Using mobile phones to teach

Posted: November 24, 2010 in Features...

Mobile phones are considered a defining technology of the youth today. Its earlier years saw educators labeling it as a classroom disturbance, thus banning students from bringing it in class. The main issue back then was very loud ring tones and students’ too much text messaging during class.

However, times are different now. Mobile phone companies are now promoting the use of the gadget in classrooms to improve the skills of students. Smart phones, the more advanced breed of mobile phones, are smaller, cheaper, and more coveted by students compared to laptops and computers.

Some studies regarding the use of mobile phones as an educational tool suggest positive results. For one, data gathered from the study conducted by Digital Millenial showed that the ninth and 10th grade students from four North Carolina schools in low-income neighborhoods who were given cellular phones to aid them in their study of Algebra showed improvement in their understanding of the said subject. The study found that the students with phones performed 25 percent better on the end-of-the-year algebra exam.

Liz Kolb, a high school teacher, was able to devise ways on how to use mobile phones as learning tools and as “anytime, anywhere, data-collection tools.”

In her book Toys to Tools: Connecting Student Cell Phones to Education, she suggested several ways on how to turn the phone into a learning device:

  • Be a Documentarian – Cell phones are a great documentation tool for field trips or vacations to add more zest to that “What I Did During the Break” report.
  • Be a Writer – Try asking students to send Shakespeare as a text message during a unit review. They can rewrite what happened in a particular act, translating the text to new English in 160 characters or less. It can also encourage students to think about what act they are summarizing or what the important character traits are. There are also other sites like which allows people to collaboratively (or individually) write their own novel through text messaging.
  • Be an Expert – Websites like enable teens to position themselves as experts on topics and share their knowledge with others. They can even sign up and create a campaign (after researching facts and figures) to which family members and friends can subscribe to.
  • Be a Mobile Journalist – Students can start snapping pictures of unusual but relevant subjects like bridges in need of repair, interesting signs, unusual weather or events, and send this to a major or local news organization. It persuades students to think critically about what is happening around them, which is an important academic skill.
  • Be an Oral Historian – Cell phones have built-in recorders. Using sites like, students can store audio recordings in a password-protected space online. This is a great way to record oral history from grandparents, senior citizens in the community or local historians. If a performing group or respected author is in town, they can record an interview too.
  • Be a Communicator – Recent research shows that parents feel cell phones help them communicate better with their children. Sites like enable students to create text message alerts so it would be easy to let everyone know their whereabouts, for instance, all at once. Messages are communicated immediately to a group, be it immediate family, friends, or classmates.
  • Be Organized – Students who have trouble with organizing themselves can sign up for sites like It allows them to create speak-to-text messages and e-mails, make calendar appointments, and listen to their calendars through their cell phones.


Christ, Lindsey. “Teachers’ Class Promotes Cell Phones As Next Great Learning Tools.” Retrieved October 13, 2010 from–class-promotes-cell-phones-as-next-great-learning-tools
Richtel, Matt and Stone, Brad. “Industry Makes Pitch That Smartphones Belong in Classroom.” Retrieved October 13, 2010 from
Sorrentino, Johanna. “Cell Phones: 21st Century Learning Tools?” Retrieved October 13, 2010 from

(Published 08 November 2010, Smart Communications Inc.)


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