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How You Can Use Your Cell Phone to Get Better Grades
It was 1999 and I had just been hired as a full-time high school biology teacher. As a reward for being hired I bought myself a present, my first mobile phone. I was excited because this would allow me to communicate with my friends and family from virtually anywhere. I justified the purchase since my classroom did not have a phone and my increased pay would allow me to cover a few more monthly expenses. Last year my nephew got his first phone. He was 8 years old, and it was his reward for being promoted from 3rd to 4th. Things have definitely changed in the last 12 years.
In 2010, the Pew Research Center reported that 75% of 12- to 17-year-olds own a cell phone. This number has increased from 45% in 2004 and is likely to be more than three-quarters of students today. It won’t be long until every high school student in America brings their phone to school. Naturally, with so many students having access to cell phones, it makes sense that cell phones could be used to help students get better grades in school.
When students enter my classroom, they can look for announcements on the white board. They can see their upcoming assignments as well as the dates of upcoming tests or projects. As part of my daily classroom routine, I call attention to these assignments at the beginning of class and remind my students to write their assignments in a planner or notebook.
Every day I make my students write their homework. I go around the class and ask the students to show me what is written. A common problem is that many students often forget or lose where they wrote their homework for that evening. Sometimes poor organizational skills cause students to find themselves outside of where their assignments were written. For other students, they have a separate notebook for each class and write their homework in several places.
A simple solution to this dilemma is to have students write their daily assignments on their phones. For a high school student, a phone is an essential possession that accompanies them practically everywhere. While a student may leave a textbook or spiral notebook in class and forget about it, they likely won’t leave their phone behind.
In addition to the fact that a student always has their phone with them, they use it constantly. The Pew Research Center found through their study that texting is the primary method of cell phone communication among teenagers. 88% of teenage mobile phone users send text messages as a form of communication and 54% send messages daily. The typical high school texter (ages 14-17) typically sends and receives 60 text messages per day.
The technology is now available for students to use a standard notepad feature on their phones and continuously write down what their homework is for each class at night. If your phone has a calendar option, you can also write down upcoming tests and projects. Most phone calendars have an option to set reminders about upcoming events. This is so powerful for a student to get a reminder at 6:30pm as a sign that they need to study for tomorrow’s math test.
If the student has a smartphone (iPhone, Blackberry, Droid, or Palm), the limit is how much their phone can help keep track of all their assignments. While the specific apps available are unique to each phone, they all have a “To Do List” app that’s either free or very inexpensive. Awesome Note, Cozi, Evernote, and Lister all received positive reviews. The key is finding one that’s available for your phone that works well for you. Every day I write my “To Do List” with Lister on my Blackberry and categorize my entries as upcoming, this week or priority. Then, throughout the day, I refer to my list every time I use my phone to call, text, email, or even check Facebook. It keeps me focused and I add to the list or check off items as needed.
If you have an iPhone, I recommend checking out an app called myHomework. It lets you set your class schedule, enter homework and assignments, see upcoming assignments in the calendar feature, and even show reminders when you open your phone. With new apps being developed all the time, it’s only a matter of time before there are several apps available that specialize in organizing schoolwork for all phones.
As we continue into the 21st century, it is important that we take advantage of the technology available to increase student achievement. Just as computers in school have gone from a novelty to a necessity, cell phones are proving that they can have a positive impact on student achievement. I encourage you (or your student for all the parents reading this article) to educate the teachers at your school about why using a cell phone to track assignments is better than the old fashioned way of writing – them in a notebook. Before long I suspect that bringing your phone to school will be as accepted as bringing a pencil.
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