With the announcement of the iPhone 5 last week, I am fairly certain we can proclaim this time period the age of the smartphone! Who would have ever thought 20 years ago, that people would be walking around with a phone that could access Internet data, make calls, receive email, and could be used as a GPS, texting/messaging service, can hold a library of books, music, artwork, recipes, and provide a quasi-human assistance in seeking information for whatever query one would need?
Well, maybe Gene Roddenberry thought about it!
But, here we are in the year 2012, with virtual micro processing-like phones capable of all that and more, clipped to our belts, or in our pockets. And, you can assume students are carrying all of this technological know-how around, as well. So, why are some educators hesitant to find a way to use this knowledge power and incorporate it into their instructional experiences?
Simply, some teachers teach as they were taught, and do not venture into that realm called “best practice” or “instructional experimentation”. The rationale you may hear from these people is that they are fearful of demonstrating what they do not know in front of the students, maintaining that aura of “the teacher as all-knowing omnipresent know-it-all”, instead of a mentor for self-directed learning.
This needs to change, sooner, rather than later, for 21st Century children. We owe it to their futures to prepare them for a different kind of world that none of us can even imagine. If we are continuing to teach using 19th century learning models, than we have virtually doomed their future access to all that they are capable of achieving, or better yet, forced them to regard school as a waste of their time, and go off on their own to discover the world.
So, how can teachers learn to harness this capability that lies in their students’ hands?
There are a number of organizations offering opportunities for professional development, such as the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Many states have their own professional organizations that can offer regional opportunities as well. But, the best way to adapt this model is to be creative and design something that works.
1) Paul Wallace, assistant professor of instructional technology atAppalachian State University(NC), taught his students to use the Scvngr application as a way to apply their classroom knowledge to benefit the local community. Students partnered with Watauga River Conservation Partners, a local community organization, to create mobile scavenger hunts to help the community learn about wetlands and conservation. Not only did students learn to use mobile technology, they were also able apply their classroom knowledge in the field.
2) Another demonstration of smartphone-enabled learning is Project Noah, which is based on the premise that students can create and share knowledge using their mobile devices. Students use the app (iPhone or Android) to document and take photos of sighted insects, birds, and bushes, and then share their findings with an online community.
3) How about using iPhones to replace the graphing calculator? Yes, the governing board of regional education trustees will have a conniption fit, but the reality is that forcing students or having school purchase these dinosaurs of ancient technology for use in one or two classes is an extraordinary waste of resources. A smartphone can become a graphing calculator and become more practical a tool. This can be seen in the Onslow County School District in North Carolina, which has been using smartphones for the past few years as classroom calculators.
4) Students in the fifth grade are Cimarron Elementary School are getting the chance to work with smartphones in their classrooms. Phones are issued to the students with the messaging and calling capabilities disabled, but students can still connect to the internet, schedule assignments, and send emails to their teachers through the phones. Students use the phones to do their homework, often on-the-go, and to keep in touch with teachers. The students also use the mobile devices to do web quests, scan QR codes linked to vocab and reading websites, make excel spreadsheets, create quizzes, and even graph their science lab results. The pilot program seems to be doing well, with an increase in students' math and science scores from the previous year.
12) Students at this high school no longer have to hide their phones to use them in class. The school is now allowing phones, laptops, MP3 players, and iPads in the classroom, provided students have the OK of their teachers to use them. Over the five months the program has been in place, the school hasn't seen in increase in students cheating or misusing the technology, perhaps because students are afraid of losing their right to use the tech in the classroom. As of this fall, the program expanded to include the entire school, a change which the school hopes will help not only students but their bottom line as well. Students who are able to bring their own technology to school can help reduce the costs of maintaining a computer lab on campus, and making it easier for students to take notes and look up information is a great added benefit.
So, you see, it can be done.
 Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek where in 1965 had the characters exploring new worlds with something called “a tricorder”, about the size of a smartphone.
 Frydenberg, M., W. Cecucci, and P. Sendall. (2012, January 31).Smartphones: Teaching Tool or Brain Candy? [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2012/02/01/Smartphones-Teaching-Tool-or-Brain-Candy.aspx?Page=1
 10 Innovative Schools Allowing Smartphones in the Classroom. [Web log message]. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.onlinecollege.org/2011/12/11/10-innovative-schools-allowing-smartphones-in-the-classroom/