Saturday, March 19, 2011

Using Cell Phones in School... Hey, What a Novel Idea!

This post was inspired by this article in the Grand Rapids Press:

Several years ago, I proposed allowing students to use cell phones in school.  The technology has the potential to revolutionize how we teach AND save schools a good chunk of change.  Cell phones can be used as student response systems, video cameras, still cameras, podcasting tools, and a host of other tools.  Unfortunately the idea was shot down.  Instead, we've spent the last few years in a futile war to punish kids for using phones in school.

This issue perfectly exemplifies why we need to fully embrace innovation, especially that which utilizes technology.  To that end, we need to identify and eliminate the "always say no" gatekeepers that inhibit technological innovation.

Today's teens use technology to communicate in ways that seem foreign to many adults.  It's not a matter of teaching kids to use technology, it's a matter of teaching them using their preferred medium.  Failing to understand HOW kids communicate is a recipe for failure.  If we can't speak their language, we can't teach.  The Luddites didn't survive.  Neither will we.

Hopefully someone out there could use these ideas, especially since some schools seem to be embracing this technology.  The following is the text of the form I would have given to students:

Cell Phone Integration Project
Student-Response Experiment

Project description- This is an experiment to test the feasibility of using student-owned cell phones in conjunction with the Internet to create a student-response system.  A student response system works like this: The teacher presents a question to the class and gives several options.  Students respond to the correct answer by sending a text message to a predetermined number that corresponds to the answer they choose.  The web service we will be using is located at  This project will test the likelihood that this system could be used on a larger scale for assignments and projects such as test reviews, etc.
What is needed- A cell phone with the capability to send text messages.  A phone is NOT required for all students!  The class will complete this project in small groups.  Students will be divided in a way to equally disburse available technology.  For the duration of this project, students will send approximately 5-25 text messages per week.  Because of this, please do not approve your student if they have a limited number of text messages on their cell phone plan.  Mr. Robillard and/ or the school cannot be held responsible for expenses incurred from the additional text messages that will be sent with your approval!  If you are not comfortable with approving this project, please do not sign the paper!  The availability of a cell phone will have no bearing on your child's grade!

Rules and regulations- Because our school officially bans the use of cell phones during the school day, we will have special rules set up to govern cell phone use IN MY CLASSROOM during your child's class.  These policies are in effect from the time your student enters my room until my class ends and they leave my room.  When they are outside of my room, the school policies regarding cell phone use will be in effect.  Essentially, if they are caught using their phones, they will be confiscated and turned in to the administration.  The following are the rules that will govern cell phone use in my classroom for the duration of this project:

Cell Phone Expectations:
  1. Phone ringers must be set to "vibrate" or "silent" at all times.  This is to prevent disruptions to the class. 
  2. Phones are placed on top of desks in plain view f the teacher at al times when they are not in use as a class.
  3. All media produced/messages sent must be course related.
  4. You may not use another person's phone at any time.
  5. All media published about/of others must be approved by them.  For example- you may not take pictures, video, or audio recordings without the subject's permission.  Also, no media may be published online without written approval.
  6. All messages can be accessed at any time by the teacher.  Remember, there is no such thing as privacy in electronic communication- you cell phone company has access to all messages/ media sent over your phone!

Failure to comply with the expectations may result in disciplinary action by Mr. Robillard, including confiscating the phone until the end of the day and that class losing all "stars" for the remainder of the chapter they are covering. 

If you have any questions, please email me at *******************

Thank you!

-Jason Robillard

Parent Signature________________________________________Date__________________

Student Name____________________________________ Hour__________________

This is the details of the plan I wanted to implement.  It would have been rolled out in three phases, each one teaching kids additional methods to use these tools:

Cell Phone Technology Integration Plan
Purpose: Take advantage of tools many students already possess to help reduce strain on school technology budget; help meet technology integration standards; teach responsible use of cell phones in society.
Phase 1- Student Response System Phase 2- Citizen Journalism Phase 3- Capturing and Editing Video

Use cell phones as “clickers” to operate student response system. Teacher presents a question, students will respond using cell phones. Will be used in conjunction with Can replace systems that cost between $2000 and $5000. Use cell phones as “citizen journalism” tool. Since most students carry phones at all times, they can immediately report when they see something happening that pertains to class (citizen journalism). Students can either text “stories” or post audio clips (mobile podcasting). Will be used in conjuction with secure, private blogging sites such as or wiki sites such as Use cell phones to capture video for video projects. Video editing will be accomplished with secure private video editing website such as or Will replace digital cameras and editing software, can save several thousand dollars.

All three phases together meet or exceed at least 23 METS (Michigan Educational Technology Standards) created my the Michigan Department of Education.



  1. "The Luddites didn't survive."

    It isn't that the Luddites didn't survive, it's just that they no longer know how to communicate with the rest of us... They're out there, somewhere, without a mobile phone or internet.

  2. As a Special Education teacher I hear your message loud and clear. I fight with my administration about my students using ipods during independent work in my classroom, despite the fact that anyone who walks into my room can see how beneficial it for students with attention issues. I am so frustrated that we are spend time fighting with students over technology instead of engaging in instruction about proper usage.

  3. Everything debated about the children's rights or privileges in school need to be prefaced with age. It all depends on their age. Older kids should probably be allowed to use them. Younger ones not so much.

  4. In the late 90s, I had some classmates who were expelled for having communication devices. Now my 5 year-old uses an iPad in class, and my 10 year-old uses an iPhone in class.