Teaching Tuesday: Aligning Societal Shifts in Technology With Instructional Practices

By Dr. Tracy Vasquez, Danielle Remy-Tauaese, Emily Farkas, and Alexis Greenwood

Students using laptop computers in classroom to complete work online

Today’s classroom students struggle to understand how the world was navigated prior to cell phones. Their reliance on cell phones includes addressing needs for answering questions, researching answers, transportation, food and socialization.

Rather than trying to keep cell phones out of the classrooms, we as educators have found ways to integrate this technology to enhance student engagement. Today, many people have access to cell phones, including students in school. As teachers, we face a challenge of maintaining continence with this part of our students’ lives and use cell phones as a teaching tool.

Historic and Future Technology Applications

From its development in 1983, early cell phone technology represented large block-like devices that were difficult to transport and challenging to use in multiple settings. They also had primitive uses, such as only for transmitting voice to voice communication. From the early ‘80s until now, technology has changed quite a bit. This can help us consider where technology may go in the next 20 to 30 years.

As teachers we can think about the technology skills and abilities we would like to develop in our future workers and leaders, and how can we teach these skills alongside content knowledge. For example, the future workplace may integrate virtual reality environments for employee development and marketing opportunities; therefore, a creative mindset and versatility of design may be a skill to scaffold.

Accessibility and Collaboration Opportunities for Quality Instruction

Let’s first consider some of the features common to today’s cell phones.

  • Background noise reduction
  • Tap with three fingers to undo or redo
  • Share a website as a PDF
  • Invite friends to FaceTime
  • Schedule notification summaries

These features can help us address student organization, executive functioning, collaboration opportunities, autonomy and student accommodations and differentiation. For example, a worksheet could be transformed into an editable PDF, paired with a magnifying app or enhanced with student highlighting. With continual developments in cell phone applications and features, there are new possibilities for integrating cell phones into our instructional practices now and in the future.

Ties to Teaching Subject Area Content

While it is evident the evolution of the cell phone has been tremendously helpful for information accessibility, we need to find connections to how this can serve as a tool in the classroom. To take a closer look at this we can consider different uses for the cell phone features and apps. One is using apps to view the beautiful night sky (Google Sky, Star Chart, NASA). We can use this to teach about constellations, space, or draw upon for mathematical applications.

Another is to use an app to look down at the Earth’s features, such as by Google Earth. This can help us address topography, geography or biomes. To connect literature and English language arts, look for books online using Goodreads, Get Epic, Z-Library or local library digital connections. We can also use recent news articles to help address current events, foster debates and develop citizenship. Finally, there are other apps to build student confidence in showcasing their talents in artwork or music, such as posting art portfolios on Art Sonia.

As teachers, we want to remember that for our students, cell phone use is natural and intuitive to navigating life and accessing knowledge. Instead of pushing back against technology, let’s find new ways of embracing it and using it to serve the larger purpose of teaching and learning. Thinking about how our students use cell phones can reframe how we plan instructional practices using cell phones as learning tools.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.