Thursday, January 2, 2014

How Students Use Their Own Devices

I recently visited my old high school.  I am on my second year of a leave of absence to raise my son, Owen, who is one and a half. 

The past year and a half, the school's policy regarding the use of cell phones has evolved.  Although I have researched BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in schools, I haven't had the opportunity to put my findings into action in my own classroom.  During a quick visit, I asked my former colleagues and friends, "How are students using their cell phones in your classrooms?" The majority of their responses detailed student-driven usage of mobile devices.  I was very surprised by their answers.  I had not thought of these tools as ways for students to improve their own executive functioning.  Here are some of the uses they described:

1.  Homework.  Students use their phones to take pictures of homework assignments (either the description of blank worksheets), then share them on Twitter.  They are providing  a safety net for those who lose their assignments.  

2.  Studying.  In addition to taking paper notes, students will take pictures of teacher notes and/or diagrams.  This provides an easy reference for assignments and requires less (sometimes tedious) work of students.  Students are using phones to become more efficient and effective learners. 

3.  Calendar.  Almost all students are using their cell calendars.   Instead of agendas, students will add upcoming assignments, tests, or activities to their phones.  They are using their handhelds to increase their organization and performance. 

4.  Research.  Students are eager to Google topics in class and share their findings.  Students are agents of their own learning. 

This conversation with teachers has changed my perspective.  Now I'm wondering:  What else can students teach me (and their peers) about using their own devices in the classroom?


  1. Call me a dinosaur, but I still believe that the act of writing itself helps to imbed information into the brain. Taking pictures of notes or diagrams as a back up or ancillary method is fine, but I don't think it can replace the physical act of writing things down and interacting with the material in a hands-on way.

    1. Dot - I agree completely with you. No act can replace the act of writing in one's own hand, and it is okay if students use pictures as an aid, not a replacement. Maybe my next post should be about how students are using their phones for shortcuts and thus avoiding learning? Or how to counsel students into appropriate use of their devices? "Taking pictures is okay, if it's an aid..." Thank you for taking the time to read this blog!!!