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Mobile phones as a tool in school?

(46 Posts)
HSB80 Mon 29-Dec-14 17:37:33

Hi All,

I'm engaged in a heated debate with my DH about mobile phone usage in secondary schools... I'd love my students to use their phones as diaries, to help organise themselves (with firm boundaries of course!) but DH would rather keep them switched off at the bottom of bags! Just wondering where other people fell on this debate! Happy nearly New-Year!

SweepTheHalls Mon 29-Dec-14 17:39:26

All my students use them, most commonly to photograph the homework I set from the whiteboard, as well as look things up, use the timer and calculator functions and use sites like socrative

LIZS Mon 29-Dec-14 17:45:19

Dc school is rolling out the use of iPads in the classroom and home for similar purposes

mumsneedwine Mon 29-Dec-14 18:17:40

Fantastic idea - in theory. But unfortunately teenagers (even the loveliest ones) will use phones to take selfies, text and any other thing they can if they are allowed to have them.

RainbowFlutterby Mon 29-Dec-14 18:23:12

And what about your students whose parents can't afford a smart phone for them?

Quitethewoodsman Mon 29-Dec-14 18:30:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Kenlee Mon 29-Dec-14 23:58:55

I think its a brilliant idea.

The school allows use of phones. My daughter takes pictures and convert them to notes. That way she is paying attention and not just scribbling.

Do they take selfies yes some do. Do they check WhatsApp yes they do. Do they type back. No if they want to keep their phone.

Do they take pictures of the teacher. No its explained at the beginning of the year.

Are they taught to Google yes they are. In fact my daughter is an avid user of YouTube to explain homework she doesn't understand.

So I think its great....It also allows her to send her school notes back to her teacher with highlight bits she really doesn't understand. The teachers at her school love it.

ravenAK Tue 30-Dec-14 00:10:59

It's fine, I use them a lot in class.

All the 'naughty' things they might get up to - well, no more so than it being the height of hilarity to write BOOBLESS on your calculator in your first secondary Maths lesson back in the 80s when I were a lass. The novelty very quickly wears off!

I've just bought my 10yo ds a 'smartphone' (Tesco payg) for about fifty quid, so they aren't really prohibitively pricey anymore, but there's never a lesson I teach where you'd be unable to access the teaching without one. I have a couple of cheap flip cameras, or laptops if they're needed (usually when someone's had their phone confiscated earlier in the day!).

All our homework, plus screen grabs of class notes from the whiteboard etc are posted by me on the virtual learning environment anyway, but lots of students like to quickly photograph it anyway as the VLE is a tad clunky.

Phones are more useful for: online research on literary criticism sites; photographing their own work & quickly emailing it to me - I find 'snap the bit of your/your partner's writing today which you want to share' works really well; or for listening to music to blot out the rest of the room whilst attempting prolonged writing tasks such as mock exams.

HSB80 Tue 30-Dec-14 08:58:13

Thanks for all the replies guys. The debate continues in this house! There are definitely issues about access. We've been talking about whether the phone could become an active part of the students' day, where they use it like a planner to organise themselves and have increased contact to their teachers, maybe through an app or something. It certainly seems from some of your replies that some teachers are already making good use of the phone in the classroom - I wonder how parents would feel about a shift in this direction.

mumsneedwine Tue 30-Dec-14 10:43:47

I would've very unhappy with phones in any kind of mock exam - they are not allowed in the real thing or during controlled assessments. In a class of 30 I can't monitor what the students are using them for (I am a huge fan of RM Tutor and if could get this for phones then I might change mind). Teenagers WILL try and bend rules and if told not to photo or video teachers, well some will. I am genuinely interested in how those of you who use them in class ensure the kids are doing as asked and not on snapchat ?

mumsneedwine Tue 30-Dec-14 10:44:34

Ps apologies for typing errors - am taking break from heap of marking and brain scrambled.

MissMillament Tue 30-Dec-14 12:03:22

I allow phones for many of the same activities listed below. Pupils can only use them with permission, and I rigidly enforce the rules on phones in school (switched off, out of sight) at all other times. How do I know they are not on Snapchat? Bottom line: if they are not focusing on their work it is the same issue whether they have a phone out as if they are goofing off in any of the more traditional ways. But as another poster says, they are a useful addition to a class - I do not plan my lessons around them and I do not plan lessons that would require use of a smartphone - however when working in groups, if helps a lot if one person can use their phone for internet research.

mumsneedwine Tue 30-Dec-14 12:55:58

But kids are never more focussed then when on social media ! They look like they are seriously researching something and I then check and find they are researching -the cheapest place to buy Nike. I have tried it but find some wally will always break the rules so now use laptops instead. We have RM tutor on those so I can see what everyone is doing from my computer at a glance. And can screenshot incorrect use and email to head of year. Which results in letter home !

I wish I could trust them all to use phones for just work, but snapchat is too easy and quick. And irresistible !

I've seen so many photos on Instagram (I have my own teenagers) of selfies taken in classes. By really well behaved kids.

Also, I do agree about the peer pressure of not having a smart phone. £50 is a lot of money to some families, and that doesn't cover cost of using it. I assume they use the school Internet and not their 3G usage ?

What happens to kids with no phone or one without Internet access ? Can they use computers as others are on phones ? Really interested how others do this.

Quitethewoodsman Tue 30-Dec-14 13:02:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MissMillament Tue 30-Dec-14 13:30:48

Mums - I too would prefer laptops or tablets for use in the classroom, but the reality is we don't have any, just fixed IT suites that you have to book weeks in advance if you are lucky enough to find one free. So the children's own devices (and my one computer) are the only internet access we have in the classroom and that can be useful in certain lessons.
I don't plan lessons where everyone needs the internet, because as you say not everyone has a smartphone, but I do find it helpful often to allow one person in a pair or a group to use their phone to help with research.
And it can be useful to let children take a photo of notes on a board (not all our classrooms have smartboards either) or of a powerpoint slide with their homework assignment on it for instance. I use my own phone to take photos of pupils' work too.
Generally speaking, I find pupils use their phones sensibly, but I do come down hard on anyone I catch mucking about. I know it is going to happen from time to time, but from my point of view the benefits outweigh risks.

noblegiraffe Tue 30-Dec-14 14:31:17

I let kids take photos of homework from the board, and use their phone as a calculator if they've forgotten their own. I've also suggested my top set maths class download a free graphing app which has been really useful.

Some do take the piss though, which is annoying, and I've confiscated their phones.

mumsneedwine Tue 30-Dec-14 19:52:41

Wish we could somehow control what they could access within school. Can do it on computers so wonder if could do it via wi Fi somehow. Might see if IT can figure something out as I do agree being able to use Internet can be v useful. We are lucky as have movable laptop cabinets in each departments but we do need to book them.

And stopping their cameras working !!

rabbitstew Tue 30-Dec-14 22:49:15

So, does the school give all children its WiFi access code? Is that wise?! Or are these children eating into their mobile data allowance when they use their phones to do research for school work? What self respecting child would want to pay for their phone to help them plan their school day, rather than their social life? What child in existence would not be tempted by the ease with which they could behave inappropriately with their mobile telephone in class?

PastSellByDate Wed 31-Dec-14 10:05:34


I'm just a parent and yes I can understand that 'keeping control' of smarphone use/ ensuring against unwanted posts to social media/ bullying can be an issue - but this is a piece of technology that the majority of people seem to have access to and learning about it (how it works/ how you can manipulate it/ how you can programme it/ etc....) seems a great learning opportunity that can suddenly make dry facts you're learning/ curriculum 'tick box' points much more interesting/ exciting to ordinary students who have grown up in a world of rapid visual images/ video.

First off I think you both should view Danielle George's Royal Institution lectures - what if D&T / Science/ ICT teachers were doing this kind of stuff with their or pupil's smart phones in class? They're not all televised yet - but the first two definitely involve smart phones & see this: or

Then you need to see what people are currently achieving having brought smart phones into schools - and this is just a selection of what a brief google search revealed:

I think educators are currently a bit 'on the fence' - there's this brilliant new piece of technology out there - sure it's a gadget - but as Danielle George said her in RI Christmas Lecture that gadget has more computer memory/ power than the computer for the moon landing modules.

You may be of that age where Star Trek characters wandering about with their hand held 'tricorders' and finding out facts/ information/ getting translation/ location/ etc... was Science Fiction. We're there now - and this is the new normal. This generation is likely to grow up to see this technology embedded in glasses or a headset, maybe even integrated into the human brain.

So what are you going to do as educators? Help them to understand the technologies rapidly developing around them: How they work? How they can be used? How they can be enhanced/ modified? How they can make life better?


stick to chalk and slate?


What I am seeing at home with our use of tablets (we have very old fashioned non-smart phones we use for quaint activities like phoning from late trains or getting text messages from school) -

tool for research: wikipedia/ Khan Academy/ search engines linking to websites about anything from art to zoology.

tool for review: BBC bitesize/ Channel 4 Learning High/ etc....

tool for learning how: you tube is full of clips that as a non-musical parent of a highly musical child have been an absolute godsend. DD2 (age 9) can see and hear how a song should be played/ sound - she can learn how she should position her fingers or what a musical term means (e.g. what on earth does pizz. mean there?) DD1 has found spoof music videos related to maths that have really helped her 'get' concepts: (e.g.

I help where I can because I grew up in schools where there wasn't enough books to go around and 'learning' stopped at the boundaries of what was held in the school library or written in our text book. Finding out more often wasn't an option for me - I think my children are very fortunate to live in a world where finding out more about anything you might be interested in is possible.

I hope you will consider bringing smartphones into classes - maybe slowly at first (with limits clearly established) - but mostly I hope that you'll realise helping our children to get to grips with this technology; using it to learn more, review or explain more clearly, will give them a great headstart in life.


Quitethewoodsman Wed 31-Dec-14 10:35:27

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AuntieStella Wed 31-Dec-14 10:48:08

Will you be supplying smart phones to those pupils who do not have them?

And provide safe storage for them in school (as parents may have deliberately decided their DC are not to have them, do not want that decision undermined outside school, worry about mugging risk, would have difficulty with replacement costs if lost/damaged etc)

MissMillament Wed 31-Dec-14 11:32:59

Rabbitstew - yes children have access to the wifi password. There have been no issues with that as yet.
Auntie Stella - the issues you raise are the reason I do not feel it is appropriate to plan lessons on the assumption that pupils all have a smartphone.

lecherslady Wed 31-Dec-14 11:54:54

I use them in lessons (but I only teach students 16+). Mostly they use them when I set a research task. Those that don't have smartphones (only ever one or two students) can use the books I provide or the computer in the classroom.

As I teach RS, I also get students to look up bible quotes on the Bible gateway app. Again, if they haven't got phones they can use a real Bible.

Students not having smartphones needn't stop you using them, so long as there are contingencies in place.

I use them, not all the time, but they are invaluable. When they're not in use, students leave them on the table, so I can see they're not being used. But, I'd say that was s problem a few years ago - now having phones are so second nature, students don't try and use them all the time any more. I find it a bit of a non problem these days.

noblegiraffe Wed 31-Dec-14 12:03:51

rabbit our school wifi isn't like your wifi at home with a single password. You log into it with your school login and password so everything is traceable back to you, just like on a networked computer.

PastSellByDate Wed 31-Dec-14 12:16:25

Quite/ Auntie:

I doubt it will solve all of education's ills - but I do think it an incredibly useful tool that should be included in the box of tricks a teacher has to deploy in class.

The NEA link (see above) suggests using small groups to deal with the 'access issue' so those with a smart phone are grouped with those without one to solve that wrinkle. I also think that schools can supply tablets for those without smartphones - as this is becoming a more standard piece of kit in schools.

I don't expect or believe it useful to insist that all teachers adopt smartphones/ tablets in class, but I have seen the steady march of computers/internet access/Smartboards/ VLEs/ etc... in higher education over 20 years and (although I'm just guessing) the direction of travel rather suggests this is the way of things to come.

for example: UCAS reports 8 out of 10 UK university students have a smartphone & 20% have a tablet And I for one am seeing their use in things like:

photographing lab equipment/ down the micrscope for lab books

looking up spellings/ terminology definitions

setting up group messaging for student project groups

accessing university website/ intranet/ course VLE for information/ downloading reading/ etc....

group access to shared calendars to book lab time/ tutorials/ etc....


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