A recent study is unlikely to surprise college professors: 94% of college students want to use their mobile phones in class for academic purposes. The survey found that a substantial number of students (58%) use their phones to take pictures of lecture slides, and similarly high percentages of students also use their phones to search for information on Google or access a digital textbook during lectures.
Students also indicated their willingness to use the phones more often for a range of classroom activities, including checking into class, answering in-class polls, and accessing lecture slides. (For some mobile classroom polling alternatives, check out this blog post from November.)
However, the risks of mobile phones being nothing more than a distraction are obvious. Half of students admitted to using phones to text friends or check social media during class.
Smartphones aren’t going away, of course, so administrators and professors need to think about ways to leverage the opportunity while minimizing the potential for distraction. Having the right kind of active learning furniture may also help.
What if the very thing that keeps kids from focusing in school could actually help channel students’ attention? Smartphones are nearly impossible to ban, so working with them can actually allow students to become more engaged, as their lives are so technologically-centered. Since their futures depend on their ability to use technology proficiently, it could make sense to involve it in the learning process. The following are some recommended tools that utilize smartphones in the classroom: Plickers – Teachers often need to assess how much the information is actually being grasped by the students. Plickers gives teachers the ability to ask questions in real time and have students respond with their answers directly to the instructor’s smart phone. Gauging the responses helps teachers to adjust lessons accordingly. Trello – Organization of assignments and projects can streamline the work for students and teachers. This free service allows for multiple users to collaborate on group tasks. White Noise – Use any number of music apps to play white noise sounds during study periods. This blocks out excess background noise and has proven to increase concentration. Kahoot – This tool has game-like functions and a layout which will be attractive to young learners. They can create quizzes and receive feedback from their classmates as well as obtain data for graphic assignments. Venngage – Seeing the data visually is an effective way of processing new information. Venngage offers a series of templates that students can customize to display impactful infographics. Nearpod – This tool creates interactive lessons. Students can ask questions and receive feedback immediately, which is an advantage in keeping their attention. Class Dojo – Students create avatars and gain or lose points for behavior. This is a motivating and incentivizing way to uphold class values. Prezi – A presentation tool more creative and striking than PowerPoint, Prezi makes the creation and the viewing of presentations much more enjoyable. Cold Turkey – This service can be turned on during busy work times and blocks time-wasting web sites temporarily. It can be used as an incentive to complete assignments and then turned off for free time.
These options, plus the right kind of class environment through quality technology furniture, will put new life into the learning process while utilizing the very tools that seem to get in the way of productive class time.