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Mobile phones have a pretty bad reputation in the classroom. For years, they have served no other role besides getting confiscated whenever a teacher saw them out. Granted, that applies to high school more than college, but even in the latter, professors are generally unhappy to see students on their phones. To be fair, that is usually because students are using their phones for things other than education. However, today’s society is rapidly growing to rely on technology for more and more aspects of education, and mobile phones are no exception. The role these devices play in the field has changed dramatically, and it will continue to evolve from here.
A Mutually Inclusive Dichotomy
The first thing to understand is that mobile phones will always have the potential to be disruptive to education. However, they have equal potential to be useful. What it really comes down to is primarily the user. Unfortunately, conditioning individuals to use their technology responsibly is a discussion for another time.
The point being, no rule, policy, or school of thought will ever eliminate the potential for phones to be distracting or harmful in education. However, this does not mean that the only right solution is to completely restrict the usage of mobile phones in education. There are many ways, both inside and outside of the classroom, that they can be beneficial.
The Obvious Benefits
Many of the benefits mobile phones offer to students are not directly tied to education, but rather how their already existing functions can be used to aid it. This includes most of the functions that one just assumes will be present in any mobile phone: long-range communication through multiple means, calculators, and the vast wealth of knowledge that is the internet, to name a few. All of these and more can aid a student during their education.
The ability to communicate at range allows a student to keep in contact with their family, but also receive important notifications and alerts from the school they attend. It provides teachers with an extra way to give their students assignments, relevant updates, and advice. While this could be done through a computer, individuals are far more likely to have their phones on them as opposed to being near a computer at any particular time of day. This means students, teachers and the institution itself can all contain more consistent contact regarding educational matters.
Calculators and similar tools that apps can provide are a given: there are many situations in education where these academic tools would be useful. The usefulness of internet accessibility is unfortunately much harder to maintain because it is the most easily abused. There’s no denying that access to the internet provides students with many potential distractions, and there’s really no way to restrict such misuse effectively. However, one can also not deny the benefits of being able to access just about any information from anywhere in the world, including the classroom.
These days, there is an app for everything, and that’s not an exaggeration. If there’s a task or function you can think of, there’s an app designed to help accomplish it. This is something that institutions could definitely make better use of. With the right resource investment, academic institutions could create apps that help their students excel in their education, both in and out of the classroom. Apps could be designed simply to communicate between faculty and students, as stated previously. Apps could be designed as a supplementary aid in specific subjects or could simply provide students with access to quizzes, homework, and even textbooks.
Frankly, this aspect of mobile phone potential cannot be overstated. Access to necessary resources, especially those that are online, is often a major obstacle for students. Having an app dedicated to providing access to those resources provides students with a way to stay on top of their academic obligations from nearly any location, rather than having to rely on computers or shoddily made mobile websites. Moving textbooks to an online platform that can be accessed from phones would also go a long way to reducing hassle, student expenses, raw material usage, and back strain.
While there’s no way to remove the potential distractions mobile phones can cause in the classroom, there is also no limit to their potential for assisting students with the more tedious aspects of learning.