Mobile phones in classroom: main challenges, opportunities and implementation ideas

The use of mobile technology in the classroom is a topic of current debate among all types of teachers and school management teams. This article will not describe the teaching-learning methodologies based on exclusive use of mobile technology to educate and learn at any time and place, but the use of the mobile phone as another tool in the classroom like computers, tablets, books, or paints.

There are multiple advantages and challenges in the use of this technology. Some governments and schools tend to prohibit mobile devices in class at all, and others promote their use as a pedagogical element. However, beyond these regulatory changes, the truth is that there is no single recipe, but that the mobile phone, like any other pedagogical element, can be positive or negative depending on the needs of students, teachers, learning objectives, the activities to be carried out, etc.

However, we should all bear in mind that we can take advantage of some of the benefits of using smartphones, which many children also have outside the classroom. For example, teachers can carry out activities via mobile phones, such as organizing pop quizzes in special apps or even allowing their students to use their inbuilt readers for digital book copies.

What benefits and opportunities can cellphones bring to the classroom?

Nowadays we are all used to using mobile phones, although it is true that, unfortunately, we do not always use them properly, both adults and children. In fact, “phubbing,” or in other words, “paying attention to the mobile phone instead of the people we are with,” is becoming more frequent among children. However, this is an issue that they can work on advantageously in the classroom with their mobiles:

1. Through mobile devices, students can learn to use technology wisely. The teachers can establish specific rules within the classroom that their students must follow. Just as teachers know how to use this technological device, they can teach it to their students. In addition, this allows them to work on safety issues in a real way and to emphasize digital competence.

2. Internet access at all times, even if the school’s computer room is not available. Having mobiles in the classroom allows greater flexibility to carry out connected tasks without using the computer room. This opens up a world of possibilities from the pupil’s desk or wherever they are: accessing teacher documents, reading the newspaper, consulting and participating in the classroom blog, learning to search, getting advice from an essay writer free, using the dictionary, creating, editing, and publishing text, audio and image content, etc.

3. Students also learn to use technological educational tools. Without the need for other elements, but with those that the students themselves have, it is possible to work with QR and augmented reality in the classroom, carry out evaluations or quizzes on the spot, complete projects with the use of social networks, specific applications by subject or competences, etc.

4. Increased motivation and participation. The use of mobile devices allows for diverse communication according to the needs of each student. This way, the methodology becomes personalized according to their needs, working style, consultation, etc.

5. Mobile devices allow monitoring of the teaching-learning methods. As with any task, mobile technology helps students keep their own daily record of activities, plan their study in terms of time and schedule, record their ideas, etc. As we saw in the case of gamification, it can facilitate improved monitoring and introduce, for example, continuous assessment.

What challenges appear when we implement mobile devices in the learning process?

Using the mobile phone in the classroom implies the need to work on all its benefits, but it also involves taking on and facing the challenges of introducing it into everyday school life. Of course, not using mobile phones in the classroom at all may be a more than adequate response, as it depends on the characteristics of the students and teachers. Thus, there is no unsolved matter in this world, so approach the further listed challenges with a little bit of creativity.

Find below the roadblocks that need to be addressed immediately:

1. Divergence in access to technology. The reality is that children begin to have access to mobiles at the age of 8, and in fact, it is usually the star gift at the time of communion. Moreover, the operating system and technology also vary according to age. Not all pupils can carry out all activities, either because they do not have a phone or because they do not have the necessary technology. However, this can be worked on by making tasks that depend not on the device but on the action itself.

2. Long and complicated adaptation process. Dispersion, setting limits, and attention levels are some of the biggest fears in introducing the use of mobile phones in the classroom. While it is true that they can occur, teachers who have used them show that they are no more different than with the introduction of other elements such as computers. To minimize them, it is essential to set rules for smartphone use for everyone in the school, including adults, and even to involve students in this process.

3. The risk of inappropriate use of mobile phones. Sometimes the use of mobile phones can lead to negative actions towards other people, such as cyberbullying, sextortion, negative publications about teachers on social networks, etc. However, this is not a consequence of the use in the classroom but the use of mobile devices generally. And these matters could be worked on in a group.

4. Lack of pedagogical objectives. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges as teachers is the introduction of a new tool with a meaning, that is, within a program and a methodology. It is necessary to understand that the mobile phone is not the salvation of our students, but just another work tool. And it is no worse in terms of educational use than the widespread computer.

How to implement the use of mobile phones in your daily classroom life?

In fact, mobile devices are as helpful in education as tablets, and they are also more widespread nowadays. This fact can be a valuable argument when proposing this upgrade in your class. In general terms, however, it is crucial to bear in mind some aspects to establish a protocol for the use of mobile phones:

  • Define your students: their available devices, tastes, uses, habits, customs, and other related aspects.
  • Define the learning objectives: curricular, competencies, etc.
  • Choose the type and number of devices: tablets or mobiles, own or not, used by groups or individually.
  • Define the time of use and specification of the curricular actions: the whole day, by subject, by project, etc.
  • Define the necessary characteristics: with or without connection, 3G or Wi-Fi, free or paid apps, own or external resources.
  • Delimit classroom use and participation: when, how, what, and by whom.
  • Establish the evaluation process: likewise, when, how, what, and by whom.
  • Think about the possible problems and how to solve them: what to do if we do not have mobile phones; there is a technological failure: the family does not want the mobile phone to be used in the classroom…?

There are various ideas for using the mobile video camera in the classroom, such as recording scientific experiments, making videos of visits to museums, conducting interviews with experts, making video self-evaluations, etc. Students can also use it on outings to interact and document nature, work in class through various activities or use it as a tutoring space in study time through WhatsApp or specialized educational applications.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Think about it, and from there, you will find a way to achieve it using the power of smartphones.

Mobile phones in classroom: main challenges, opportunities and implementation ideas

Steve Liem

Learn More →