Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Article excerpt

Smartphones: Challenge or Opportunity?

Want to start a lively conversation with colleagues? Just ask, "What do you think about smartphones in the classroom?" If your school is like mine, the question is guaranteed to elicit strong views on both sides.

Since the introduction of the first iPhone just 10 years ago, smartphones have become nearly ubiquitous in modern life. You see them in shopping malls, at sporting events, and sitting on dining tables at restaurants. The vast majority of Americans--95%, according to a 2017 Pew poll--now own a cellphone, and 77% own smartphones, a number that has more than doubled in six years (Pew 2017). Wherever you go, almost everyone seems to have their eyes glued to a smartphone screen.

The benefits of allowing students to use smartphones in the classroom are many. These devices are less telephone than powerful mini-computers, capable of running applications, accessing the internet, and sharing lab data.

My students now enjoy reviewing for tests--once a dry and tedious activity--using the free Kahoot app, which enables a competitive pre-test review and formative assessment. They use their phones to photograph demonstrations, class notes, diagrams, and laboratory apparatus. During class discussions, we can seek instant answers to questions that come up and then critically evaluate the information.

Of course, there is also a downside--distraction, whether while driving a car or engaging in class. …

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