Learning with mobile phones

This sign is the type of sign that many schools have in relation to mobile phone use by students at school.

a sign showing mobile phones are banned

While mobile phones can cause distraction to students’ learning, they can also be a powerful learning tool, and I’m not talking about using educational apps or educational apps. Mobile phones can be an extremely powerful tool for students to demonstrate higher order thinking skills, which a colleague and I presented at the NSW Secondary Principal’s Council conference.

Mobile phones are a high quality camera

A lot of students now have a smart phone (iPhone, Android, Windows phone). These are also high quality cameras for still photos and video cameras. Never in the history of education can a teacher walk into a classroom and have almost a 1:1 ratio of high quality cameras at students’ fingertips to create learning artefacts.

As an example, my Year 7s were learning about magnetic forces last week. Typically such a lesson will involve a practical activity with bar magnets, followed by some comprehension questions. Instead of getting my year 7s to answer textbook-style questions to show that they understood magnetic forces (which they did for homework), they made a photostory to show what they have learnt. They had to take photos of their experiment and insert captions to show the properties of magnetic fields. They used their mobile phones to capture the photos and used Windows Live Movie Maker to create the photostory.

This teacher-led explanation, the practical activity and the creation of the photostory was completed in under 2 hours.The photostory isn’t intended to be a high end production. The photostory acts as a quick creation for students to show their understanding. One of the photostories is shown below. Minimal editing was involved and the photostory was used as a stimulus for a class discussion on magnetic forces.

What will your students do with their mobile phones?

2 thoughts on “Learning with mobile phones

  1. Your students are doing great work. We really should look at all devices: how will they assist student learning. What is the best way to help students learn. Mobile phones could assist students with their learning.

  2. A school in our district tried allowing cell phones and immediately had three kids take “inappropriate pictures” and post them online. It’s unfortunate that things like this make schools less likely to embrace all of the good stuff that mobile devices have to offer. Hopefully as mobiles become more and more an accepted part of life, we’ll be able to have students use them responsibly in the classroom 🙂

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