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Monday, August 4, 2008

Cell phones in class - and they're on!

I thought this was an appropriate follow-up to yesterday's post: I recently found From Toy to Tool: Cell Phones in Learning, a wonderful blog from Liz Kolb that offers all kinds of ideas on how to use cell phones as a teaching tool. I can definitely see that the next evolution in my classroom technology adventure could be from clickers to cell phones and Liz's blog is an incredible resource.

However, I will admit that personally, I'm not quite there yet. I don't object to the idea in general, my concern is purely about accessibility. Even though cell phones certainly seem ubiquitous, I still worry about assuming that every student has one and/or requiring them to use minutes or text messages that may cost them additional money. I do think that within a few years, this won't be a big deal, but I'm not convinced that we are quite there yet (actually, now that I think about it, I could use clickers to poll my students about this in the fall!). But even if I don't plan to adopt assignments or activities that require cell phones, Liz also points out in many of her posts that the applications she discusses could be great for students with visual or hearing impairments. For example, Jott has a tool that convert RSS feeds to audio that could be helpful for visually impaired students.

On a related note, I am seriously considering using Twitter as an option for communicating with students both in and out of class. By following an account I've set up, students can see updates and reminders about class but I'm also hoping some will use it as a way to ask questions during class. I know that the size of the uber-lecture keeps many students from speaking up but Twitter would give them a way to submit a question via their phone (or the web, though far fewer students bring laptops to class than have phones). I'm thinking I'll present it to them as an optional 'study aid' so students don't think I'm forcing them to get an account on yet another site (they already have to interact with Blackboard and Aplia, and buy/register clickers). An alternative would be to use a regular IM account but Twitter seems easier. We'll see how it goes...

Related posts:
Clickers are not the enemy
Are laptops OK in the classroom?

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