Today, I gave my talk “Cell Phones in the Classroom: From Enemy to Asset,” (see my previous post on preparing for it) for the Independent Curriculum Group at the beautiful campus of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, TX. Here was the published summary of my talk:
From Enemy to Asset: Cell Phones in the Classroom
Cell phones have replaced note-passing as the biggest distraction in the classroom. Schools have tried to attack the problem with blanket bans or restrictive policies. But what if instead of viewing cell phones as the enemy, we use them as teaching tools? Most students have more computing power in their pocket than was used by NASA to send men to the moon. This session will explore innovative classroom uses for cell phones.
I was quite nervous about this talk – my colleagues were entirely strangers, I was in a new environment, talking about a ‘controversial’ topic and at the last minute I found out two horrifying facts: that the session would be 75 minutes (I had anticipated 50-60) and that I would be presenting first! The night before, I spent a lot of time tossing and turning as well as frantically changing my content.
The day began and my room ended up being packed – we were dragging in extra chairs and for a time, it was standing room only. Seems like this was a topic that hit home for a lot of faculty – after all, cell phones are pervasive.
Turns out, I had a great audience. They were incredibly talkative and engaging. They asked pertinent questions, brought up legitimate concerns, and shared constructively. In fact, my problem wasn’t that I couldn’t fill up the time, I just didn’t have enough!
We spent most of our time playing with Poll Everywhere. I’ve posted previously about my very positive experiences with the software in previous blog posts. They liked its ease of use, the broad application, and moderator features. In fact, we spent probably 70% of the time talking about this particular piece. Here’s an example of one of our ‘back-channel’ chats
We next moved on to DropBox (if any conference attendees are reading this, remember this is the link that will get you 250mb of bonus space!) – I was surprised by the number of teachers that were unfamiliar with this program, but they all became excited quite quickly at its cross-platform capabilities, file storage and transfer, as well as means of distributing materials to students who now seem loathe to check their own emails (my students often ask me to text them when I email something important). I highlight DropBox in my post about using your Smart Phone to go paperless (or less paper-y).
By the time I finished both of these products, we had only a few minutes left. I showed them a few examples of other products, namely Scanner Applications (like Genius Scan Pro) that students can use in their process of research (and help organize with DropBox or Evernote).
A few of the conference goers stayed after ‘the bell’ to ask me about some of the creative suites (that I used for digital storytelling projects, which you can read about here). I also put out a stack of business cards that were collected up – hopefully to contact me in the future, but possibly to ensure they got the spelling right on their complaints.
I didn’t get a chance to distribute my handout (not sure what happened to my copies). But you can download a copy of it here: Austin Presentation (it includes all of the software I went over, or planned to go over, in the talk).