The younger the person, the more likely it is that they haven’t known a time in their lives without mobile phones. It used to be, not too long ago, that people could still remember the oversized car phones that were mounted to dashboards or the cell phones that were the size of large bricks. Now, we encounter digital technology everywhere. Cell phones fit discretely in back pockets and small handbags. Television screens greet us from behind mirrored bathroom glass. Touch-screen kiosks deliver everything from soft drinks to movie tickets.
With the dawn of smart phones, e-readers and tablets, a world of information has mobilized. We know the technology isn’t going anywhere—so why not use it to engage students who are more than primed to utilize these platforms?
The learning landscape has been forever changed with modern mobile technology. Online courses offered by colleges, universities and certificate programs across the country make the traditional classroom malleable. Students can learn when and where it is convenient for them and employers–around full-time jobs and other responsibilities. With e-reader tablets and a variety of smart phone apps, textbooks can be downloaded to compliment an online curriculum and knowledge validation can be given in the format of an online test.
Although mobile phones have long been frowned upon in the classroom or workplace as unwelcome learning distractions, some trainers are winning the battle for students’ attention spans by requiring cell phone use in lesson plans. Online tools, such as Poll Everywhere, allow teachers to engage students by asking them to text answers to a predetermined set of questions. The results to the poll or quiz can be projected onto a screen and are updated in real time, as students text their answers. And who wouldn’t want to learn about restaurants in Paris or England by “going there” with an app like Google Earth?
Social media can also provide a valuable platform for teachers and students alike. Setting up a class Twitter “handle” or Facebook page allows for easy and accessible transmittal of information and provides a forum where students can interact and help one another solve problems they might encounter with classroom material. Class projects can turn into social media campaigns, with Twitter hashtags designated for group names and activities, with students interacting in their social media “homes,” with professors and teachers as moderators and guides.
In airports, movie theaters, at restaurants and work—look around. You’ll likely see more folks checking their phones, tapping their tablets and reading their e-readers, than folks carrying on live conversations or paging through physical reading material. The present day classroom is not that different—teachers fighting for students’ brain waves that are more likely drifting toward the latest Facebook wall post or smartphone game, than the list of wine terminology on the whiteboard. By integrating digital and mobile technology into the classroom and offering a learning setting that’s both familiar and enticing to present-day students, teachers have a chance at winning the battle for attention. So, swords—err, iPhones—up!