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Think Piece: Don’t ban mobile phones from the classroom, use them as a resource!

Think Piece by Mel Coleman, Head of Quality (CPD & TLA)

I am sure you have all seen that Education secretary Gavin Williamson is recommending that mobile phones are not used in the classroom:

“Mobile phones should be banned from schools because lockdown has affected children’s “discipline and order,” Gavin Williamson

Gavin Williamson told The Telegraph phones should not be “used or seen during the school day”, though he said schools should make their own policies. Phones can act as a “breeding ground” for cyber-bullying and social media can damage mental health, he added. (BBC News”

Students using devices

I don’t know about you, but I think he is wrong. He’s not a teacher, he doesn’t spend every day with learners and he has no idea what a vital resource mobile phones are for teachers.

Today’s smart phones are more powerful than most of our laptops and personal computers and in fact more pwoerful than jte compuer that sent the NASA Orion Spaceship to Mars ( Your learners have a powerful computer in their pocket and it is how they are used to learning, reading and accessing information – why are we not using it?

When Further Education constantly has funding cuts, and not enough computers and computer rooms for lessons, using mobile phones is a vital way for learners to research and use a wide range of resources and tools.

The Educational Technology, or EdTech field is booming, in part because of educational applications and the need to embrace the digital age. Furthermore the advances in digital accessibility close the gap for learners with learning difficulties, visual or hearing impairments and other support needs. Banning phones in the classroom disadvantages some learners.

If teachers actively plan to use mobile phones in the classroom, they cease to become a distraction but a useful tool for the teacher where learner engagement can be viewed and tracked (so you know if they aren't paying attention) and therefore not giving them the opportunity to use their phone to access social media, as they are too busy using it in a beneficial way.

Furthermore, moving away from paper-based learning is not only safer from a health point of view* but also more environmentally friendly. Climate change is a topic many young people feel very passionate about, so why not engage in change and move away from methods of teaching that create waste.

So, how can you use learner mobile phones (and other devices like tablets)?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Camera: learners can take photos or videos of practical tasks as evidence, Learners can create videos as examples of learning e.g. demonstrating and explaining how to do a task, instead of writing it down.

  • Voice Recording: record learners answers to questions for a professional discussions, record the teacher’s feedback during a task to re-listen to later, record verbal role plays or tasks, record podcasts or radio plays.

  • Microsoft Teams: have a group discussion on a channel as a chat room, interact with learners self-isolating at home, share documents and resources with each other

  • Microsoft OneNote: Learners can take notes in class on their phone and share with the teacher, teachers can share handouts and resources, learners can collaborate with each other in shared spaces

  • Videos: rather than making everyone watch a video on the board – allow learners to watch the video on their own device. They can pause to take notes / answer questions in their own preferred way – a great way to differentiate.

  • Online Quizzes: apps and websites such as Kahoot, Quizziz, Socrative and Mentimeter are all ways of polling, testing or quizzing your learners. Pop the quiz on the screen, they join using the device and away you go. You can even download reports of results to track learner progress.

  • Microsoft Forms: create polls, surveys and self-marking quizzes for your students, they access with a link or QR code and can complete on their phone. See instant results and download reports.

  • Microsoft Sway: Sway makes interactive leaflets – much more fun for learners to interact with than a handout. You can give them a link to a sway to read information or even have them create a sway as a way to demonstrate learning.

  • Visual Interactive Tools: Padlet and Wakelet allow you to create boards that learners can post comments, links, photos and videos to, great for collaboration. Flipgrid allows learners to upload short videos based on a promot or question set by the teacher.

  • QR Codes: post a QR code on your classroom door for learners to document the handouts or materials. Share a QE code for a video, form or quiz or event have learners create a QRT code as a link to something they have created to share with their peers.

  • Augmented Reality: augmented reality layers computer generated images over the 'real world'. It can be used to give instructions, show hazards in a workshop and many other applications.

  • Virtual Reality: Use learner phones to visit different countries, historic events or even go inside the human body. Phones can be used to access a range of VR tools including putting learner devices into VR headsets.

  • Accessibility Tools: translation tools for ESOL learners, e-readers for learners with visual impairments, dictation tools for learners with dyslexia and so on. Technology can work wonders for creating equity in the classroom for these learners.

  • And not forgetting some old favourites: phones also include scientific calculators, research using the internet, accessing Moodle, using the stopwatch or timer and other inbuilt tools. Did you know iPhones have a measurement tool and a level – great for construction!

As you can see it’s a big list and this is not everything! If you are interested in learning more contact a member of the Quality & Innovation team and we will be happy to support you to develop how you use learner devices in the classroom to benefit your teaching, learning and assessment. *As someone immunosuppressed, I know Covid-19 is not the only risk to me and others like me in an educational environment. Incidences of cold and flu have dropped during the pandemic due to social distancing – I am sure we would all love an academic year without a nice dose of Freshers Flu.


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