Picking Your Battles – Cellphones

Today’s Contributor: Theresa Hamilton is a CTE teacher and Campus Innovation Connector at J. Frank Dobie Middle School.

As a teacher of students in middle school, you come to the realization that you will never be more important than a cell phone. Our students challenge themselves to find the most creative ways possible to “hide” their cell phone, AirPods or SnapChat selfie. This year I challenged myself to teach my students that their cell phone is their greatest tool. 

My Automation and Robotics students spend a lot of time building and collaborating within groups. They are responsible for documenting their work. They each have engineering notebooks with charts and sketches but they also use their cell phone. I have found that the best way to help students stay accountable is to increase the ways they can publish their work-and what better way to publish work than to take a picture of it! 

I create student groups in BLEND (Canvas LMS). All students that have a cell phone and are able to download Canvas Student, are encouraged to do so. All groups have at least one student that can do this. Once students are logged in, they navigate to their Project Lead the Way class and click on the designated assignment. At the end of the class period, or at a designated “stop” in their project, they submit a picture. Only one student in the group needs to submit the picture for everyone to get credit in BLEND.

I have found when you allow cell phones to be used, students stop thinking about ways to hide their phone and start thinking about how they can use their phone to increase learning. In my classroom I hear a lot of: “Ms., can I use my cell phone to look up ____?” or “Ms., can I take a picture of ____ to help me with ____.” I also have many students who completely put their phone away and insist on completing their project the old fashioned way. Win, win.

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