4ALL: When will we embrace the cell phone?

News hit the internet this week that the Flip video camera will be discontinued. Sadly, this development means that many schools looking for cheap ways to purchase digital video cameras will have to look elsewhere. The Flip was a unique combination of portability, functionality, and adaptability in an affordable package. However, with its demise, schools and media specialists must find a suitable alternative.

This is where the cell phone comes in. For many years, the cellular phone has been banned from schools. The worry is that student use the phones to text friends, make calls at inopportune times, or cause a general distraction. However, with the expansion in cell phone capabilities and the growing acceptance of cell phone use in about every conceivable context, these handheld devices may finally have their day in class. Especially when one considers that phones almost universally offer photo and video capabilities once only contained in digital cameras and Flips, it seems ill-advised not to encourage their presence in schools.

Bernie Dodge, the father of the WebQuest, has been pushing for a new kind of instructional approach involving mobile devices that he is calling “Mgagement.” The mobile device gives us the opportunity to take the learning out of the classroom, developing students’ sense of wonder. Through a grant with Qualcomm, Bernie is developing some pretty interesting instructional uses for mobile devices. Certainly, it’s a development on which to keep an eye.

The cell phone – smart or dumb – has become an indespensible tool in our personal, professional, and now educational lives. As the infographic from iStrategy below demonstrates, the cell phone is rapidly outpacing all other forms of technology in nearly every market in the world.

If we are preparing students for the 21st century as materials become scarce, it is time to embrace the cellular phone into our classrooms in one way or another. What are your thoughts on the place of mobile devices in schools? What are ways you have seen cell phones used in the classroom? Are you at a place where you are comfortable with cell phones being used in your class?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.