How to use phones in the classroom

Published: March 21st, 2022

Many schools, teachers, Australian states, and even entire countries across the world have instilled a zero-tolerance policy for phones within the classroom. While the debate rages on whether phones have negative impacts on students, rarely do we shift the focus onto how we can actively utilise phones in a classroom setting to minimise distraction and heighten learning.

Thankfully, general attitudes towards personal devices as learning tools are shifting for the better. As phone ownership among students grows, particularly in high school, it’s time to start looking beyond restrictions, to see how we can take advantage of these supercomputers in our pockets. Let’s break down the good, the bad, and the opportunities of having phones in the classroom:

Negative impacts of phones on students

Distraction

Studies have shown that banning phones from schools can improve student performance. This was particularly true for low-performing students who may be distracted by the presence of phones. These studies are often referred to when justifying widescale bans on phones in schools.

Increased device management

It’s clear then that if you are considering utilising mobile phones in class, teachers may need to put a concerted effort into managing students’ proper use. This is true of all digital devices though, not just phones, so doesn’t feel like enough of a reason to write them off completely. Plus, inappropriate device use is most common when students feel disengaged from what is being taught, which can be avoided with interactive, engaging lesson content.

Benefits of having phones in class

Accessibility

One of the top benefits of using phones for BYOD or 1:1 device strategies is their ubiquity. A 2020 study showed 48 per cent of Australian children aged 6-13 either own or have access to a mobile phone. This figure jumped to 82 per cent in the 12-13 age bracket. High accessibility then is a huge draw to embracing phones in the classroom.

M-learning

Once phones are connected to a learning hub like the ActivPanel, students can use their handheld devices for M-learning or mobile learning. This is a highly personalised and customisable style of teaching that can suit a wide range of student needs. Students can choose what and when they learn, at a pace that fits them, leaving teachers more time to focus on the individual rather than treating the group as a whole.

Safety

Another benefit to allowing phones in schools is the added safety that comes from students being able to contact their family when needed. A blanket ban on phones means that students often are required to leave their devices at home, leaving them with less of a safety net throughout the day.

Ideas for teaching with phones

Instant connection

Phones can connect to the ActivPanel to create a richer learning experience. Whether screensharing/mirroring, or merely connecting through apps, the combination of tech means that teachers and students can interact in a range of engaging ways.

Instant polling

Connect student devices to ActivInspire and cloud-based ClassFlow for polling features that give teachers access to students’ comprehension levels as they learn. This gives a quick gauge on the class with a higher degree of privacy than traditional ‘hands-up’ style of polling. This is great for students who struggle with confidence. It also provides traceable data for teachers to build up formative assessment throughout the term.

AR/VR

There is a wide and ever-growing variety of extended reality apps for teaching purposes that students can use with their phones. Augmented and virtual reality is highly immersive, engaging, and presents opportunities to teach a wider range of complex topics and higher-order skills. Embracing mobile phone use in-class puts this technology right in the hands of students.

Gamified content

Adding game mechanics to the classroom setting is easy with the range of apps and sites that students can access through their phones. This makes for a heightened learning experience for students, with the tangible rewards and set goals incentivising them as they learn.

Teachers can mirror mobile devices on the ActivPanel to host multi-player games that the whole class can get involved in or display interactive puzzles and quizzes for students to complete individually.

Teach healthy tech habits

If teachers and parents are worried about a screen addiction, allowing phones in the classroom presents an opportunity for teaching healthier usage habits.

Given that phones and other personal digital devices are so ubiquitous outside of schools, it makes sense to shape their use in constructive way. Plus, having phones out on the desk rather than tucked away means teachers have full view of their usage for more effective monitoring.

Mindfulness exercises, for instance could help students recognise a potential addiction to apps and screens. You could have students monitor when they feel the need to check their phone, adding each time to a tally displayed on the ActivPanel, to demonstrate a pattern of boredom and attention deficit.

Want to learn more about M-learning with the ActivPanel? Our live demonstrations are hosted by a Promethean Education Consultant, an edtech pro with a passion for connecting our solutions to your unique needs. Request a demo today.