I know most teachers at my college tell students to turn off, silence, and put away their cell phones when they walk into class. Many have a list of consequences of what will happen if their cell phone rings or vibrates during class, and heaven help the student who is caught texting under their desk! (I've written about this before here.)
For the record, I don't want my students to be distracted by texts from their friends, Facebook updates, or their turn to Draw Something. Still, cell phones are powerful mini-computers and can be amazing educational tools (if used correctly).
So today (day 2 of the semester) I asked my students to take out their cell phones. Here's what they did:
1. In small groups they shared a photo from their phone. This is a great ice-breaker activity. They talked about who or what the photo was about, where it was taken, and so on. Just for fun, I showed them these two photos from my phone:
|City College of SF this morning!|
|My boys goofing around last weekend.|
Ice-breaker activities can be difficult, and especially in ESL classes, students can take awhile to warm up. Creating a class community is my number one goal the first week of class. Sharing a photo is an easy way for students to get to know each other. One other thing I noticed was that some students in the groups exchanged phone numbers - in order to have someone to call if they miss class or have questions later.
2. After discussing their photo, I asked the students to share any educational or learning apps they use on their phones. Many did not have any. A few had ebooks, some reported using translators, but most had no educational apps. Then I shared one that I think can be helpful: Dictionary.com. This free app can also be used online as a regular website. I showed them how they can get a "Word of the Day" and also how to "Favorite" words to create word lists (helpful for studying for vocabulary quizzes).
3. Finally, I had students use a photo from their phone for their writing sample. Students described one photo, and I had a piece of writing to gauge their level.
During the one hour class that every student had their cell phone out, everyone was engaged in the activities and discussion, and I got some great personal writing from students.
Lesson Learned: Cell phones don't always have to be turned off.