Why Cell Phones Should Be Allowed in Schools

Person with backpack looking down at a cell phone, image used for Robert Peters blog on whether or not cell phones should be used in school

Should cell phones be allowed in schools? This question has existed for almost as long as cell phones have been around. Many schools outright ban the technology and tell students not to use their phones at all during the school day. While many districts have relaxed this stance, there is still the question of whether or not students should be allowed to use cell phones during class. Many argue that there are great benefits to using phones and various apps can be used that enhance the learning experience. Others argue that the distraction of using phones outweighs any benefits and there are no ways to monitor what students are doing on their phones. Here are some of the many benefits to allowing students to use cell phones for educational reasons and I think these outweigh any potential issues.

Educational apps

The largest benefit of using phones in class is that students can download educational apps or look up information while working on a project. Students can also take pictures to send to other classmates or to reference later or even video chat with an absent student. There are many apps available for specific subjects that serve as study aids, such as making flashcards or learning a language. Even if you don’t want to use cell phones in your classroom, educate students about apps they can use on their own to facilitate deeper learning.

Students feel less rebellious

When students are told that under no circumstances are they allowed to use their phones, it often leads to rebellion and resentful feelings. While you should hold your position of authority and not give in to students’ whims, you can certainly allow them some time to use their phone which makes for more satisfied students.

Useful for emergencies

Whether or not you let students use their cell phones in class, it’s incredibly helpful to have them at school. Students can easily contact their parents if an emergency arises or reach out for help. If there’s an emergency at home, parents can reach their children through a simple call or text. Let your students know that if there is a reason they must use their phone, it’s okay to let you know there’s an emergency.

Preparation for the real world

Students certainly change between their teenage years and when they enter the workforce, but they’ll still have cell phones. For many jobs, you’re able (and often encouraged) to use your phone whenever and can check it as often as you like. It’s important that students learn self control and do not always have to check their phones, but also know how to utilize it in ways that benefit their current task, whether in the classroom or the workplace.

How to avoid issues

Even though I believe cell phones should be utilized in the classroom, there are certainly risks, such as students becoming too distracted. Experiment by only allowing phones out during a certain portion of class and require that students use them for the task at hand. Make sure they know if they’re not using their phones to further class, you’ll stop allowing them to have their phones out at all. Ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to allow students to use cell phones in your class and how you plan to monitor the use of them.

Top Podcasts for Educators

Robert Peters Top Podcasts for Educators

Podcasts are a great way to work on your professional development, stay in touch with current news and trends, and come up with creative ideas for your classroom. Nearly every profession and hobby have a few podcasts about the industry and education is no exception. If you have spare time, such as during a commute, while grading papers, or when you’re cooking dinner, listening to a podcast about how to be a better educator can greatly benefit you. While there are quite a few education podcasts out there, here are some of the top ones.

Free Teaching PD

This podcast features speakers who are leaders in the education industry and each week has a different speaker. They discuss the latest ideas and innovations in teaching and help you work on your own creativity. After listening to this podcast, you’ll feel inspired to try your own hand at coming up with some great ideas to enhance education.

Talks With Teachers

Brian Sztabnik, a former English teacher and blogger, hosts this podcast. The podcast features educators who feel passionate about their profession and wish to discuss their own classrooms. A theme for 2016 was focusing on educators who also run their own blogs and what it’s like being a teacher who regularly blogs. The speakers are all from different areas and have varied work experience, so it’s always interesting to hear their insights into education.

Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers

This podcast focuses specifically on the issue of burnout with teachers and how it can be avoided. Watson’s podcast provides a way for stressed teachers to feel understood and realize that lots of other people feel the same way they do. The podcast also offers possible solutions to issues that teachers may face in the classroom.

The Cult of Pedagogy

In this podcast, Jennifer Gonzalez features not just educators, but also parents, administrators, and students who discuss teaching and the classroom. The podcast covers a wide range of topics, from technology use in the classroom to the best ways to manage your classroom. If something is related to education, this podcast has or will feature it.

Every Classroom Matters

Vicki Davis, an incredibly influential educator, runs this podcast and focuses on incorporating technology into the classrooms and creating stronger relationships with students. Her podcast also covers how to feature STEM in the classroom more, as well as teaching students the basics of coding. She’s been ranked as a top teacher, so this podcast is definitely worth listening to.

Technology Resources to Use With Students

Image for Robert Peters's blog about technology resources to use to educate students in the classroom

Technology has become more prevalent in our world than ever before. Now, nearly every person has a smartphone and understands how to use a computer. This flourishing of technology has been seen in schools as well. Most students have personal cell phones and can navigate a school computer with ease. It’s a common experience for teachers to struggle with trying to get students to pay attention in class instead of to their smartphones. Instead of forbidding the use of technology in the classroom, here are some great resources teachers can use that combine technology and learning.

Figment

This site offers students a chance to publish their own writing of any kind and then receive feedback from other students. They can also comment on and discuss others’ writing that’s posted on the site, though it’s important to note that not all the content is appropriate for school or all ages, so you might want to check it out yourself before using the site. There are all types of writing on this site, so you may want to encourage young writers in your class to check it out.

Glogster

Students can create their own interactive posters on any topic and customize them as they see fit on this site. It can be used online as well as with a mobile app. Your students can easily add text, links, audio, video, and images to their Glogster and play around with the many features the site offers. It gives them a chance to be creative, while also creating an educational tool for a presentation or project.

CNN Student News

CNN offers informative news clips that cover current events and are only ten minutes long. You can start the day with watching the daily clip with your students and then have discussions about the events or ask a few questions about what they learned.

Free Rice

This website is a fantastic way for students to review different topics and also help out a good cause. FreeRice.com donates 10 grains of rice to the hungry for every answer you get correct when using the site. And yes, it’s legit. You can choose from math, humanities, English, chemistry, geography, sciences, and even various languages. It’s a great way to give students some downtime while also having them work on something relevant to class, but also fun. You might want to offer some kind of prize to the student who has the highest amount of rice at the end of the week or month.

DIY

Students can learn more about topics they’re interested in and also discover new passions through this site. It allows them to complete challenges and earn badges and can also be connected to an adult account so a students’ parents and teacher can follow their progress. The environment is completely safe and gives students the chance to learn more about themselves and what they want to do in the future. After students complete a challenge, you can have them create a tutorial or short presentation on what they learned.

Check out this list for even more technology resources for your classroom.

How is Technology Improving Education?

Within the world of education, we talk a lot about integrating technology into the classroom. We discuss how to implement it, what kind of technology we should be using, and how to take an ordinary lesson and spice it up with technology. You will see a lot of this discussion online, in blogs like this, or through the media. Assuming you’ve heard things like this in the past, one thing you may not have considered is, the improvements tech actually makes. It’s great to talk about how to do it or what we need to improve, but let’s take a moment to talk about what the impact has been so far.

Global Learning

Technology connects people all over the world in an instant. It is no different in a classroom setting. Teachers all over the country are using tech to video conference classrooms around the world. We are able to teach culture and experience new places in lightning speed. Additionally, learning new languages becomes a breeze with online tutorials and language videos at the touch of a button.

Collaborative Learning

Collaboration is easier than ever in our tech filled classrooms. Teachers use Google drive to share documents with the class. Then, students can access shared files to work on projects with each other inside and out of the classroom. Additionally, teachers are using tablets to broadcast up close lessons or tech based learning directly onto individual tablets. Students are following along and interacting with the classroom through the use of mobile devices.

Smart Boards

The old archetype of students clapping out chalkboard erasers is a thing of the past. You’ll be hard pressed to find a classroom still using chalkboards as their main classroom visual. Nowadays, it’s more common for you to see smart boards in the classroom. Smart boards are an excellent piece of new tech. Teachers can project images from the web, electronically draw on them, and even save and disperse the notes to the entire class.

Personalized Learning

With more schools providing tablets for each student, teachers are building out more personalized lessons. Students can choose learning paths that work for them through the use of apps, as well as, through student centered project assignments. Teachers are even using tech to target student progress and learning styles.

How Machine Learning Will Affect Education

Machine learning falls under the larger umbrella of Artificial Intelligence and is taking education by storm. Machine learning algorithms are nothing new, but their implementation into the educational realm is. Educators are starting to use and encourage others to do the same for a number of different tasks. Below, you will see a few ways teachers are starting to use and develop machine learning algorithms to help them every day.

Scheduling

Algorithms can be programmed to optimize schedules for both teacher and students. If a student is struggling in English and needs one on one attention. The program can quickly sift through everyone’s schedule and the student’s availability to get them the help they need. Instead of taking the time to do it all manually, a student can ask for help and walk out minutes later knowing when they will get it. This may not seem like a lot, but it can make all the difference.

Grading

When it comes to grading, teachers have been looking for a better way to do it for decades. Now with machine learning, even open ended questions can be graded. Teacher will feed the algorithm with the information they are looking for and if a student has hit those points, the machine can grade it. This does not completely eradicate grading by hand, but it can cut down the work significantly. With the help of machine learning, our teachers will now have more time to give personalized instruction and tutoring.

Student Data Analysis

Schools are already collecting a lot of student data. We records things like their grades, attendance, and behavior, so why not feed it all to a machine learning algorithm to help predict learning paths, points of struggle, and even have it recommend a solution based on what the data is telling us. When we get our students’ data to work harder for them, we learn so much more about how to best educate them.

Identifying Areas for Improvement

Finally, with machine learning, we can give algorithms data about processes, the school structure, or anything related with the behind the scenes work that makes a school run. Then with that information, we can identify what areas need the most attention. Things like where money is being wasted and identifying what lessons have been largely ineffective. From there, we come up with solutions and make our schools and education better and better!

EdTech Companies You Need to Know

Education technology is a rapidly expanding market that many entrepreneurs have flocked to. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. We are putting iPads in classrooms and offering hybrid learning courses. Those things on their own don’t revolutionize education. With the help of some innovative companies, we are doing things we never thought possible. The list below highlights a few of the companies you should be in the know about.

Udemy

Udemy is an online marketplace for users to buy and sell classes. The classes are all tangible skills like app development, learning the office suite, and learning to program. The classes fall within a range of about $20 and up to $100. For those thinking about sharing their expertise, there’s serious money to be had. Some courses have enrolled over 230,000 individuals. That’s some serious cash.

Coursera

Coursera is similar to Udemy in the fact that it provides online classes. That’s just about the only similarity. Coursera’s classes are real college courses and they are totally free. Coursera helped design and offers certifications from the top schools in the nation. This type of platform us unparalleled. Free education at your fingertips – 24/7.

Voxy

Voxy is a customizable, english language learning tool. As a user, you are able to set specific goals and learn skills relevant to your individual needs. Voxy operates off of language acquisition science, but also integrates video conferences and other resources to enhance the user experience.

Kramer

Kramer offers a wireless system to facilitate real-time collaboration between different groups of students on any device. The platform is flexible enough that a single classroom can share on centralized monitor or break into smaller groups using multiple devices. Teacher’s particularly love it because of it’s flexibility and the integration of a central control panel. From it, the teacher can supervise, send different content to different groups, and participate in the lesson. The possibilities are endless!

Story2

Story2 is a comprehensive, online online college essay-writing tool. It’s the first of it’s kind and is helping students all over the country prepare. Story2 tries to take all the pressure out of the equation by providing an interactive writing tool. Story2 helps students step by step through the process of identifying and perfecting their personal story.

ExecOnline

ExecOnline came about due to partnerships with prestigious business schools. The online platform uses university curricula, puts it online, and makes continued professional development available to corporate employees. Corporations have flocked to use the service because it put the education tools in front of employees without shipping them out of the office for days at a time.

Classroom 2.0: How Technology is Shaping Education

It goes without saying, technology is everywhere. Tech has simplified our lives, is able to give us information rapidly, and now is an integral part of education. These are exciting times. Students have a mass amount of knowledge and tools that are only a click away, but how are we using them?

Technology Assisted Collaboration

Our classrooms are becoming even more collaborative with the help of technology. Students can work with other students around the world, collaborate with different classes within the same school, or simply collaborate at home using google docs. By putting an emphasis on collaboration through technology, we are preparing students for the workforce and also getting them more engaged and active with the lessons.

Blended Classrooms

Over the years we have become better equipped to offer classes with in-class and out of class instruction. The flexibility of blended instruction has been vital for students. Not every student learns the same way or comes from the same background. By offering blended classrooms, we are offering more resources and options for success than ever before!

Mobile Devices

iPads have been an increasingly adapted classroom technology. There are new, exciting educational apps being developed at a rapid pace and the way we can incorporate them is endless. Having 1-to-1 iPad instruction allows for more feedback on assignments, quicker research means, and a way for students to continuously perfect their work with the help of others in the class.

Increased Engagement

Technology has been a catalyst for increased engagement. When we think about it, students now have grown up with technology and interact with it consistently on a daily basis. If you put tech in front of them they will use it, troubleshoot it, and engage in activities because they are using methods they are used to and familiar with.

Valuable Work Experience

Students can gain valuable work experience from an educational use of technology. Learning how to problem solve, stay organized, and complete tasks in an increasingly technology driven world will help them in any job the seek. Many employers are looking for the exact lessons and big idea lessons we are teaching our students right now. Through technology, we are setting our students up for success in the workplace and expanding their minds.