Cell phones in the classroom By Chase Becker

Chase Becker

Kristen Hoggatt-Abader

English 102


Audience: My audience will be individuals within the academic community, specifically teachers/professors. I should address the fact that while I am a proponent of the use of smartphones within the classroom, there are certain times when technology such as smartphones should be used, and other times when the smartphones should not be used. In my essay, I made use of rhetoric appeal. By using rhetoric appeal, I was able to reference experts in the field that have done extensive research on my topics of discussion. Additionally, I was able to talk about personal experience that I have with using smartphones, and applications that aid in the learning environment.

Phones in the classroom, help, or hindrance?

Martin Cooper made the first mobile phone call over forty years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that our phones became capable of much more than just a simple phone call. With more technology in the palm of your hand than NASA had to land a man on the moon, today’s smartphones can accomplish virtually anything. As phones become more and more advanced, the calling functionality is used less and less, and things like text messaging, emailing, and social media are becoming more prevalent. Within the academic community, many have voiced their opinions on the use of smartphones within the classroom, some being all for the use of phones within academic environments, others completely opposing it. Being in the millennial generation myself, I have seen firsthand how helpful a smartphone can be towards all aspects of education.

Many educators see smartphones in the classroom as a hindrance in more than just one way. Jeff Crossman, a teacher of 40 years voices his opinion on the issue. “It takes away from the learning environment.” The human brain doesn’t have the capacity to fully multitask, thus making looking at a phone and listening to a teacher very hard. With that being said, in order to fully take in all of the information presented in class, one must only use their phone when the teacher isn’t teaching. By paying full attention to what the teacher has to say, and then using a smartphone as a secondary resource to fill the gaps that the teacher may have missed, a student gets a well-rounded education that is not exclusively dependent on technology or a physical professor. In addition to students being able to lookup words they may not understand from a lecture, or research a particular topic, teachers can use the smartphone as an educational tool too. SurveyPocket is one of many applications that allows users to quickly create surveys. Teachers could use SurveyPocket to not only see where their students stand on specific topics, but give quizzes too. I can say from experience that students would be very receptive towards a technological aspect within the classroom. SurveyPocket’s ability to let users create quizzes instantly could be a game changer for teachers. Often times, teachers will administer quizzes to check a student’s knowledge of a certain concept, and tests to check for knowledge of a wider array of topics that were taught. Quizzes and tests have been and always will be the best way to check for a student’s understanding, but generally these quizzes or tests occur only after multiple class sessions. Because students may go numerous classes without the reaffirmation of a quiz or a test, they may be unsure on where they stand on their understanding of the material. An app like SurveyPocket could fix this problem. SurveyPocket allows for teachers to create quizzes or surveys on the fly. Teachers could create quizzes during class to further explain concepts. As a student myself that understands how these particular applications work, it becomes evident that students everywhere could benefit from an app such as SurveyPocket. In an article by Annie Paul, Patrice Bain describes a method of teaching referred by many as “Retrieval practice”, or “The testing effect”. This method of teaching uses “tests as occasions for learning” (Paul). Instead of using a test or a quiz as physical representation of what we already know and don’t know, tests and quizzes need to serve as an educational device. “In a study published in 2008 by Karpicke and his mentor, Henry Roediger III of Washington University, the authors reported that students who quizzed themselves on vocabulary terms remembered 80 percent of the words later on, whereas students who studied the words by repeatedly reading them over remembered only about a third of the words.” (Paul) Students who used the retrieval practice method on average retained 50% more than those who used other methods. This study proves that if teachers and students were to use an online survey/quiz service, they would have a greater understanding of the material, and a better retention rate.

In addition to a service such as SurveyPocket, students could use other technological resources to assist them in their classes. Every smartphone has a camera and a microphone, providing numerous additional resources to students in the classroom. In a class environment with a tech friendly teacher, students would be able to record the lectures with either the video, or microphone functionalities of their phone. Although traditional note taking techniques work effectively for some, others find it hard to quickly write down notes, because of how fast professors move from topic to topic. Many individuals that have a hard time keeping up with handwritten notes turn to tying notes on a computer. Multiple studies have been done on the retention of information when students type notes, instead of writing them by hand. In an article by npr, James Doubek explains the science behind the new age of typed notes, vs the old standard of hand written notes. “As laptops become smaller and more ubiquitous, and with the advent of tablets, the idea of taking notes by hand just seems old-fashioned to many students today. Typing your notes is faster — which comes in handy when there's a lot of information to take down. But it turns out there are still advantages to doing things the old-fashioned way.

For one thing, research shows that laptops and tablets have a tendency to be distracting — it's so easy to click over to Facebook in that dull lecture. And a study has shown that the fact that you have to be slower when you take notes by hand is what makes it more useful in the long run.” (Doubek) Doubek’s article is consistent with multiple other articles and scientific experiments, that also concluded that written notes are better for retention. This scientific discovery tells me that students feel like they have to take down notes as fast as possible. With students feverishly typing as fast as they can, they are remembering less and less of what they are actually typing. Having a cellphone in the classroom in this instance could be very helpful. Allowing students to take pictures, audio and video recordings would help students to learn more in the classroom. Knowing that they can refer back to a video or audio recording after class, students wouldn’t feel as pressured to type everything that the teacher says, but instead could divert back to the old standard of pen and paper. By taking down main points of the lesson, at a slower pace, students will be more engaged, and thus more likely to retain the information that was taught. Students would be able to revisit their videos or audio recordings, and fill in the fine details that they didn’t catch during the original class. This method would ensure that students are not only using the most effective notetaking technique, but also revisiting the lectures for clarification on anything they may be confused on. I am certain that this method of notetaking would provide optimal retention and understanding of the material, because I have experienced it firsthand. Last semester, in my MIS-111 class, the teacher used a program that not only recorded the teacher via microphone, but overlapped the teachers voice with the PowerPoint slides that were created. Many times I can recall not having enough time to write down all of the information that the teacher was saying, not to mention the additional information that was presented on the slides. I quickly decided to dump the laptop for a spiral notebook and a pencil. Managing a pencil and a notebook is much easier than a computer, and does take away the added distractions that a computer may have. Although I wasn’t able to write down all of the notes that I needed during the original lecture, I didn’t have to worry, because I knew I could always refer to Panopto as a secondary resource to fill the gaps that I had in my notes. Although a scientific consensus has not been made on whether or not technology used to record lectures is effective or not, both myself and my peers agree that being able to review the exact contents of previous classes is invaluable, especially in preparation for exams.

In conclusion, my research has led me to believe that there is a vast array of opportunities that a smartphone presents within the classroom, and that students from all walks of life from schools all across the world should be allowed access to use their devices within the classroom. Studies have shown that by having smartphones in the classroom, if used correctly, students can have a better retention of the material.

Works Cited:

"News & Tips." Hotchalk Lesson Plans Page: Lesson Plans by Teachers for Teachers. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

Graham, Edward. "Using Smartphones in the Classroom." NEA. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

Clark, Laura. "5 (good) Ways Smartphones Are Being Used in High School." NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 25 July 2012. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.




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