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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2018

7 - Mobiles in teaching



There still seems to be a culture of ‘turn off your mobiles’ within most educational establishments. Most of us work in places where it is the norm for the people whom we teach to possess a mobile phone, often a smartphone – a state of affairs that will only increase in future.

Instead of taking advantage of these wonderful, portable computers, we deliberately try to prevent others from using them. Rather than using them in teaching, we tell our classes to turn them off, ignore them, try to stop them interfering in ‘our’ teaching. Instead of regarding them as interfering with your teaching, why not take advantage of them? Why not draw them into the process and let them enhance our students’ learning?

Should we use students’ own devices, or provide class devices?

There are two approaches that we can take here. We can buy sets of devices for class use, similar to those that may be owned by members of a typical class anyway, or we can use our students’ own devices. Both approaches have benefits and drawbacks.

The key advantage of using students’ own devices (normally phones) is that the cost of providing and updating the equipment doesn't fall on the library and we don't need to worry about how much a set of devices for a class might cost. If most of the members of a class bring mobile phones with them, particularly if these are smartphones, the equipment will cost us nothing. There is the added advantage that the students will be familiar with the devices – after all, they are their own phones! You may need to spend time explaining how you intend to use them, but no instruction will be needed in the operation of the hardware, the actual devices.

However, we must be aware of several disadvantages before we start using the students’ phones. Firstly, not everyone may have a phone or be willing to use it in class. This is especially true if there are concerns about costs (e.g. the cost of sending text messages) or about privacy (e.g. about the retention of phone numbers). You must be up front in dealing with these issues if you want to use the students’ own devices in class.