Can Cell Phones Be Educational Tools?

Students standing in a circle on their phones.

Most students’ cell phones are constantly dinging and ringing with alerts from the most popular social media apps. Teachers and parents alike are at constant odds with students over their cell phone use.


But what if we started to look at the use of cellphones in school as a tool? Can cell phones be educational tools for good?


With so much power right at students’ fingertips, teachers are working on using students’ mobile devices as a learning tool rather than the typical distraction.

How Can Phones Help Students In School?

There is no question that smartphones and technology can help and improve our everyday lives. With so much right at our fingertips, smartphones have empowered a generation to do everything from communicate with each other to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.


And while mobile phones have become an integral part of our everyday lives, we have struggled to find a place for them in the classroom. Teachers often have rules to keep student cell phones away and silent throughout the class period.

But phones can help students in school as much as phones help us in all other aspects of our lives. Student cell phones can become a resource and tool for educational purposes.

Phones Can Help Students: 

  • Stay more organized

  • Access educational resources like videos, audio, and more

  • Receive personalized learning through educational applications

  • Collaborate and work with other students

And while the list of ways phones can help students could go on and on, we need to stop and address the elephant in the room!


Emmett High School Using PLT4M
Students watch an instructional video on a phone in class.

Are the reasons why students should have phones in schools worth all the hassle?


Okay, so there are plenty of reasons why phones can help students in school. But do the reasons why students should have phones in school outweigh all the hassle?


With school-issued computers or laptops, teachers have control over technology in the classroom. However, personal student cell phones are a different story.


Student cell phone use in class can often interrupt the learning process. If students are sneaking under their desks, text messaging and scrolling through apps, they are not focused on class. But this battle occurs when phones are seen as the enemy.


Smart phones don’t have to be taboo in the classroom. If we encourage and support appropriate smartphone use, the constant battle with devices becomes a team effort. Students and teachers can get onto the same page on using cellphones in the classroom for good.

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How Can Cell Phones Be Used As Educational Tools?


Like any other learning tool, cell phones can be an educational tool with the proper framework and support. 


We don’t expect children to know how to use a pencil the first time we hand them one. Instead, we expect them to need practice and help to learn how to use it.


The same expectations should be applied when we allow mobile devices to be used in class. Teaching students to be ‘digital citizens’ requires an array of strategies to empower the proper use. But over time, smart phones, like any other educational tool, can become an asset for learning.


So, can cell phones be educational tools? Yes! With the right tips and tricks, any classroom can take student cell phones and use them for educational purposes.

Bonus Content! PE teacher Molly Collins describes how cellphones and technology have allowed more hands on instruction in her PE class. 

3 Tips For Integrating Phones In A Classroom


Teachers can take simple steps to make sure student learning with mobile devices is helpful, not harmful. Our overall goal is to help students learn to be good ‘digital citizens’ and understand when and how to use their mobile phones.


Before applying any of these tips, the biggest thing is identifying what the goal is with using cellphones in the classroom. After defining your goals, you will likely identify an app or educational resource that will support your mission. Below are three tips for integrating phones in a classroom with specific examples for physical education included.


Tip # 1: Create a Cell Phone Use Contract With Your Students 


Start by creating clear expectations with students on cell phone use. In the contract can be examples of what is considered appropriate and inappropriate technology use. In addition to examples, outline the potential consequences for students who do not use technology appropriately. 


Example: If a student gets off task by going on social media, they will receive one warning before having to put their phone away for the rest of class.


Most importantly, create this contract WITH your students, not for your students. By having students take ownership of the contract, they will better understand the do’s and don’ts of phone use in class.

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girl lifting weights with devices around her

Tip # 2: Create an Educational Applications Scavenger Hunt 


Whatever type of technology you plan to use in class, start students out with a scavenger hunt.


Because students are constantly on their phones, we assume they can figure out anything with them. But then, when we introduce school technology, many of them say they aren’t sure how to do it.


With a scavenger hunt, you can help students practice the skills and tasks you will expect them to do throughout the rest of the semester.


Example: In physical education class, many schools use technology in physical education with an educational app called PLT4M. Many teachers will have students find an instructional video, log a workout, and enter in a test result during a scavenger hunt because these are the main activities they will do with the technology during any class.

Tip # 3: Partner Students Up 


There are plenty of reasons you might need to partner students up when using cell phones. For example, some students might not have a cell phone at all. Others might get them taken away at home. Or quite likely, you might not trust or want all your students ‘left to their own devices.’


Partnering students up when using smartphones can solve all of the potential problems. It also encourages collaboration and helps students to become accountable for each other when working with technology.


Example: With PLT4M, there is a featured called rackview. This feature allows up to 5 students to use one device simultaneously. And even with 5 students on one device, students can still access their personalized workouts and log any information they need to.

PLT4M rackview on an Iphone.
Up to 5 students can use one device with PLT4M racview.

Key Takeaways: Can Cell Phones Be Educational Tools?


Yes, cellphones can be educational tools for students with the proper structure and support. Schools have already found ways to use computers and other technology and should look to find ways to incorporate smartphones as well.


While it feels like smartphones have been around forever, it has only been about a decade since educational applications have existed and become available to the world. Like many other aspects of our lives, we will likely look back and ask how we ever did it before smart phones.


As more students grow up in the smartphone era, we should find ways to make education better for all by using this powerful technology.


Is PLT4M just a mobile app?


No, PLT4M is both a web and mobile app.


If you are still unsure about allowing students to use phones in class or have access to other technology, you can use PLT4M with smartphones, tablets, computers, and laptops.


What if not every student has a phone?


Students can use rackview to partner up. Or you can use any other type of technology. With PLT4M, as long as you have access to technology, you can make PLT4M work in your school.

Ready to Embrace Tech?

Schedule a 15-Minute demo to learn how PE teachers are ushering in a new age of Physical Education with Fitness and Technology!

girl lifting weights with devices around her

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