For the longest time, my experience of phones in the classroom was a negative one. A typical first-day-of-class always included a warning about phone use sometime either during or after going over the course syllabus. But times are changing. Once, they were viewed with feelings of hostility and frustration by faculty; increasingly, they’re being welcomed into the classroom and proving to be a powerful tool for learning.
Currently, I’m the GTA for a course in the Landscape Architecture program: Landform Function & Aesthetics. I really appreciate the opportunity to work with Professor Dean Bork, he really knows his stuff and he has shown me a new way to think about technology in the classroom. Prof. Bork creates videos of exercises and posts them on the course website along with class notes; students can download assignments and can submit work online. Not only do our students use programs on their laptops: Photoshop, Google SketchUP, and AutoCAD; but they also increasingly use their phones for both simple and complex tasks. The biggest thing we’re seeing them using the phone for in our class right now: social media outlet, music player, and calculator (which we encourage). But this is just the beginning–students are savvy with their smartphones. They are downloading apps to help with the burden of school work. Via the Canvas app, students can review course materials and make assignment submissions. Other apps are references, providing access to data on climate, soils, and plant identification (just to name a few).
Check out this info-graphic I found that provides one opinion about technology and higher education.
I will say that I disagree with the smartphone no-no. Let’s face it: yes, phones in the classroom are annoying at times. We all want our students to pay attention to the lecture, etc. Battling that distraction will be a hot-topic for years to come (I’m guessing). In spite of this, I think it’s crazy not to consider the potential of utilizing smartphones in the classroom. It’s a miniature computer with access to the internet–libraries, databases, and news… there’s the cloud and google apps for storage, organization, and file sharing… there’s the ability to tap into the whole world right there in the pockets and hands of students. As a future educator, I am excited for a course I’ll take this time next year: Contemporary Pedagogy. I am eager to discover what the VT Graduate School’s perspective is on smartphones and their potential in the classroom. If they have no use for it, that’s ok too… I’ll be thinking of ways to incorporate this tool into my future coursework. Let’s not fight technology in the classroom. Let’s utilize it so that we can continue to innovate and make new discoveries in teaching and learning.