The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

Cell Phones as Instructional Tools

This morning, I attended a presentation sponsored by the Wayne County RESA, featuring Liz Kolb, an author and member of the faculty at the University of Michigan, on methods of using cell phones for instructional purposes. When considering how many kids I see each day with cell phones, as well as how much time is spent making sure kids don’t use them at inappropriate times, we need to re-think how we utilize these items. Considering the average person between 13 and 17 sends more than 3,000 text messages per month, we can say that we are missing out on a way to reach students.

Some research was presented that indicated schools with 1:1 implementation of computers have higher college attendance rates, as well as more communication with families. A link to the article

The presentation showed several examples of how cell phone technology can be harnessed to extend the school day. Bus rides, snow days, and summer vacation can all have contact between students and classrooms via text messages or other cellular technology. These tools (many which are free) offer new possibilities. Wouldn’t we be further ahead to teach kids appropriate ways to use cell phones in school and harness the capability than simply continuing to ban them and punishing kids? I’m an advocate for meeting kids where they are, and cell phones allow us to do just that.

As budgets dwindle, we need to find ways to allow kids to bring their own technology, cell phones can make that possible. Some websites and tools that Liz pointed out today included:

  • Wiffiti – Real time messages on screens in a non-linear fashion.
  • Text message alerts – – Kids send a word to a number, opting them in. Technology such as this has been used as part of a summer program in Connecticut, each day has a “theme.” Students receive a text with a task they complete with a response text message. Summers, breaks, intersessions, and snow days just became opportunities to still accomplish something.
  • Broadcast live online via a cell phone – ipadio
  • StudyBoost – Flashcards using text or instant messenger. Imagine how this technology could impact a bus ride!
  • If you want to follow someone on Twitter, but don’t want to sign up, send via SMS Text: “follow @twitterid” to 40404.

Lastly, she talked about how to develop new cell phone policies. She suggested a survey to find out what kinds of technology your students have, as well as what options (such as free unlimited text) are part of their package. She stressed the education piece, talking about bullying, sexting, and other inappropriate uses. From there, she advocated having teachers develop specific policies about when and how phones will be used, requiring parent and student signatures.

In the event you are interested in Liz’s slides from this morning, take a look. All in all, I’m glad that I attended this morning, it pushed me to start thinking about how to incorporate cell phones as part of our instructional technology program.


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