Mobile Devices in the Classroom: Yes or No?

After reviewing games in my previous articles, I realized that I never actually spoke about the use of mobile devices in a classroom. As I have said many times before, my cooperative teacher is a fan of using ICTs with his students. In fact, they are all allowed to use Iphones in class. The teacher was given 30 Iphones (they are old models without a SIM card, so students cannot call or send messages) at the beginning of the year. When students come into class, they can use the mobile device until the end of the class. During my practicum, I had the chance to observe students using mobile devices to complete tasks or find additional information on Internet. I was impressed to see the usefulness of Iphones in ESL classrooms.

However, the question must be asked: Is it good or bad to use mobile devices in class?

THE POSITIVE

It is clear that using Iphones or any cellphones in class can be effective. It brings creativity to an environment where motivation is at its lowest point. I am not saying that every student is bored in a classroom, but keeping students stimulated is a difficult task. Using mobile devices in class brings many essential characteristics to the classroom: autonomy, spontaneity, varied tasks and content, and cooperative learning. 

Allowing students to work by themselves is crucial for their personal development. The full autonomy given to students working on Iphones helps them reach a higher level of proficiency in English. For example, when they cannot find a word or a synonym during a writing activity, they can get a quick answer by looking at an online dictionary. If students use this strategy in class, they will use it again in other situations such as having conversations with English native speakers.

Varying tasks and the content of activities is an excellent way to stimulate students in class. Justin Ferriman believes that the mobile approach can encourage student engagement with the content. Since they use cellphones and other mobile devices in their free time, students are always glad to use them in the classroom. It is easy for them to work with such tools. The fact that each student has their own device (in my practicum) makes it easier for the teacher to conduct new activites. While students think answering questions on a piece of paper is boring, they rapidly change their mind when the answers must be given with their Iphones. My teacher uses Socrative to evaluate his students and they enjoy this new form of evaluation. Evaluating students using Socrative and Iphones makes it feel like a game, thus reducing students’ anxiety and stress caused by exams. I have also presented games to try in a classroom in my previous articles.

Using games stimulates cooperative learning. Rick Allen says:  »Combining elements of computer gaming and curriculum concepts, the activity helps students work in teams to gather information. » This is crucial in an ESL classroom, because students need to interact with each other in order to practice their second language. Performing a group activity becomes much easier for students, because students can be empowered with access to learning resources with supplementary multimedia for better understanding regardless of time and physical location. Instead of relying only on the teacher, students can consult their mobile device or ask other students.

THE NEGATIVE

Since nothing is perfect, the use of mobile devices in the classroom has its disadvantages. The major problem with these tools is the distraction they create. Like I mentioned previously, students are used to work with cellphones and they can get access to a high amount of games or videos that are not designed for the class. Even if the Iphones used in my practicum had no SIM card, students could still communicate with each other using Facebook or Twitter. Justin Ferriman adds that it is difficult for students to avoid distractions, opting to watch a funny YouTube video instead of the lesson lecture. The only way to avoid this situation is to keep an eye on every phone used in the class, which is nearly impossible.

The access to instant communication in the classroom also leads to cheating. If students are not cheating by sending messages to each other, they might be cheating by looking at a website which is not permitted. Students can exchange text messages with test answers on them without the teacher’s knowing. Hiding webpages on a mobile device is quite easy for students who know how to work with these tools.

Another problem is the cost of using electronical devices. While using mobile devices like cellphones are cheaper than using laptops or computers, they will eventually stop working. Whether a student accidently dropped the phone or something mysterious happened to it, the school and the teacher have the responsibility of handling the fees.

OVERALL OPINION AND ESL APPLICATION

By looking at the pros and the cons of using mobile devices in the classroom, I agree with the usefulness of these tools. I think they should be used more often, because it changes students’ vision about school. Marc Prensky says that our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach. This said, the classroom must be adapted to the students’ needs. They will feel more comfortable to work on cellphones rather than on a simple sheet of paper. Internet offers a variety of softwares and tools to create new activities in a classroom, but these tools require mobile devices to work effectively. That is why I believe in the future of mobile devices application in English teaching. As an inspiring teacher myself, I will do my best to be able to use them with my students. I will be able to create interactive stories where students can participate actively in the classroom while using their cellphone. Moreover, I will save a lot of paper by handing out tasks online, using tools like Todaysmeet and ClassDojo!

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