It’s officially back-to-school time again! Some students are lamenting the end of summer vacation; others are excited for their new courses and the clean slate they bring. Some parents are celebrating a return to household sanity, while others are sadly reminded that their kids are growing up way too fast.
But there’s one thing we can all agree on. Sitting in a classroom today is a very different experience from what it was just a decade ago. And the reason is technology.
Many schools have incorporated laptops and tablets into the classroom for instructional purposes. But now the discussion has moved toward what to do with an even more mobile type of device- the kind that most students today keep attached at the hip…cell phones.
Powerful Teaching Tools
There’s no doubt that smartphones can be educational tools. Anyone who has ever found themselves in a silly debate with friends over dinner knows how useful smartphones can be when settling a disagreement over who exactly was the fourth U.S. President.
More and more educational apps are going on the market every day. Smartphones have become virtual reference books, calculators, and flashcards that students can carry along wherever they go.
And on the other side of the coin, parents who find it increasingly difficult to help their advancing kids with homework can use smartphones to brush up on the Pythagorean Theorem in a hurry.
To most of us who went to school before the new millennium, it’s a foreign idea to imagine a classroom where seating charts, homework assignments, and hand-raising is all done electronically.
But that’s becoming the reality in some schools.
Apps like BlackBoard Mobile allow teachers to post grades, administer tests, assign homework, foster online discussion among students, and communicate with parents.
In fact, fifth graders in a pilot program at a Texas elementary school are issued smartphones (with the messaging and calling capabilities disabled). They use the mobile devices to connect to the internet, schedule assignments, email their teachers, do their homework, scan QR codes that point to reading websites, create spreadsheets, and more. Initially, the program increased the students’ math and science scores from the previous year.
Of course, anyone who went to school – during any millennium – knows that the social scene is part of the education. Students don’t just communicate with their teachers; they whisper to their friends and pass notes to their crushes, too.
Smartphones have the potential to take note-passing to a new level. The average 13-17 year old sends upwards of 3,000 texts per month. Obviously, schools need to set the right rules about what kinds of smartphone use is productive and what is disruptive during class time.
Currently in the eastern part of Virginia, the Norfolk Public Schools Cell Phone Task Force has recommended middle and high school students be allowed to use cell phones in school beginning next year (with some caveats, of course).
But policies differ by school district, so it’s important to know the rules about smartphones wherever your child attends. Find information on your Virginia or West Virginia school’s cell phone rules before your child even heads for the bus stop this year.