January 06, 2006

Using Cell Phones in School for Learning

Based on my recent article in Educational Leadership "Listen to the Natives", I have received several requests about how, specigfically, cell phones could be used for learning in schools. So I am starting a list of potential ideas. Here are the intital ones, oriented towards K-8. (The full list - hopefully a growing one-- will be posted at www.marcprensky.com/writing)

I think it would be great if we can use cell phones as a teaching opportunity for all of us - kids and faculty, because I'm sure it is only the first of many potentially useful / potentially disruptive tools that will be coming down the pike in the future.

Below are some suggestions. I certainly welcome feedback as to what works and what doesn't in your real context.

1. Handling "misuse." I think this needs to be regulated by the kids. Can we set up (or better elect) a committee that will have authority to set rules and discipline those who break them, such as by confiscating their phones. These rules have a lot more credibility coming from students than from administrators. If you get a good code of behavior that the kids agree to, you can have kids all sign it.

As this is being established, it would be great to have school wide assemblies or town forums where the kids get to discuss and debate the issues what a wonderful opportunity for kids to learn about civics and responsible civil behavior. Maybe get some parents involved in some way as well.

2. The above will work best if you have some "carrots" i.e. things kids can do with the phones that are positive and that they find fun. Perhaps you could set up a committee of kids and teachers to figure out how the phones can be used positively in the school context without "sucking the fun out". This might include.

a. A competition for the best idea (with students and teachers included and all voting - via cell phone, of course!)

b. Occasional classes conducted ONLY in text messaging no talking allowed! (kids without phones can share). Maybe there is a sister class in another state or country that participates. This could also happen in a second language, such as Spanish.

c. A picture contest to take the best (funniest) picture of a student, a teacher, something representing the school, with student judges and strict guidelines. Or the most educational picture. Or the best educational use of phone cameras (such as time lapse photography of a flower opening.)

d. A phone-in caption contest for an interesting picture the kids choose, with submissions by voice or text and then voting for the best.

e. A poetry game - dial this number (local - you set it up) and press one to hear a rap poem, 2 to hear a beat poem, 3 to hear a Shakespeare poem, etc. Press 4 to comment on which you like and why.

f. A collective story or novel - each person adds something to the story.

g. Doing an exercise in emergency communication how quickly can a message be gotten to an entire class? To the whole school? What is the best way to do this?

Those are just some ideas off the top of my head - but I'll be keeping a list from now on, which I hope your school will add to.

Re cost: I don't know if anybody has explored this, but with the "friends and family" programs of so many carriers, I don't see why all the kids in a class couldn't sign up as a group and get free calling between each other, or even the whole school. Perhaps you could explore this with your local carriers and set a great precedent for educational use of phones.

And as for NCLB, why not figure out ways to put pieces of the curriculum into text messages that the teachers send out each night. E.g. "What's the difference between its and it's?" Or "What is the mistake in this sentence: 'I don't know whose going to do it.'" Or even actual test questions!

I look forward to working with educators on this, and to hearing the creative ideas the kids and staff come up with! Please send any ideas and suggestions to me at marc@games2train.com

Best wishes to all for a great 2006!

Posted by Marc at January 6, 2006 04:17 PM