Apr 152011

How to Use Cell Phones as Learning ToolsRegardless of your school’s cell phone policy, the reality in most schools is that students have phones in their pockets, purses, or hoodies. Why not get these tools out in plain sight and use them for good and not evil?

Here are some easy to use strategies to use cell phones in the classrooms.

Why Use Cell Phones as Learning Tools

Cell phones are different from a computer lab filled with computers or a cart of netbooks because the cell phone is personal technology. Most students have invested a great deal of time learning about the features of the cell phone, how to navigate and the limitations of the phone. The other reason to really rethink the cell phone debate is because learning on the cell phone can extend beyond the walls of the school or the confines of a class period.

Some people may want to ban cell phones from classrooms, but I disagree. We didn’t ban pens in our schools because students can pass notes during class. The pencils have also survived even though you could poke someone in the eye. And the amount of paper that is generated in most schools is almost criminal. This is a new time in education and with dwindling budgets , so we need to rethink possibilities, stretching every dollar. These mini computers are walking through the doors each day, let’s put them to work.

Before you consider trying any of these ideas, make sure you understand the policies that are in place and your have checked with your administrator.

Cell Phone Learning Strategies

Recording Lectures: The “Flipped Classroom

Many teachers are structuring their lessons in what is being coined “Flipped Classroom”. These teachers are recording their “lectures” using video or audio and students are listening to that outside of class as the homework and in class they are completing the practice and the teacher serves as a guide, re-teaching as needed. On most cell phones with a data plan students can watch a video of a previous lesson of an appropriate clip on You Tube.

Use Cell Phones as Your Student Response System

Using www.polleverywhere.com and your students’ cell phones, you can track instant answers from all your students. It’s free for classrooms of 30 people or less.

Gina Hartman an eMINTS Instructional Specialist at Francis Howell School District in Missouri shared a fantastic new Web 2.0 site named http://wiffiti.com. The teacher creates a wiffiti screen and students can text in their opinions.

One teacher used this to summarize Act 1, Scene 1 from Romeo and Juliet. They texted in the short summary and it showed up on the screen. In another classroom the students had think about the time period that Andrew Johnson was in office and text something into the wiffiti screen that would have been something he would have tweeted back then. I love this example, talk about engaging students.

Delivering Materials

As more curriculum materials are delivered digitally creative teachers are delivering materials directly to students on their personal cell phones. One such platform is School Town. This learning platform makes it possible for teachers and students to collaborate in discussion areas and chat with each other making blended learning a real possibility.

Awesome Teacher Apps

Dropbox: One of my most beloved apps is dropbox. Dropbox allows all my computers and my phone to interact together. So the photo I take on my cell phone can be put in my Dropbox app and now it is available on all my devices, love it!

Evernote: Next in line of cool apps for the classroom is Evernote. This handy app lets you type a text note, or clip a web page. If your phone has a camera you can snap a photo, and now you can also grab a screenshot. Like dropbox it doesn’t matter what device you are on, they all sync together.

Solving Common Problems Using Cell Phones in Class

Students without Cell Phones / Smart Phones
Other issues arise because not every student has a cell phone. The easiest way to work around this is to have students working in groups, collaborating and solving problems together. Now we only need one cell phone to report out the group work. If we get creative, any problem can be solved.

Wireless Access
Wireless access might be another problem. Smart phone users will usually try and find a wireless network instead of going through the provider signal. With all these added devices your network may be burdened. Also cell phone reception is an issue in many schools. If this is the case, you may want to focus more of the group work or homework-related cell phone strategies.

Keeping Cell Phone Use Appropriate
Thinking about using cell phone in the classroom we need to make sure we involve our students in the conversation. Let them teach us about how to reduce the fear of theft or inappropriate use. Every student should be reminded every day about appropriate technology use, and what to do if the rules are broken. We need to help students understand the ramifications of things like cyberbullying , sexting and posting things to social networking sites.

Where do you stand on the cell phone in class debate? Share your thoughts or your creative ways to use cell phones in school in the comments section!


Great article – I present many of these same strategies in my “Cell Phones Are NOT Evil” presentation. With planning and cooperation, along with some good classroom management, these amazing tools – that students are providing – can be leveraged affectively in the classroom.

Mar 042011
Here’s the presentation for the session today:

The Topics of Discussion:

Other links & resources:

Poll Everywhere Questions:

Question 1

Question 2
Feb 222011
In our 2-hour session today, we'll show you some new ways to let your students, teachers and parents know about the amazing things that are going on in your library or media center. Knowledge is power, and the more that your stakeholders know about your library, the more likely they will be to use the materials and resources you have to offer.

Here's the handout, complete with step-by-step instructions, links and resources:??http://bit.ly/hDIvAl

Let's go! The first step in this whole process is??transparency??- spread the word about you and your program in any venue open to you. Today, we'll take you through the process of setting up 3 different services to aid you in this, and then we'll tie them all together in the end to make you Masters of your Message!

First off, share everything you can with an easy to maintain web site or blog. Blog about new books, suggested readings, or other great things happening in your library:
  • Blogger.com – For longer entries. Preview stories, discuss new offerings, publicize upcoming events, etc. Quickly create a new site and start writing!
  • Twitter – Twitter is a micro-blog – great for short updates, sharing links to incredible web resources, or as a 'shout-out' to recognize the great things you see everyday. Here's an example from E-Valley.
Share your new, featured or favorite books in different ways:
Let's tie it all together
  • Create a Blogger site to highlight your students or your??recommendations
  • Create a Twitter account for sharing quick bits of information like upcoming events, new books that have been added to the library. Also, search Twitter for other topics or users with your similar interests.
  • Create a Shelfari account, and add some books from Amazon or a selection of your top??recommendations??or what you are reading now
  • Now, add in the Shelfari and Twitter widgets to your new site to make it all work together!
  • Lastly, let your school web master know about your new site so that they can highlight it and link to it from your school site.
Feb 182011
  • Create groups. You can create groups for entire classes or for study groups with smaller subsets of students that allow for easy sharing of information and communication, without students even having to friend each other.
  • Schedule events. From beginning of semester mixers to after-finals celebrations, easily schedule events for the entire class using Facebook.
  • Send messages. From unexpected absences to rescheduling exams, it???s easy to send messages through Facebook.
  • Share multimedia. With the ability to post videos, photos, and more, you can share multimedia content easily with the entire class.
  • Post class notes. Post notes after each class period for students to have access for review or in case they were absent.

Although this list is aimed at college students and professors, there are MANY great ideas here to utilize Facebook for more than just keeping up with friends.

View all 100 tips here.

Feb 082011

Education Series:
Evernote is a great tool for students, teachers, researchers and administrators alike. Check out some of the great guest posts on the Evernote blog:

Sponsored Accounts are available for educational institutions for a %50 discount off of the $5/month or $45/year Premium Evernote accounts.

I have been using Evernote, but it has been sporadically and not too effectively. I really need to start thinking this way and using this amazing tool more.

More teachers and students need to know about this service. I think that I’ll incorporate it into my ‘Speaking Web 2.0’ presentations coming up…

Feb 042011
Don't do this from school, but users now have the option of accessing the facebook site via HTTPS. The option can be turned on in the advanced security features in the Account Security section of the Facebook Account Settings page. ????Just go to ???Account>Account settings> Account security??? and check ???Browse Facebook on a secure connection (https) whenever possible.???

This will secure your connection from people who may be eavesdropping on the network. ??Using plain old HTTP is how many users accounts have been hacked, your passwords are open to be viewed by someone who watching network traffic.
Nov 082010
Check out this website I found at groupme.com

Now that TextMarks has limited free groups to one-per-user, GroupMe might be a good alternative for classroom-sized groups.

Each group created has it’s own unique phone number and will accomodate up to 25 members of a group. You can update the group by sending a text to the group phone number. You can also pretty much manage anything you need to do with your group from your phone by sending #commands to the group number… For example:

  • #add name phone – adds a new group member
  • #list – shows all names and numbers of group members
  • #topic topic – changes the discussion topic of the group, or really the name of the group
  • #name name – changes your name within the group
  • #mute – stops updates from the group. Send #mute again, and you are back in the conversation
  • #remove name or number – removes this person or number from the group (only works if you are the group creator)
  • #exit – removes me from the group
  • #help – sends you a list of commands
  • #new topic – creates a whole new group with the name or topic that you enter. You’ll be texted with the new phone number for the new group.

If you have a SmartPhone, they also have apps for iPhone and Android. Give it a shot!

    Feb 272010

    Are the students of today different than the students of 30 years ago? How about 10? Or even just 3? It is hard to keep up with the pace of change in technology and communication, but as teachers we NEED to be reaching our students on THEIR turf, in the way that THEY learn and understand – and that is probably a little different than how you or I learn.

    Here’s a little taste of how your Digital learners view the world – they are curious and they WANT to learn, but they expect to do it a little differently. Meet Joe & his Non-Notebook:

    Students today expect to be able to interact with media & information, not just sit back and try to absorb it. Information is always at your students fingertips – is it at yours?

    In our presentation today, we’ll look at some 21st Century tools to enable you to walk the walk and talk the talk of your Digital Learners today. Here’s the resources and tools that we’ll look at, and I’ll explain each below. (Note: you can download the presentation from today’s session here)

    Qik lets you share your everyday life experiences as it happens with your family and friends — the easiest way to record and share videos right from your mobile phone.

    Would your students benefit from having a video archive of your lecture/presentation/teaching available to them anytime and anywhere? How about that sick student at home?

    Qik not only allows you to video the classroom happenings, not only saves it for you on it’s site, but people can view it live as it happens and be a part of what is going on. Requires some sort of App phone (iPhone, Android, Blackberry and others).

    How many of you in the room today have a class/school web page? How many times do you update it in a school year? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Never – someone else made the page? Why don’t you keep it up-to-date?

    Remember Joe? Remember how he tries to access information? If it isn’t online, it does not exist to a kid like Joe. You can easily keep a kid like Joe happy by creating a new Web site from Posterous. It is simply THE MOST EASY way to keep a Web site current. It is so easy, that you already know how to use it. Ever heard of email? THAT is how you add something to a Posterous blog or site. Here’s what you have to do:
    1. Create an account… Er, skip that. You don’t need to do this.
    2. Email your thoughts, photos, audio & videos along with any Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or PDF file to post@posterous.com
    3. That’s it. You have just created a new web site and made your first entry.
    Posterous will email you back telling you that your new site has been created with links to view the post or your site, and to set up a password. Anytime you want to add something to your site, you simply send an email to post@posterous.com and it’s done. It’s even smart enough to figure out what you are attaching and will automatically add audio and video players, links to download your files – it’s all automatic.

    Email too tough for you? Try http://post.ly

    Poll Everywhere is a service that you can use during class discussion to get instant feedback from your students via text message or web polling or voting. The results are instantly updated on the website, or you can embed a poll into a PowerPoint presentation (now Keynote in iWork on the Mac as well!). 

    A basic teacher account will allow for 32 responses for an unlimited number of questions. Questions can be either multiple choice or open-ended in nature. Students LOVE the instant and anonymous feedback that they get, and the teacher can know at a glance what the students are understanding, and what they still have questions about. 

    Let’s Try it out. Please give me your best guess as to the question, “How many people use Facebook?” You can also vote via Text Messaging or Smartphone at http://poll4.com with the text messaging code.

    Facebook Fan Pages

    Now that you know just how many people are on Facebook, how many people would you say regularly check your District, School, or personal Web site? Why not try to reach your students where they spend a lot of their time already? Teachers can create a Fan Page on Facebook pretty quickly and students can become a “Fan” of that page. When they do, they will see all of the updates on that page on their own Facebook page! You can even tie Posterous or any other blog page with an RSS feed to automatically update your Fan page. Post it once and it’s everywhere!

    Here’s an example – my SEDC Tech Training Fan Page.

    I’ve written before at length about TextMarks. TextMarks utilizes the main form of communications for today’s students – text messaging – and allows for instant alerts and reminders for your students, or their parents for that matter. Create an account at TextMarks, and then set up different groups that you intend to communicate with – different class periods, subject areas, parents, etc. and assign them a unique keyword. 

    Once students or parents subscribe to the group, you can send out any message or reminder needed from the TextMarks website, and your “subscribers” will instantly be notified of your message. Reminders and messages to your students that they will actually READ!

    Heard of a Podcast? They are great for teaching students in t
    he new 21st Century mode of instruction…
    WWW: Whatever, Whenever, Wherever

    Gabcast is a service that will make recording audio for podcasting or video projects MUCH easier. No longer do you need access to a computer lab, microphones, headsets, and QUIET! Send a group of students to a quiet corner and have them call into Gabcast. Gabcast will record whatever they say into the phone, turn it into an audio file, and make that file available for download. 

    Once they have the file, they can import it into other editing programs like Audacity or GarageBand for Podcast creation, or into MovieMaker or iMovie to use that recording for movie making. Easy and convenient audio recording. You could even capture a class discussion with Gabcast that you could then post to your website as review, class notes, or even to help that poor student that has been out ill for a week.

    Do you ChaCha? I know that your students know about it. ChaCha is basically a web search with your voice anywhere, anytime. Call 800.2.ChaCha (800.224.2242) or or text-message a question to ChaCha at 242242, and the answer will be texted back to that phone. All is costs is the text message fee, which most of your students have an unlimited plan for. Very handy to resolve any question that comes up during class discussion or for research away from the computer lab or Library.

    Ahh, Google. The good folks at Google will let you search for the information that you need the most from your phone. Google SMS is like ChaCha, but more focused on YOUR life and services in your current location. 

    Text “weather 84720” to 466453 (‘GOOGLE’ on most devices) and you will get the current weather and forecast for Cedar City. Text “define asymptote”, and Google will give you the definition! Very handy and useful! Here is a more complete list of what Google SMS can answer for you.

    UPDATE: This article is translated to Serbo-Croatian language by Jovana Milutinovich from Web Geeks Resources.