Mobile phone etiquette: How to promote concentration in the classroom

Mobile phones have been a teacher’s primary concern since they became mainstream gadgets a few decades ago. Back then, they were small devices with nothing much to offer, except calls, texts, and one or two simple games. But in nearly all schools, it was stringent policy to keep phones out of the classroom.

The reasons were valid. You couldn’t have your students playing Snake under the desk, or a ringtone rudely interrupting a class session. Then there was the issue of stigmatization among kids where phones would be regarded as a status symbol, alienating the learners who couldn’t have them for one reason or the other. Mobile phones weren’t all bad, but to many teachers agreed that they were better left at home.

Fast forward to today, and sophisticated handheld computers have replaced the little gadgets of old. Our lives are now centered around smartphones, and it’s impossible to keep them away from our kids. Regardless of school rules, these devices still find their way to school in pockets, purses, backpacks and hoodies. Even worse is we now have so many cheap smartphones in the market that, confiscate a phone today, and the same kid will have another tomorrow.

Experts have been deliberating on the role of smartphones in schools for a while, and now, the general consensus seems to be leaning towards letting students have their way. Instead of prohibiting their use, teachers are advised to figure out the means to incorporate smartphones in the classroom.

Not only is this approach easier than enforcing a “no phones allowed” rule, but it also encourages kids to learn and concentrate because they’re using their favorite toys.Below are a few ways you can ensure the proper use of smartphones among learners.

5 tips to ensure the proper use of smartphones in the classroom

1. Create your own mobile phone policy

Banning phones in class is hardly practical these days because kids will always find ways to break the rules. As a teacher, you should, therefore come up with a policy that works for you and your students.

For instance, you can allow the use of smartphones if it corresponds to what you’re teaching. Influence when students take out their smartphones by sharing with them a link to a helpful website or video, or by asking them to check for answers to emerge questions online. Also, introduce phones as a research tool in discussions, and let your students appreciate that their little devices have all the answers they need.

Smartphones in the classroom

Additionally, don’t forget to insist that all phones be put in silent mode at all times, and when one rings, revoke the owner’s mobile phone privileges or think of another clever form of disciplinary action.

With an effective policy, smartphones can be great learning tools in the classroom.

2. Make use of educational apps

The smartphone isn’t all games and social media applications. There are countless tools you can employ to make learning easier for students. You can find suitable apps in online stores, regardless of the subject you teach. Countries of the World, for example, is a free, popular social science quiz app that provides demographic information about countries around the world. Take a look at this post for fun video apps.

Apps are an easier, friendlier and more convenient way for students to learn, than books. Before using an app, however, check whether it’s approved for classroom use in your district and if it’s not, consult with your school and district administrators.

3. Use smartphones to assess learning

In addition to educative and informative apps, smartphones allow access to assessment tools, which you can use to quiz the class after a lesson. A great example is Polleverywhere, which allows you to set questions with several potential answers, and have your students text in the responses, in just a few minutes.

Even the most affordable smartphones available to unprivileged learners can easily run most educational quiz apps. Such apps are more efficient than random traditional tests because you can quickly identify the areas that students had a hard time to grasp and go over them again. Moreover, learners will tend to concentrate more in the classroom if they expect a test at the end of every session.

4. Encourage the use of organization apps

With smartphone apps, you can have your learners plan better for their studies. Remind, for example, lets you send reminders to your students when they have a test coming up or homework due the next day. These apps encourage kids to systemize their assignments, which means you won’t have cases where one forgets to do homework or read for an exam. You might also want to take look at these 8 brainstorm apps for a collaborative classroom. Smartphones in the classroom

A student that keeps on track with class progress, even when out of the classroom will not feel lost when you’re teaching, and will, therefore, concentrate more.

5. Let your students have some fun

As a final tip, it’s a good idea to allow some occasional smartphone fun in class. You can get kids to share a funny meme, or watch and discuss a hilarious but educational YouTube video, as long as they’re all doing the same thing. Use phones as tools to foster general knowledge, by planning “Did you know?” exercises, and encouraging your students to look up fun facts about anything that’s relevant.

And when the time comes for individual classwork, you can allow your students, especially those in middle and high school, to study with their headphones on. Research has shown that studying while listening to music often improves concentration and increases the amount of work done.

Wrap up

Many educators and administrators are still fearful of smartphones in school, but the truth is, considering how integrated smartphones are in their culture it barely seems acceptable to prohibit students' access to the devices that have become such a huge part of their young lives.

Schools need to come up with rational policies for the use of cellphones in the classroom. Instead of viewing them as a distraction, teachers should start using phones as the powerful tools of learning that they are.

Lucie Renard

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