I have been thinking lately about the ways that a traditional classroom enemy of onsite teaching--the cell phone--can become my friend. Here are a few thoughts; please share any ideas that you may have with me.
Already my friend...
By showing me when students are not engaged with what I am doing, the cell phone has always been my friend. When several students are texting or exploring non-class related material while in my class, then clearly I need to make some adjustments and find ways to make more students feel better connected to what I am doing in class. When an isolated student is doing this, then that student has provided me a signal that she or he is feeling disconnected. Then I need to strategize about ways to reach out to that student. Either way, the distradted cell phone user gives me useful cues.
Class Related Phone Searches / Activities
Students do use their phones for class related work, and I should begin to find ways to tap into that--calling for folks to search out something related to what we are doing on their phones--vocab, concepts, history, sources, etc.
Tweeting During Class Discussions
I want to start encouraging students to use twitter during class to respond to what is going on in class. This could be as informal as throwing an idea up on the screen during our full-class discussion or as structured as asking students to post tweets about their smaller group discussions / activities during class for the whole class can see.
Phones as Clickers
I have heard about, but do not yet know much about, technology that allows students to use their phones as "clickers." I need to research more about this because I love the ways that clickers can add to classroom engagement via quick check in questions, surveys, and all sorts of other non-grade impacting multiple choice questions that help every student contribute and see where she or he is.
First Contact! (and then some follow up messaging...)
Typically, I have students fill out some hard copy form of contact information about themselves on the first day of class. I use this later for follow up, etc. But this year I am going to try having all of the students text me that info on their phones right there in class. Then I can set up groups on my phone and send out texts to them during the semester. (I already provide them with my cell phone number, so that is not a hurdle for me). I really like the idea of being able to send out short reminders, quotes from readings, alerts about newly emergent resources via text message. Again, that feels like a potential way to help students feel connected to the larger conversation.
OK. That's five ideas to start with. I would love to hear anyone's suggestions, and I will probably be adding to this post later.