that we cannot provide otherwise. For example, students access the internet for research (such as the internet or our department blogs/Facebook support page).
On fieldwork, students can record images, video, sound, take notes, use GPS technology and mapping software to record information essential to their coursework. In school, we have used mobiles to record work, for example the students used chalk around school to leave messages or symbols regarding social spaces and guerilla messages and then used mobiles to take images or record video or sound interviews of them discussing their work which could then be shared with the class. The focus is on the learning, the discussion on what they gained from the activity not on the device.
One activity sees students investigating secret places in school – they have to find a space, and find evidence or clues about that space to share with others. Many use their mobiles to record sound or image clues to share. We also introduced a geocaching project where students hid Olympic themed geocaches at Box Hill and used mobile devices with GPS to use the geocaching.com website and online research before hiding their geocaches and then seeing them go live and have real people from the public able to find their work.
The benefit for us as teachers is the personalisation, and the freedom for students to access resources. Often the lower ability children find mobile devices enable them to interact more freely and use tools to learn. We find that it encourages student voices and increases engagement.
Originally some were concerned about potential cyber-bullying or disruptive behaviour but what we’ve actually noticed is that behaviour concerns have decreased since the policy was introduced, and that students are now being taught how to use the internet and mobile devices safely. It has never been about the devices, it is always about the learning. The devices are just the tool that enable young people.
Patrick Taylor – ICT and computer science teacher – Barnsley Academy, Barnsley
At the beginning of the summer we began a collaboration with Microsoft. We were already incorporating products from Dreamspark into the new curriculum at key stage 3 but introduced year 8 to Kodu. They welcomed such a new interesting tool which encouraged us considerably, as we had initially been hesitant about how learners would relate to Kodu, Gamemaker and Scratch.
Microsoft and HTC provided us with handsets which opened up opportunities to support the curriculum. With this in mind I created an Introduction to Computer Science taster session covering mobile app design with resources extracted from the MTA and Microsoft school resources. This spanned over five lessons and allowed learners to decide if they would like to head down the computer science route or the ICT route. Learners will complete their MTA exams over the next academic year with some doing so at the end of this term.
Touch Develop has been written into the scheme of work and is due to commence this week. This will be done with year 10 and span over five weeks. We are looking forward to the task with the first priority being to build colleagues’ understanding of the possibilities this opens up as a teaching resource.
One of the great things about working at Barnsley Academy is that colleagues are open to trying new technology and by being part of a national group, United Learning, we are able to work with colleagues across the country in different schools and academies to pilot initiatives and develop best practice.
Nasim Jahangir, business and economics teacher, Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College, Leicester
I teach A-level business studies and economics and mobiles can be invaluable, I allow students to use them all the time. I set strict guidelines, phones only come out when I say, usually for group work when students need to research. If we have the access, why not use them? I appreciate I work in the post-16 sector so have less behaviour issues and students can be trusted if you set parameters from the beginning. To be honest, the students are pretty good; if someone is looking at something they shouldn’t be the others tell them to get off it and get back to the task. I have a zero tolerance for any misbehaviour.
Recently I have been looking at the business strategies of Marks and Spencer, so the students would use their mobiles to do research about what their competitors have done. It stops me from having to photocopy loads of stuff to take to the class. We can look at things that have happened immediately and then I can set them off on their own research. I don’t always have access to computers so allowing them to use their phones gets round this issue.
I am trying hard to get away from teaching from the front and putting the onus on the student. Students have their phones and in fact if you allow some use and take away the ‘bogeyman’ attitude they are generally quite mature about it.
Carol Rainbow, retired ICT teacher/ICT adviser
I used mobile phones with a group of seven to eight year old reluctant readers. The idea was for them to focus on reading and replying to text messages – the children’s attitude to reading and writing improved and the children really enjoyed it. Mobiles engaged them in a way that books did not.
From the teacher’s point of view it took a lot of time preparing messages in 160 characters that pupils could respond to. I spent hours devising treasure hunts, splitting stories into very short lines, finding short riddles, curricular questions, sequencing exercises and more. 160 characters is not a lot to get useful information which requires a response in. As with so many things in the teaching profession it took time but if it helped the children it was worth it.
I believe that Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is going to be a huge part of the future of education. Many students already have their own trusted devices, which they are comfortable using, it makes sense to use them in education rather than a machine that belongs to school which they leave behind at the end of the day. It is crucial though, before anyone gets hands on their own mobile device in school is that the infrastructure is made secure, that policies regarding e-safety are in place and the teachers are trained and confident about how the mobile devices can be used to enhance their curriculum.
Once that is in place an exciting world of creativity opens up, mobile devices may enable wonderful, creative pieces of art, videos, presentations, audio recordings, research on any topic, various games to motivate learning and worldwide communication for those studying a language. They are available 24/7 so always and anywhere, learning becomes viable.
Eddie Falshaw, deputy head, Leighton Park School, Reading
Here at Leighton Park we have just updated our wireless network and have a new internet connection up and running too (akin to Terminal 5 I am told).
Consequently, I am keen to use this for the best academic purpose I can. As a school we are not endowed with the latest hardware, but the majority of our pupils are. That is, they carry the latest smartphone or they have a laptop for use in the classroom. At present, we have a ‘ban’ on mobile phones (unworkable), but we are now discussing how best to roll out the use of phones for educational purposes. We would like to start with the sixth form, encouraging them all to plan and organise themselves using our virtualisation programme, where they can access their school home page from any device. This way, homework, assignments etc can all be logged electronically, their timetables can be stored and teachers can communicate with them more readily. Then, we would like them to be used in the classroom in more practical ways, to enhance their education.
The worry for us, is that the phones will be used more for social purposes, but that is where the education comes in. We want to teach our pupils to use them for educational purposes and not abuse it. While they will have access to their phones, it is only by showing them the potential, that we can begin to make tech work for us. Should our system be abused we will then revoke the privilege. E-safety will be a key concern, but our policy here is also under review. We are also keen to use it as a marketing tool – that we embrace and use tech – hopefully, as we roll this out, across the whole school.
Graham Barker, deputy head and head of e-learning, St Julian’s School, Newport
We lifted the ban on mobile phones last term because we realised that the students (some 1600) of them had all got powerful computers in their pockets and we just wouldn’t be able to afford to provide all of them with that level of technology. We needed to take advantage of the fact they all had mobiles.
Obviously, the use of the mobiles is up to each teacher but we use a cloud based environment and so the children need to access that. They can do that with their mobile phones at the bus stop, at home or if they are waiting at school for something. With our move to the cloud we have got rid of paper-based diaries and so for their home learning they use their mobile phones. They have an app they use for their timetable. Many of the teachers are also using Twitter to give instructions to students and we are finding that has proved to be very popular.
José Picardo, head of modern foreign languages, Nottingham High School, Nottingham
Students use mobile phones regularly in our lessons to access current foreign language news and other authentic materials from the web that can be used immediately to inform group discussions and written expression. Other valuable language learning resources, such as online dictionaries, are also only a few taps away.
Pictures and videos taken with mobile phones in our classroom are shared immediately with students using blogs, social media or tools such as Evernote for later access. In addition, a huge selection of foreign language podcasts and other resources are available for students to download and access at a convenient time and place.
These few examples are just the tip of a large iceberg of new teaching and learning possibilities afforded to us by mobile devices. Their potential becomes apparent when you think of them less than phones and more than powerful handheld computers, complete with camera, speakers and a whole host of educational apps.