The year was 1999 and I had just been hired as a full time high school biology teacher. As a reward for getting hired I bought myself a gift, my first cell phone. I was excited because this would allow me to communicate with my friends and family from virtually anywhere. I justified the purchase to myself since my classroom did not have a phone in it and my increased pay would allow me to take on a few more monthly expenses. Last year my nephew got his first phone. He was 8, and it was his reward for being promoted from the 3rd grade to the 4th grade. Things have definitely changed in the past 12 years.
In 2010 the Pew Research Center published that 75% of 12-17 year olds own a cell phone. This number has increased from 45% in 2004 and is most likely more than three-quarters of all students today. It will not be long until every high school student in America brings their phone with them to school. Naturally, with so many students having access to cell phones, it makes sense that cell phones can be used to help students get better grades in school.
When students walk into my classroom, they can look up on white board for announcements. They can view their upcoming homework assignments in addition to the dates of any upcoming tests or projects. As part of my daily classroom routine, I bring attention to these assignments during the beginning of class and remind my students to write their homework assignments in a planner or notebook.
Each day I have my students write down their assignments. I walk around the class and ask students to show me that it is written down. A common problem is that many students frequently forget or loose where they wrote down their homework by that evening. Sometimes poor organizational skills cause students to misplace where their assignments were written. For others students, they have a separate notebook for each class and write their homework assignments down in multiple locations.
A simple solution to this dilemma is for students to write their daily homework assignments into their phone. For a high school student, a phone is an essential possession that goes with them virtually everywhere. While a student may leave a textbook or spiral notebook in a class and forget about it, chances are they will not leave their phone.
In addition to a student always having their phone with them, they are constantly using it. The Pew Research Center discovered through their study that texting the primary method for cell phone communication among teens. 88% of teen cell phone users text as a form of communication and 54% text daily. The typical high school (14-17 years) age texter usually sends and receives 60 text messages a day.
The technology is available now for students to use a standard notepad feature on their phone and type into a continually building list what their nightly homework assignment is in every class. If their phone has a calendar option, upcoming tests and projects can be typed in as well. With most phone calendars there is an option to set reminders about upcoming events. This is so powerful for a student to receive a reminder at 6:30 pm as a cue that they need to study for tomorrow’s math test.
If the student owns a Smartphone (iPhone, Blackberry, Droid, or Palm) then the sky is the limit as to how their phone can help keep track of all of their assignments. While the specific apps available are unique for each phone, all of them have a “To-Do List” app that is either free or very inexpensive. Awesome Note, Cozi, Evernote, and Lister have all received positive reviews. The key is to find one that is available for your phone that works well for you. Each day I write my “To-Do List” with Lister on my Blackberry and categorize my entries as near term, this week, or priority. Then throughout the day I refer to my list every time I use my phone to call, text, email, or even check Facebook. It keeps me focused and I add to the list or check items off as needed.
If you have an iPhone, I definitely recommend you check out the app called myHomework. It allows you to set your class schedule, enter in homework and assignments, view upcoming assignments on the calendar function, and even displays reminders when you open up your phone. With new apps being constantly developed it is just a matter of time before multiple apps are available that specialize in organizing school assignments for all phones.
As we continue into the 21st century it is important that we take advantage of the technology available to increase student achievement. Just as computers at school have evolved from a novelty to a necessity, cell phones are proving that they can have a positive impact on student achievement. I encourage you (or your student for all the parents reading this article) to educate the teachers at your school as to why using a cell phone to keep track of assignments is better than the old fashion way of writing them down in a notebook. In a short amount of time I suspect that bringing your phone to school will be as accepted as bringing a pencil.