Posted by: crudbasher | April 6, 2011

How a Smartphone Equipped Classroom Could Function

Yesterday I speculated about a series of events where every student in a classroom would show up on the first day of class with a smartphone. I asked what would teachers do on that day. One of the commenters on that post asked what I would do if that happened. That’s a very good and fair question.

The first thing I would do is take advantage of the fact that I don’t have to spoon feed every piece of information to the students. Based on the topic of the day I would setup a series of activities that students could choose from. ย I would make sure that there was a variety of activities that would interest the students.

My classroom would have a lot of individual and group activities going on. I do acknowledge that students will want to be on Facebook and will want to text ย their friends so I will use that to my advantage. Part of their assignment will be to solicit information from outside sources. For example, make a list of subject matter experts that are on Twitter or have blogs, or Facebook groups. A follow up assignment would be to email these sources and ask them a question about the assignment topic.

Each student will be required to present their work to the class, either as a verbal report, or a video put up on Youtube. Student will work hard if their peers will be watching and evaluating them. They don’t work hard for a grade.

I will send them home with a homework assignment to find someone to interview using the camera on their smartphone.

This type of classroom environment is a very constructivist approach to learning and it’s not new. What is new is the information sources we have now. I also freely acknowledge there are a lot of outside forces that will affect the process I describe above. We don’t live in an ideal world.

Regarding the technology, one challenge will be the small size of the screen on a smartphone. That will be solved via either folding screens, or building a screen into the desk that connects wirelessly to the phone in your pocket. Eventually we might have plastic based paper thin screen that you buy by the roll and use as display wallpaper. Now that would be very cool. ๐Ÿ™‚

So these are some of my ideas on a smartphone equipped classroom. While I don’t have all the answers, I am asking the questions now so when the students do show up, I’ll be ready for them.

I invite comments and suggestions below! Do you have any ideas to share?



  1. Next year we are finally getting wireless throughout our school so students will be able to bring in and use their own devices. This is one of the things I am looking into is changing my class so instead of me running the class they are researching topics and then teaching the class what they learned.

    • That’s awesome Tony! Are you a bit nervous about giving that much freedom to your students? Oh and what grade/age are you teaching?

  2. […] of the tweets I posted on here in a previous post got me thinking. It’s about a Smartphone equipped classroom. One of my friends and I were having a conversation about texting in class, and how, as a teacher, […]

  3. Well, if one is still a bit insecure about letting students run the joint, how about just using cells for old-fashioned note taking? My research last year indicated that not only did students find it quicker, not only did they stay more engaged–they actually processed the information more effectively. They could text me their notes thru my google.voice number, not only making them easier for me to grade but easier for them to keep track of.

    • Hey Debra,

      You know I think you are onto something here. Perhaps students are so used to their phones and devices that asking them to take notes on paper is foreign? Once you digitize that task they will be more open to it. The big question is, are teachers? Thanks for commenting!!

      • You will be shocked–shocked, I say–to learn that I just graduated from the Fullsail EMDT Masters program, & using cell phones in my classroom was my Action Research project… Well, maybe not! My biggest thrill was a special ed student who had surgery on his right hand–and went from 3 bullet points of handwritten, unclear events to left-handedly texting full pages of thoughtful notes. And being able to say he really “got” Hamlet!

  4. By the way, I am here because one of my students found this blog for their assignment to email me a link to a site that would give them ideas for how cell phones could effectively be used academically…

    • Well Debra I thought I recognized some brilliance in you! I too am an EMDT grad! ๐Ÿ™‚ Cool program eh? I think students feel lost when they don’t have their electronics these days. There have been some studies recently that talked about how students show the same brain chemistry as a drug addict going through withdrawal. That’s crazy! Did you see this post I wrote about that? Link

      Thank you so much for stopping by! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Study, schmudy–my youngest son & I have been blessed to RV cross country the last few summers (my digital story for Kathy was “In the RV Without a TV: 10,000 Miles of Deprivation”). As long as he didn’t have any tech, he was fine; if I tried to let him have moderate usage (say, some games on his non-digital cell), when I said time’s up, that boy was jonesing. 12 Step program, anyone? Of course, a cross-country trip (with a fascinating parent, of course) is sooo different from a high school class room (even with a fascinating teacher)! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Yeah it’s a brave new world! I wonder if there were similar effects when TV became common in the 1950s? I”m so glad you decided to drop me a line!

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