Run, Leap, and Text Your Way to School

As with any new technology, I’m always ready to look at a way to integrate in the classroom to support or promote learning.  Technology and innovation have a way of permeating our classroom as we adjust and adapt to the world around us.  One of these tools that is hard to ignore, cell phones.  There is a lot of research being done on cell phones and teens and how cell phones may affect student learning.  As teachers, we cannot deny the influence that cell phones have over our student’s lives.  I can remember the first encyclopedic sized cell phone my parents owned – it cost almost a dollar a minute to make a call.  I remember buying my first cell phone thinking I wouldn’t even use it that much, and turning down cell phone plans that had texting as an option.  Over time, I couldn’t ignore this simple digital technology any longer as all my friends were texting – it was time to adapt to the next generation of communication.

It was not until recently, with a few online discoveries, that I would have thought texting was a practical educational tool.  My first insight came last June with 15-year-old Kate Moore became the US texting champion winning $50,000.  The winner Moore exclaimed, “Let  your kid text during dinner! Let your kid text during school! It pays off.”  My next thought was how texting could pay off, what were the possibilities at school?

The next major study I viewed came from Nielsen who looked at how often teens used cell phones and for what purpose.  While the amount of cell phone calls stayed the same, about 200 per month, the amount of text messages per month increased by 85% going from 435 to 2899 per month.  With this kind of dedicated audience, I knew that cell phones could be an engaging teaching tool, now I just need to figure out for which purpose.

The last major study that came out, very recently, From Toy to Tool: Cell Phones in Learning.  In the study by Coventry University psychology Profs. Beverly Plester and Clare Wood, they discovered two major findings:

1) “The proportions of textisms that kids used in their sentence translations was positively linked to verbal reasoning; the more textspeak kids used, the higher their test scores”
2) “The younger the age at which the kids had received mobile phones, the better their ability to read words and identify patterns of sound in speech.”
This goes against every preconception that I have as an English teacher that kids are terrible spellers because they write “plz” instead of “please” in an essay.  This study shows the opposite, that cell phones just might have an educational benefit in the classroom helping kids spell better and perform better on tests.

I’m still working on what to do with this knowledge, I have a few ideas but I’m not sure which will work the best.  One thing I am trying is to have kids sync up their phones to Twitter so that our class announcements show up as a text message on their phone which includes everything from test reminders to something I find online that we will use in class. No matter which direction I choose, I know that using cell phones to meet educational standards is an option and could be a great tool to engage students.

“Let your kid text during dinner! Let your kid text during school! It pays off,”

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~ by cadaleaders on January 27, 2010.

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