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I am sympathetic to the overall idea: work with the tools that already exist, rather than against them. I guess what I mean is: cell phones could conceivably be made use of in some way, but when it's unclear how much educational good can be done with fully-functional and preexisting platforms, the suggestion that we approach fundamental problems in large education systems through as-of-yet nonexistent mobile device interfaces seems pretty fantastic. I recently started to teach design -- at college level in Montreal -- and must observe that devices like cellphones and some websites (like MySpace or Facebook -- our classes are equipped with iMacs) are only sources of distraction for students.
I don't believe that cellphones are ready to be useful in teaching, and definitely not in design teaching, where a multisensorial and physical experience is vital.
The devices can be used as devices to assist learning, afterall, if we can teach children how to use cell phones in such a way, we are educating them in how to use technology. I think your comment (Kids use "cellies" for "hook ups" and "mad beats", not for writing book reports) is the exact reason to rethink how we view mobile devices. Wouldn't we all rather see students using these devices for something thought-provoking and educational? Mobile devices have too much potential to simply concede the field to people who don't see that upside.
They essentially turn people into airline booking agents, where seats are oversold and passengers (relationships) are constantly being bumped.
There is no question that schools in general are not taking advantage of the potential learning power of phones, but as with most technology integration, that's because of a fear of change and a lack of pedagogical understanding on the part of educators.
It seems to me that it isn't a question of whether or not mobile phones are useful for learning, everything is 'useful' for learning, we are always learning, learning can't be turned off.
Kids fluency and engagement with mobile devices should be viewed as a wonderful resource and indication of their engagement in things they want to learn, not as a distraction that has to be silenced to make lessons easier. Thank you Juliette for this insightful and thought-provoking post and thank you to your commenters for their provacative responses.
The topic of cellphone use in schools is one that I feel has only two possible sides: Those who get it and those who will wonder in the future why they did not get it sooner.
It is one of my frustrations that we get sidetracked in such disagreements and faill to see the world outside of our schools changing and at the same time fail to take on the challenge of teaching our students how to use all of the resources at their fingertips in an educational context. I am sure that we will have our bumps along the way with this policy, but I think that taking such risks is well worth it. I cannot wait for the day where we start asking ourselves collectively how we could have been so narrow-minded in our thinking about these tools.
Mobile phones and texting implement a very fast paced lifestyle and, although it is true texting has become part of students’ lives, why not consider school a break from that?
As you say, perhaps the point of encouraging cell phone use is to extend the learning outside of the classroom – not necessarily use it while at school. Last year I asked for volunteers from my Intro to Design class to use their cell phones to investigate typography in signage across the downtown core. I’ve always felt that design was difficult to teach while locked in a classroom, and I feel like I have found the golden ticket. My son uses his cellphone to organize information, store files, take pictures, access information as well as "mad beats". I developed a platform for creating iPhone applications, and am interested in moving back into the education space. The iPhone is the first device that facilitates a meaningful interaction across age levels. We are near the point where programs can be managed on devices, albeit more sophisticated devices.
I agree with you that currently there are not many students who are using mobile devices such as cells as instructional tools.
Technology is not a value-free entity that should be embraced merely because it is present. To go to the extreme, would we encourage the integration of guns into the curriculum simply because many students were packing that particular form of tech? Or, perhaps we should include lessons on texting while driving in driver's ed, and integrate the total distraction it presents since, apparently, the kids are doing that en masse too? I cannot imagine being a teacher in a classroom with 20 kids all texting away, completely ignoring the present situation within the room - it seems a futile waste of time. What's being described here seems more a plea for the teachers to compromise; to, say, start texting their lessons in, perhaps in 160 character strings, with emoticons (sp?) sneaking in for words - why bother having the room at all? That's the root of the issue - gathering in a room, in a social environment ultimately intended for acculturation, and the chaos these instruments create within that environment. I’m really taken aback by some of the negativity here – aren’t most people who are commenting design educators?
Martin L'Allier stated that “multisensorial and physical experience is vital” and that “our challenge is to have students develop their design ability outside of the limitations of computer monitor”. I love the analogy of not prohibiting the proper use of the English language in class because students may have "abused" it outside of class. Having said that, I do not believe you incorporate a technology just for technology's sake. What if you could use the phones to do a quick check of understanding of a topic via an assessment and have the results appear (anonymously to the class but recorded by the teacher) on the overhead?
What if students were asked to use the phones to find a site or podcast containing particular information about ______? What if quick tips, assignment changes, reminders, extra information could be sent directly to cell phones if needed? I am sure there are many other examples that could be generated (and have already?) when the topic is discussed. This article's opening observation and complaint was NYC's specific ban on cell phones in the school. The defenders of cell phones here seem to have dodged this issue in their responses; instead, the responses seem to project forward to some time in the future when the kids stop texting from inside their backpacks and instead remain intently focused on their teacher, who leads them thru the paces, cellphone in hand, on some twitter-based lesson where, like the recent new yorker cover, maybe they make an image from their cell-phone.
We all want our children to have great teachers, a rich classroom experience, a growing body of knowledge, and an increasing thirst for knowledge.
However, nothing erodes a teachers confidence, enthusiasm, and effectiveness like the pointed irrelevance that comes from standing infront of 20 kids who's heads are clearly somewhere else.
This condition has always been present in schools, but was much easier to control when those illicit notes were passed by paper or stage whisper, and when parents themselves supported the teacher in their cause to have some control within the room.
Parents are now texting irrelevancies just like their children (certainly not related to cell carrier's aggressive marketing campaigns suggesting the boomer & gen-x hipness of intertwining of adult and teen-age behavioral patterns and raking up texting $$$ as a result), making it impossible for them, even if they wanted to, to support the teacher in any disciplinary action with respect to cell phone use. As a student who used to read ahead in the book during class (and was even encouraged by some teachers to study on my own in the back of the room because I was ahead), I find myself averse to these commandments from above.
I'm sure a teacher has to pay attention and make sure students pay attention to lessons, but they've always had to do that.
I'd give out my cell phone number to students and encourage them to text me questions, even during class.
I'm not saying you should let kids do whatever they want in a classroom, but one-size-fits-all solutions don't work in any situation. Cell phones may create a bridge for learning that has not yet been seen, even via the internet. If mobilephones = have a function in kids learning-experience & it is relevant to what you are trying to teach then allow else not. Whether or not cell-phones are a good exchange for computers in the classroom, really seems to depend on the students and teachers. What I did learn was basic logic and problem solving skills that allow me to figure things out.
It isn't terrible that cellphones are banned in schools as long as the schools teach their students how to think, I honestly don't think that it matters for the average school whether there are anything more then basic "outdated" computers. In my opinion, I think it's a little ridiculous that cell phones are causing so much madness. Another one of my major concerns is that it's important to have a phone in case of an emergency.
Your example of pulling out a cell phone when a professor asks a question is exactly what I think is wrong. I fail to see how anyone can truly stand behind the idea of using cell phones as part of their classroom teaching. Equity: Not all students are going to have cell phones, and those that do aren't all likely to have the same features.
Privacy: Having recently completed an education program, one theme that unofficially recurred throughout was student privacy. At best, I could see a justification for allowing a student to pull out their phone to enter a reminder for an assignment, but even then the student could write it down and wait until after class. Maybe when everyone has an iPhone or a Blackberry, this will change and there will be more practical applications, but given the cost and reliability of these devices, coupled with the hassle of adding another aspect to the teacher's workload, it would be an overall waste of time, money, and energy simply because students like to complain about not being allowed to use their cell phones.
I do think that some people are reactionaries about new technology, and it surprises me that even people younger than me can be heard saying things about how internet and texting culture is making it so kids don't know how to interact with other humans any more. Why do we all need personal computers, especially kids, when most kids have public libraries or schools where they can use them?
Does anyone realize that we wouldn't be able to have these cell phones if it weren't for illegally mined Coltan from the Congo, which is making life miserable for the people in the mining regions and driving the bush meat trade of endangered species? And as for the learning concept, I'm sure it is true that there are ways cell phones can be used for learning. It's not the tool that makes us learn or not, but when the tool is also a major source of distraction, like cell phones or the internet, it's detrimental to everyone in the classroom, not just those who chose to distract themselves. Design Observer encourages comments to be short and to the point; as a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. It is very clear that mobile learning is viable in design education and across broader curriculum areas. In foreign language acquisition, to have a conversation on the phone is the most difficult form of oral communication, in the absence of any body language. We have become dependent on cell phones and the internet as those are the main means of communication today.
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A few years later, however, these gadgets can be seen in the hands of children and marketers as well.
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The problem is that they deposit these powerful learning tools at the nearby bodega — where they’re held like a coat check service for a dollar a day — because their personal computers are cell phones, and they are banned by New York City’s school chancellor, Joel Klein. If students are "treating cell phones like an appendages" they need to be sent directly to the nurses office. But too often a diagnosis of low-performing and underfunded schools is "inadequate access to technology," which fails to distinguish between education in technology (the ability to use computers as an aspect of modern literacy) and education through technology (the use of computers as teaching aids). I've too often seen students deny themselves the experience of immersing their mind in a design and learning project by blabbering away. Our challenge -- and always present since the advent of the computer -- is to have students develop their design ability outside of the limitations of computer monitors.
The school I teach in (I teach 11-18 year olds), has such a policy which seems kind of strange when I can use my iPhone to control Keynote presentations, my diary is synch-ed to multiple devices, I can find the information I need where ever I am and students who have comparable devices that they can not have in school.
If someone told you that kids use the English language to bully, flirt, spraypaint walls with graffiti, pass notes in class, swear, etc. Our job is to lead; to model purposeful and proper usage of English, technology, science, and every other subject. What you advocate is akin to letting drunk drivers teach driver's Ed because kids will speed anyway. You'll be amazed how much fee time you have, and you'll know, when someone asks for your cell phone number, they only want it to be able to tell you they're running late; there's some educational value in that. I ask teachers all the time, "how do you use technology (read: the Web, your phone, etc") to learn?" and it's difficult for many to answer. Cell phones are not useful in school when pedagogy does not use them to support the kind of learning wanted. As a barrier, those fears can be dealt with if we educate and create opportunities for awareness in the power of mobile devices as a learning tool. Why does school have to be the continuation of what seems to be a very shallow form of communication. Why wouldn’t we want the world inside a school to prepare students to communicate, collaborate, connect, and have access to resources beyond school walls with the same tools that are prevelent in their daily lives outside of school? They formed teams and I gave each group a booklet of QR Tags (bardcodes that can be read with a phone camera, which then return information such as a text or a website).
I do believe that discrete components can be delivered within the confines of a typical low end device, but a meaningful educational experience cannot. How our country expects to have a sophisticated knowledge economy without using the current primary tools of knowledge creation is beyond me. I can't even have a real conversation with my younger sister because she can text faster than she can talk properly. Perhaps if you had you could accomplish 1) communicating with her in the world in which she is comfortable and 2) modeling proper and appropriate use 3) introducing some techniques for using the phone as an informational and instructional tool. All the "sense of themselves as producers of knowledge" can be done with a variety of tools, and if the cellphone helps in that pursuit outside the room, great. This is precisely what mobile technology can offer – a way to get students into the environment and away from a computer lab: looking, thinking and experiencing design – and then sharing with others, through real-time photo (or video)-sharing and commentary. While there isn’t much in the way of design research, I’d love to talk to anyone who is thinking of starting some. While cell phones are a technology, the analogy to bringing a gun to class doesn't quite work for me. A teacher would get immediate feedback on how many students truly understand and could later see who may need the extra help. These came to me in the shower after I read one of the posts and was prompted into a reply. When the teacher gets no support from home (or, worse, hostility when a child's distracting texting is reprimanded), burnout quickly follows. We can quibble about where those phones should be dropped (probably better at the main office than the bodega across the street) but they do not belong IN the classroom. Students who can make use of something like an iPhone to enhance their learning, students who were like me, shouldn't be held back and crippled because other students will abuse a privilege.
God knows there are kids who may have questions, but they don't want to be seen to be sucking up to a teacher and then get ridiculed outside the room. Regardless of phones, computers, notes, paper, crayons, friends, kids will always find something to occupy their attention with—other than the teacher—if the classroom is not enriching. Imagine if students could learn with other children from other schools simply by using their phones?
Unfortunatly cell hones are a poor substitute for a computer and would be useless in a virtual tour of the Grand canyon simply because a 2inch screen will never capture depth, but they might be useful as a means of updating students on relevant matters in school such as closings or homework reminders.
As some have mentioned there are innovative ways of incorporating them into the classroom setting. The problems with education are not lack of proper technology, but lack of interest and lack of thinking skills. First of all, cell phones are a major part of my generation and I doubt they will go away anytime soon.
What if there is a shooting at school, if someone has their phone, it's possible to pull it out quick and send a mass text. For instance, many times in class my professors asks us a question such as a statistic, and someone pulls out their iPhone or Backberry, googles the answer and we can move on. People are hearing facts at the time (who remembers that statistic the next day, much less a semester later), but not how to process information. We need to encounter the world in more ways than just technological ones, we need to learn to think about issues without an information appendage that thinks for us. You can't ask parents to pay another $20-$30 or more per month to provide their student with a cell phone that is capable of texting. I don't think it's fruitful to be an alarmist about these things, but really, why do children need cell phones? There is nothing faulty or inadequate about payphones, except for the fact that there hardly are any anymore. Because, unlike doodling, computers and phones have moving pictures and loud noises that distract everyone. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. It is also clear that mobile devices are not going away anytime soon - they comprise a major communication channel in the real world (at least the one I live in).
Texting is a written representation of oral expression: very hard to learn for a foreigner and a constantly moving target. Our personal, private, social and professional life demands constant communication between our loved ones and colleagues. So would it not be great if we could save up some cash in this world of fast networking and communication. Companies which are using network marketing to put up for sale their wireless networks and those who run promotions in this kind of activity are the companies which you should target.
Also many websites give out ads on other websites through pop up window advertisements. You have to likewise understand that there are numbers belonging to the “Do Not Call” list.
This gives you access to almost all the telephone numbers available in your area and around the country.
The new system provides enhanced features and has a much better look and feel than the current wireless product in addition to saving money for the association. Mobile cell phones are not only efficient resources of interaction, but also a practical means of interacting with people regardless of their location. However, people may have to ask for that an system be sent by mail immediately to a deal with. Similar requirements are also set by other declares that offer government-assisted mobile telephone support.
Many students will circumvent the ban by blind-texting from their backpacks or from the bathroom.
The first is unquestionably helped by buying more computers, but the advantages of the second I think are too often taken for granted and under-investigated. If students are using mobile devices mindlessly, don't we have an obligation to show them a better way?
Like many students, they've never had models for effective learning with technology (as opposed to information retrieval, which admittedly, hasn't been great either.) I'm not blaming them, but I am suggesting that if we want to take advantage of the undeniable potential for learning with technology, we have to help educators be learners in those contexts first.
While the kids in a class are 'distracted' by their phones, they are learning an enormous amount, just not what the teacher intends.
It needs to start at the superintendent and tech director level, to point to the value add these devices bring to the learning environment. Cool opportunity to take advantage of all its functionalities and apply them in the educational realm. Why not teach students to harness the power of the technology tools they have to do more than just texting with their friends? To expect these students to integrate education into a device they use for entertainment is just wishful thinking.
But inside that room, with a teacher trying to lead, these devices becomes as treacherous as they are on the highways. Inviting students to text like mad during a lesson is not what is being presented, and to suggest this is rather short-sighted, don’t you think? It encourages collaboration, it builds community, and it expands learning beyond the classroom.

If students do not respond, the teacher knows they were not paying attention which is even easier and more efficient than checking all notebooks during a class. But, just because students are interested in something does not mean we need to incorporate it into the classroom. Plus, to say that cell phones (and other technology) create anti-social beings is a very narrow take. They'd have a way of engaging a teacher without actually having to raise their hand or get noticed. But saying that it is a "travesty" that they are often banned from schools is putting too much emphasis on the technology. My cell phone is my connection to the world; I don't carry a calendar, planner, contact book, calculator, or loose change for a pay phone because I have all of that in my phone.
If you wear a thong to high school no ones going to ask you to take it off because it's inappropriate. So if the concerns are that the phone is too distracting in school and it's hurting the instructors feelings because the student is no longer paying attention then maybe their should be a cell phone 'respect policy' that we all follow.
It bothers me that students complain if a professor says that they can only use book sources and bans web sources. People who can't go five seconds without texting, people who can't function without being attached at the hip to their cell-phone (or insert other technology) are uninteresting to me.
Thus, the school would have to offer a cell phone subsidization program, similar to the free or reduced lunch program.
I personally can not think of a single application that would benefit from having cell phone contact with students. No one had them when I was a kid, so what changed about the world in the last 15-20 years so drastically? Then there are those who are on facebook or playing games, and it is visually distracting for me because I see it if I'm behind them, and it's stuff that's moving, its just more visual information I have to filter out to pay attention to the teacher. It is up to educators to conceive of, design and implement these technologies in meaningful and motivating ways that engage students. We chat, text and call and send emails to keep ourselves upto date with other’s lives and our own work.
Hence, these companies are looking for more and more customers to grow and enhance their business.
This service is given to representatives only who have pre paid service systems in their phones. Well, these are only two of the most evident cases of unknown people calling unsuspecting victims. This particular service will help a person to avoid any problems coming from unknown caller. This is essential, especially if you want to get rid of the problems of dealing with unrecognized callers over and over again.
However, with almost all things that are FREE there are some hoops to jump through in the beginning. Viber requires no registration, once you and your friends install Viber, you can use it to talk and message as much as you want. However, the government has handled to relieve this hurdle for those who economically limited from having them. Such sites will be able to provide information about services that are available near the client’s property.
But it’s not that simple for those who have to pass through metal detectors and scanners to gain entry into the school building each day. I love this line: "When it comes to technology integration, you need to meet students (and teachers) where they are." Huh? I want my children to be taught how to use their mobile devices to create and publish and connect, but I also want that done by adults who know how to do that for themselves. The easy answer is to ban the technology, the more difficult but far richer answer is to develop pedagogy that exploits it.
The same fear communicating about cell-phones were the same fears when the eraser was introduced.
Why limit supporting students with developing communication skills to just face-to-face with those that happen to be sitting in their same school rather than supporting them in connecting with those across the world who might share a unique interest? The tools you mention are discrete entities within the space of mobility and a fully electronic program does not even exist in the educational market more than a decade after the web arrived. I bet there a several things that a large portion of students would like to bring to class, but that is no reason to incorporate them. For a lot of kids who are crippled by peer pressure, it gives them a chance to learn more, but also fly under the radar. I didn't learn anything about computers or technology except basic things like word and email in high school (I am a senior in college now).
Like not answering your phone when your in the middle of the conversation, or finish a phone conversation before you check out at a register, or turn your phone on silent when you are out in public, text in class only when necessary or on your own time. Call me old-school but I'm more concerned with students being able to eat than being able to text them an assignment. These companies are now into direct marketing hence they are trying every way to attract the attention of potential customers.
If you take advantage of a free service, you can still get the information with regards to an unknown caller. With services like phone number lookup online, you will get the results and reveal the identity of the unknown caller. If you are in need of more minutes you can purchase cards with additional minutes at national retailers. For those who are eligible, the government is willing to supply them with free mobile cell phones and service. The rationale for the cell phone ban will not surprise you: critics claim the phones are distracting, can be used to cheat and add no educational value. If this is true— that lessons can be translated and executed via cell phones— I guess we don't need schools or teachers anymore. We need to leverage this power and build administrative capacity to recognize this value and see it modeled, students engaged, and learning excelling. Sure, some might say having a video recorder as inexpensive like that facilitates the creation of videos, but we’re not reinventing the wheel here… we’re actually going back to the introduction of video in class, something that has already been dealt with to some extent - the mobile phone is just a different form factor.
Why not allow students to use all tools accessible to them to demonstrate their knowledge and creativity and produce content and connect in ways that are not possible without it? If you have something that MAY be a valuable tool in learning, you at least give a thought and a chance. And, texting hasn't replaced verbal communication, it's just offered a different type of written communication (you know, like the way email did). I figured it out as I went along and haven't ever been set back because I didn't learn it in high school. I think if people just learn to be polite about it then the problems will end because cell phones are not going anywhere any time soon. If he used a power point or the web, that would work, too, if he knew what he was talking about and was organized!
If you have a contract wireless service, move to pre paid network service, without contracts. The application has to be mailed or faxed in along with copies of required verification documents.
Recently the daughter of Bill Clinton has started a campaign to collect cell phones for poor peoples. One county in our state is using Qualcom Smart Phones to teach Algebraa to at-risk students while another county is using mobile devices to push down digital content in small learning communities.
Although we can’t forget to get to the core of how to use interactive whiteboards… oops, I almost forgot… computers, we have to fit them in somehow.
A break here and there might be nice for some if they chose to take one, but forcing it upon students who have to power down to come to school and are screaming out “Engage me or Enrage me!” leads to disconnected students and educational settings that are disconnected from life outside the brick and mortar. Students can arrange study groups with cell phones, learn how to send a text to an email account (which is a necessary business skill), and as others have mentioned, snap quick pictures for sharing. Which is convenient, but not helpful, and certainly not something that should be encouraged in teaching. These wireless services will serve you for about one and a half to two years, which is a lot in its own terms. Do we really want a generation of students who can't formulate an opinion on anything without consulting 5 opinions on the internet and just regurgitating what they read?
You will have to buy the cell phone with your own money, but after that all calls are free for at least two years to come. Plus, of course, cell phones shouldn't be used during lecture, but what if it helps someone during their lab time?
They will give you a unique ID that you can use to check the status by phone or on the internet. I'm not going to pretend I understand how quickly some students can glean information via their cell phones.
Forward-thinking educators recognize in these statistics a low-tech, low-cost solution to the ongoing technology problem in underserved schools, where hardware is dysfunctional, wireless infrastructure is weak and inadequate staffing fails to meet the demands of upkeep.
Even a school like The Global Learning Collaborative, part of New York City’s technology innovation initiative, NYC21C, will open its doors in September equipped with fewer than 10 computers for an incoming class of 104 ninth-graders. The bottom line is cell phones are the most affordable, accessible way to provide access to technology and narrow the digital divide.
And while smart phones and their education applications will undoubtedly transform learning as we know it, these are not the phones I am advocating for at present, because they are not the phones my students (or teachers) typically own. When you begin with a tool they already know and love, you’re less likely to be met with the kind of resistance you might otherwise get to institutional hardware or software.
For teachers, eliminate the fear factor and you’ve empowered a previously disenfranchised group of self-professed Luddites.
In the model of the Asia Society International Studies School Network, we prepare college-ready, globally competent students by requiring them to participate in learning engagements both within and beyond the classroom. Internships, service learning, foreign and domestic travel and learning expeditions of all kinds develop students’ methods of inquiry. What’s especially exciting about integrating cell phone use into the curriculum is the opportunity to extend and better support the rich learning that’s already happening outside of our classrooms (while also allowing us to work around the ban).We design inquiry-based curricula that send students out into the world to investigate, collect, report, reflect and engage. They become part of a continuous learning loop of inputs and outputs mediated by teacher and student alike.
With basic mobile functions like voice, text and camera coupled with web 2.0 technologies, students’ knowledge can be shared locally and globally, all the while developing critical communication and collaboration skills.
Audiocasting, photoblogging, polling, surveying and language acquisition are just a few of the activities that utilize mobile devices for learning. These are context-specific opportunities for students to share with authentic and limitless audiences. And for teenagers, to share is to be — which lies at the heart of their love for the cell phone to begin with. As educators, we need to leverage this love to help students transform their communication networks into learning networks.
There’s a wealth of untapped learning potential in those seemingly inane text messages; Twitter is one powerful example. We do need to establish norms of behavior, but let’s move swiftly through discussions of acceptable use to the wider implications for learning and digital literacy.

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