Smart phones meet the classroom

The Independent Schools Council has offered advice on ‘smart’ phones in the classroom. In summarising its stance on smart phones, the ISC’s ICT Strategy Group asks: Why is an aeroplane like a classroom? Because on entering you must switch off all useful electronic devices.

The ISC explains that “the smart phone is an example of the convergence of many devices. The mobile phone, PDA, camera and laptop... Now your smart phone can connect to wireless and/or phone networks, web browse, send and receive emails, and some of the more sophisticated can run office applications like word processors and spreadsheets. It almost certainly has a reasonable quality camera and/or video camera. Many can store considerable quantities of ‘iTunes’ like material, which could include music, MFL audio material or GCSE revision podcasts.

“It is likely that your pupils carry around at least one such device. The challenge is to understand how these can be used to enhance learning and what difficulties they will present to the school.”

In order to arm teachers with knowledge about the power that smart phones give pupils, the ISC said: “Signal permitting smart phones can access the internet, make calls, send texts and emails. They can connect to Wi-Fi networks and other Blue tooth devices all whilst in your class.

“They can connect to the School Wi-Fi network system in order to access your school network resources (email, fileservers, web browsing). Using their mobile device they may be able to browse to any web site (including unsatisfactory sites), because they are not going through the School Web Filter. The phone will only have the safe search filtering provided by the phone network.

“They could take and edit notes, photographs, video of a science experiment, email it to the teacher at the front of the class or upload it to YouTube or another web site, within the space of a few minutes.

“They may be able to connect their laptop (or another pupil’s laptop) via Bluetooth or similar technology, through their phone so that they can web browse (from a laptop) without going through the School Web Filter whilst exchanging files and/or controlling devices.”

The ISC also considers the benefits that smart phone-equipped pupils can bring to the classroom: “What benefits are there in allowing the use of cameras in lessons, particularly practicals, and allowing independent web browsing for research during lessons? 

“Should they be using social networking applications like Facebook, Myspace, DIGG to share information and understand a breadth of opinions from different cultures and situations in a very short time?

“Should we be making use of text messaging to communicate with pupils and/or parents?

“To what extent do we want to restrict pupil use of these smart phones at school as this would impact on how the whole school community uses this technology?”

The ISC then offers some ideas on how to introduce this technology into the learning environment.

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