As the tech community buzzes about yesterday’s release of the iPhone 5, iPhones are buzzing in the pockets and backpacks of students around the world. Cell phones are becoming smarter, more widely available, and increasingly difficult to ignore. In the educational sphere, teachers are now asking whether or not there are benefits to welcoming iPhones and smartphones into the classroom.
Wireless and mobile technology is integrating seamlessly into society, forcing multiple fields to adapt to its presence. No longer merely for communicating, smartphone technology has transformed the device into a calculator, translator, dictionary, note taker, voice recorder, personal agenda, task organizer, and miniature textbook. Suggesting that the cellphone has no place in the classroom eliminates an unprecedented opportunity for student engagement.
The traditional college lecture hall is already experiencing a transformation with iPhone and Android app incorporation. Students can download an app to replace an expensive remote clicker for increased classroom engagement. Instructors can pose questions, poll students, and immediately evaluate feedback and responses throughout presentations with the application technology. Teachers who are finding ways to make use of the portable technology are effectively creating interactive learning environments that are responsive to the characteristics of today’s student.
As few as three or four years ago, this movement being coined “Bring Your Own Device,” would have been impossible. Only around 50 percent of students would have been able to participate in a discussion facilitated by the iPhone; today, over 250 million iPhones have been sold. Reuter’s further reports between 20 percent and 25 percent of people in the world own smartphones, with the penetration rate rising to 50 percent to 55 percent in the United States.
While educators may be appealing to the student population with tech-savvy attitudes and classroom policies, those resisting the BYOD era are not without reason. There is a digital divide, separating the students who can afford the latest smart technology from those who can’t. Additionally, bringing personal mobile devices into the curriculum doesn’t eliminate the social distraction and temptation to multitask. Balancing the pros and cons of building lesson plans around smartphone capabilities will certainly be a challenge for educators moving forward. However, these efforts to help classrooms catch up technically to today’s students are leaps in the right direction.