Tag Archives: smart phones

Tweens & The Cell Phone Conversation

Back to School shopping has started. Here in Florida, we kick off “tax free weekend,” which allows parents and students to purchase back to school items and pay no sales tax. Items included on that list: clothing, school supplies, computers, tablets, and smart phones! For many parents of tweens, the start of the school year also marks the start of the “cell phone conversation.” Do I get my child a smart phone? If so, what kind of smart phone? What limits do I put on them? Is it yet age appropriate for my child to have a phone?

So, how do you start the cell phone conversation with your child? Or, if you are a teacher or school administrator, how do you advise parents? There are a few ways to get the conversation going and things for you to consider.

Is a smart phone Age-Appropriate?

I feel comfortable telling parents that a child should not have their own device if they are younger than double digits. While I have seen 8 and 9 years olds playing on devices, those devices should ultimately belong to an adult. After the age of 10, however, it becomes a little more challenging. It would be easiest if I could tell parents that X age is the right age for their child to get a smartphone. However, the reality is that every child is different.

Your child is unique in their maturity and tolerance for responsibility. A smartphone is a big responsibility. A few comparable questions: Do I feel comfortable leaving my child home alone for a few hours? Does my child take care of their toys (e.g. clothing, other electronics, etc)? Would I allow my child to supervise other children? These questions tell you a few things: Can my child safely navigate without adult supervision? Can they care for an expensive piece of electronics? Can my child effectively and safely manage and engage with others without adult supervision?

Have a Conversation About the Responsibility of a Smartphone

I know, I know… this sounds so cheesy. But the reality is that, like driving a car, getting a smartphone is a big responsibility. They are entering a new world of freedom and flexibility. One in which they can, likely will (and developmentally should) make some mistakes and missteps. If you want to know more about what kids really “get up to” 13893168079_a584a41d83_bonline, check out danah boyd’s It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (this link gives you access to a free PDF version of the book). danah’s (yes, she spells it that way) book gives you a realistic look at how children engage with one another online. Here are some questions to discuss with your child:

  • What will you do if you see something that makes you uncomfortable online?
  • What will you do if you think that a friend or a classmate is being mean to you or someone else?
  • How will you react if someone makes you angry online?
  • What will you do if you think you have made a mistake in how you have acted online?
  • What will you do if your phone breaks or gets dropped in water?

This should be realistic conversations. Try not to use scare tactic examples. Pull things from real life:

“One time, Aunt Edna and I got into an argument because she responded to my selfie by saying ‘You look soooo fat!’ It turned out that she was being sarcastic and meant it as a compliment; I had recently lost weight. I thought that she was being mean. We didn’t speak for two weeks because neither of tried to clear up the communication. What could we have done better?”

Set Boundaries for Your Child & Yourself

Boundaries are important in all facets of life, including electronics. Sit down and have a conversation with your child about rules and boundaries for their new device – both for you and for them. Make a physical list that you post in your home. Think of this as an evolving process. Some of these may change as the child gets older or if you or your child feel it needs to shift. Additionally, consider consequences for violating boundaries (loss of a privilege?) Parents, keep in mind that modeling is especially important! A few items for you to consider:

  • Will there be a “no smartphone” time? For example family meals? Homework/reading time?  Family events? Bedtime?
  • Will parents be monitoring smartphone use?
  • When (during the day) is it acceptable to text? For example, what about during the school day? Parents, keep in mind that if you text a child during class-time, you may be enabling behavior you don’t want!
  • What is acceptable to share online? When should you get permission to post or share something?
  • Where will the phone be kept at night? It is often recommended to remove smartphones from children’s bedrooms at night to avoid temptation. Charge them in a parent’s room or a neutral place.

Keep Yourself Informed

Have regular conversations with your child about what they do online. Reinforce the idea that you are a trusted adult and they can come to you when they run into problems. To me, that is the most vital part of tween cell phone ownership – knowing that their parents can and will help them if they find themselves in uncomfortable situations or have made a poor decision. Some great resources for parents:

If you have some thoughts or contributions, please share them in the notes below!

 

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The Mobile Lives of College Students

A nice tie in with my article “Teaching with SmartPhones,” this infographic highlights the role that mobile phones (especially smartphones) have in the learning and living of college students. Thank you onlinedegrees for sharing it!

MobileLivesOfCollegeStudents

Teaching With SmartPhones

This has been reblogged from my post at PLP Voices of the Learning Revolution.

Teaching with SmartPhones

Posted by  on Nov 21, 2012 in The How of 21st Century TeachingVoicesWeb Tools That Deepen Learning0 comments

If you ask educators about cellphones in their classrooms, they will all have a passionate response and a story (good or bad) about their presence.

Most will express frustration at their problematic nature: they’re a distraction; they make noise; they can be used for cyber-bullying or cheating. That said, I think that more and more educators are recognizing that cellphones, and especially smartphones,can be a useful learning tool. But how do teachers make that happen?

As an early adopter of smartphone technology, I immediately recognized the incredible computing power they possess. Many students now have pocket technology that’s much more powerful and innovative than the equipment used in early manned space flights.

Still, like my colleagues, I imagined cellphones as a huge classroom management struggle.

So I set out to test a theory, with this basic premise: If teachers actually direct how students will use their cellphones in class as learning tools, we can minimize their role as a distractive presence.

I am the first to acknowledge that my teaching situation is not the same as many other educators. I teach in a small, independent school. My students generally come from a financially stable background and I teach fairly small classes (15-22). All of my students have some type of smartphone device. I understand this is not the case for all teachers. But most classrooms will include some students who have internet-capable devices, and many of the activities I will discuss here can be done in groups with just one device per group.

Supporting lessons & activities

A good rule of thumb for any classroom use of cellphones: the lesson/activity must be engaging as well as productive. You don’t want technology for the sake of technology (and students aren’t going to be intrinsically fascinated with a device they use routinely when they’re outside of school). If the students don’t enjoy what they’re doing, they will be more tempted to use their phones inappropriately.

In Class Polling/Quizzing – One of my favorite tools to use in class is a program called Poll Everywhere. I wrote about this service in an article at my personal blog: “Poll Everywhere – A Free/Cheap Alternative to Polling Hardware.”

This is a great piece of software to use in the classroom (and it’s free for audiences up to 40). You can create quiz questions for which students text in their answers.  No expensive clicker systems to buy, set up, and maintain! If students register their cellphone numbers (a requirement in my class) you can even track their answers for impromptu quizzes or review!

In-class Backchanneling: Backchanneling refers to the use of networks & social media to maintain an online, real-time conversation alongside spoken remarks.

For example, if you attend a keynote presentation at a conference these days, you’ll often find that some listeners in the audience are using their mobile devices to comment to other audience members about things the speaker is saying, while the speaker is saying them.

Backchanneling  can be a great way to give quiet students a voice, to introduce additional facts and insights during a lesson, or simply to encourage “conversation” during lecture or group readings when you don’t want to actually interrupt the presentation.

While Twitter is probably the most popular medium for backchanneling news and entertainment events (using #hashtags to create an instant network), teachers will probably want a more controllable platform than Twitter provides.
Educators can readily set up a private backchannel using free webtools. One popular program is Today’s Meet, which allows individuals to create temporary rooms to host backchannel discussions.

Poll Everywhere can also be used for this purpose. Plus, it allows you to moderate comments and prohibits any anonymous contributions.

In-class Readings & Handouts: Smartphones can also be used productively in the classroom as eReaders for books and handouts. I place all student handouts into DropBox folders (see my previous Voices article: “DropBox – a Superb Classroom Tool”). If we are reading or doing work in class, they can access our Dropbox space via the internet and open reference material without printing it up or asking for a new copy. It’s literally right in the palm of their hand.

Of course, for traditional reading materials (textbooks and paperbacks), you can use mobile apps like Kindle eReaderNook AppiBooks, or Google’s Play Books (just to name a few). Many of them host free content and some allow you to load content of your own. This is a great way to save money on book purchases and photocopies. Using these apps, students can even highlight and annotate.

Doing research

One of the greatest active uses I have found for smartphones is in the area of research. I remember the days when I made photocopies, took meticulous notes, and tried to employ a series of notecards in a vain attempt at some semblance of a coherent organized system. Smartphones do a much better job. In this case, the power is in the apps!

My favorite research tools on the smartphone are “camera scanners” (which capture information using the phone’s built-in camera). One of the best apps I have found is a program called Genius Scan+  – available for iOS, Android, and Windows based phones. This app allows you to take pictures of documents (even books with those bendy pages), crop them, and then enhance them for ready viewing. You can create notebooks of documents (if you are copying sections of a book or article) and then store them on the device or export them (as a photo image or PDF) toGoogle DocsDropBoxEvernote, and more. It’s a great tool for you or your students to organize research materials.

Evernote is another great application that students can use to organize their notes and images, take voice notes, write notes by hand, gather web clippings, sort emails, and more. You can put them into pre-categorized folders (class, project, theme, etc) as well as give them “tags” which makes them easy to search and sort later.

Google Search on the Go!

Most people can grasp the power of having Google in their pocket, but few recognize that the mobile version of Google is much more than a web browser. The Google Search App can be used not only for traditional searches, but has a voice search feature as well. You talk — it searches.

My favorite feature of the Google Search is its ability to perform searches using images! This feature, called Google Goggles, is a creative way to search the internet for image based content (watch the video). I employed it last year in a creative field trip experiment at the local museum.

These mobile Google capabilities offer a great way for students to explore material on the fly, using a variety of media. Any content, images, etc. that they find can be sent to a Google Drive account.

Stepping out with smartphones

I hope these ideas will be enough to stir the interest of fellow educators and encourage you to begin experiments of your own. And if you’re already using smartphones in your classroom and you’re doing something you don’t see here, please share in the comments!

When we combine the modern smartphone with wireless internet access and the remarkable number of cheap and free mobile apps now available, we find that they are truly amazing pocket-sized learning devices. Whether educators like them or hate them, the reality is that cellphones are going to become pervasive in our classrooms, if they aren’t already.

We can choose to be proactive — to employ and direct the use of these powerful tools — or we can continue to exert our energy in combating them.

If we are truly preparing our students for the future, then I believe it is our obligation to incorporate these ever-present devices into our daily teaching practice.

Image of smartphone: BigStock

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About the author

I teach at Trinity Valley School in Ft. Worth, Texas. I’m a student of the human condition: history, philosophy, art, and culture. I am a passionate educator. I am a lover of new technologies and their ability to share knowledge. I blog at Indiana Jenand you can find me on Twitter @teacherjencarey Meet the rest of our Voices.