Friday, September 2, 2011

My Student's Used Their Cell Phones in Class....GASP!

Yesterday it finally happened....I allowed students to use their cell phones as part of a lesson I was doing in class.  Something frowned upon in several schools across the country.  The use of the cell phones was minimal, as I will explain below, but it was a freeing experience trying something that last time I was in the classroom I never would have thought about doing.

The lesson was on Population Density.  I was explaining to the students how density can be vital in understanding various aspects of human geography.  High density can help explain crime rates, pollution, innovation, etc.  The opposite COULD be true about low density countries.  Within the lesson was an activity where students were to calculate the population density of several countries.

As I was explaining the assignment and doing a sample, it happened...
"Mr. Zimmer, can we use the calculators on our phones?" 
Without a thought, I replied with a resounding, "Sure." 
I had some calculators that I borrowed from the math department, but not enough that could type in digits for statistics that were in the hundreds of millions and even billions.  In previous years, I would have said no, but at the same time, phones and iPods with good calculators did not exist a few years ago, and not nearly as numerous.  So I found myself adapting to the generation of students I had.  Of course at the same time, the pressure was on me now to monitor the students and ensure that the phones were being used in a proper manner. 

I have to say that it was a great first experience.  I was always worried about students getting off task with them, but like all classrooms, if you just walk around the room and keep students guessing where you will step next, they will stay on the task you require to avoid getting in trouble.

No issues, no problems, and a successful experience using a technology that is readily available to so many students of this generation, yet banned in so many classrooms.


  1. I did the same thing in my physics classes. The district does not allow cellphones but I allow them to use their smartphones as calculators, research tools, notebooks, timers, and even to take pictures of lab setups and notes. I think its ridiculous to block their use.

  2. Well done! More of this needs to happen. You weren't really having them use their cell phones. You had them use the powerful tiny computer that they brought to school but are required to keep in their pockets. Every classroom starting in about 5th grade, in my school, could be 1:1 if we allowed this simple thing to happen.

  3. With the advent of smart phones students can do most anything on their phone. I have had them look up information to verify what I am saying. This was after they challenged what I said, and I needed to prove them wrong. Great post.

  4. I allow the same thing to happen in my classroom/study halls. I agree that these tools (smartphones) can be used to the advantage of the students and if a teacher manages the classroom appropriately (keeping students on their toes as to what they are going to do/where they are going to go) problems should not arise. Why limit the resources of a technological generation?