Cellphones are becoming more popular as a teaching and learning tool in K-12 classrooms, as shown by a survey released Feb. 28.
According to How Teachers Are Using Technology at Home and in Their Classrooms, nearly three-quarters of 2,462 middle and high school teachers say they and/or their students use cellphones in class or while working on assignments. Conducted by the Internet & American Life Project at the Pew Research Center in spring 2012, the survey included Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers.
This number stuck out from the survey results and was higher than expected, said Kristen Purcell, director of research for the Internet & American Life Project. And they're catching up to the percentage of students who own cellphones, which was 77 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds in July 2011. Of those students with cellphones, nearly a quarter said their cellphone was a smartphone.
In this survey, cellphones were the third item on the list of digital tools that students and teachers accessed, following projectors that were hooked up to digital devices and computer workstations.
"We know the extent to which cell phones have become the central part of teen's lives," Purcell said, "but I think even we were surprised at how much they've penetrated the educational arena."
Most students used their cellphones to look up information in class and take pictures or record video for class assignments, the report said. The higher the grade level, the more students use their phones in class.
But school cellphone policies have a major impact on nearly a third of teachers who work with students from low-income families and on 15 percent of those who teach students from high-income families. This difference between low- and high-income families exhibits itself throughout the report in various ways.
For example, teachers see a difference in particular with technology use at home. While more than half of teachers said their students had enough access to digital tools at home, 18 percent said they could count on their students being able to access digital tools at home. Not surprisingly, most of those students with little access at home come from low-income areas.
Even though there are some differences in technology access, teachers overall supported the use of cellphones in class. In focus groups prior to the survey, teachers told researchers that the best way for them to connect with their students is through text messages and online activities.
"They felt it was really critical for them to communicate with their students using some of the tools that these students are most comfortable with," Purcell said.
For the full study on teachers and technology, check out the report.
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