Posted on December 23, 2019 | By Alexa Randell
09th Oct 2019
The invention of the mobile phone has become a burden on all teachers’ lives. Depending on where you are in the world, you can now expect nearly every student from the age of eight upwards to have a mobile phone, and statistics show that students check their cell phones in the classroom more than 11 times a day.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that teenagers are the worst culprits for this though, adults can be just as bad – and with adults you may not have the same control as you do with your young learners. Mobile phones have become part of our classroom culture whether we like it or not, so how can we overcome students paying attention to their mobiles?
There are two ways we could approach mobile phones in the classroom; lose them or use them. As a teacher, it’s your choice which way you decide to go. Let’s take a look at the two options more closely.
First, let’s have a look at what you can do to eliminate mobile phone use in the classroom:
The telephone box
A preemptive approach to distracting mobiles in the classroom is the ‘telephone box’. No, this is not an old-fashioned British phone booth, it’s just a large box that students can put their mobiles in.
The idea behind this technique is that you put a large box out on your desk at the beginning of your lesson and students will drop their phones into the box as they enter the room. The phones will be kept out of sight while the class is in session and returned when students leave. This should guarantee that no learner has access to their phone during the class, eliminating mobile-related distractions and interruptions. If you want to upgrade your ‘phone box’, you can invest in a ‘phone organiser’ with individual pockets or slots for each student’s phone.
With young learners, you can make this one of your class rules and enforce discipline if any students refuse to play by the rules. However, you may find getting adults to agree to this rule is a little more difficult!
If you’re going to use the ‘telephone box’ with adults, make sure that you put the rules in place from the very beginning of the class and that the entire class agrees to it. If you try to enforce this rule half-way through term or without the agreement of some students, you may struggle to get this rule to stick! If your adult students have a high enough level of English, you can even make agreeing on a set of class rules (including what you do with mobile phones) an activity that you do together in your first lesson.
Face down on the table
If you don’t want to go down the option of asking learners to hand in their mobiles at the beginning of the class, you can have the policy that they keep their mobiles on their desk where you can see them but face down. This will allow you to notice if they are picked up, turned over or removed during the lesson and enable you to react accordingly.
Top Tip: If you do choose to lose them, remember to set a good example. One rule for them and another for you is not going to be followed or respected if you’re caught by your students using your own phone.
Instead of trying to eliminate the use of mobile phones, you could acknowledge their presence and take advantage of them by using them as educational tools. Let’s have a quick look at how we can incorporate phones in the classroom to reinforce learning:
Most mobile phones come with basic inbuilt applications that can be utilised in the classroom. For example, photos and videos, which you could use as subject points of discussions or the microphone app which could help students record and develop their pronunciation skills.
Common downloadable applications
There are many applications nowadays that are popular with mobile phones users around the world, such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. You can incorporate these applications within the classroom by using messaging services and social media for project work and activities. For example, you could ask your students to create a dialogue or tell a story through a WhatsApp conversation.
There are a variety of different learning platforms available for educational purposes over the internet. Such platforms include Edmodo and Coursera which can be used to assist you in the classroom. Learning platforms allow you to have materials and resources online which can be viewed inside or outside the classroom. This also means you can monitor students’ work, set up homework or assignments online – plus you can provide feedback and many other functions!