Bringing curiosity back to the classroom...through cellphones?

 
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Phone in the classroom? No way! How many instances do we have of teachers taking cell phones away from students the minute they walk into the school building? Phones are a distraction -- texting, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, none of these things are helpful in a learning environment. This reminds me of one particular student who, in the middle of a tutoring session, casually pulled out her iPad Pro to take an international call from Ghana..." sorry Miss, I have to take this". I was in shock, but mostly curious as to who was on the other end of that call...

The fact remains, however, that cell phones play a huge role in our daily lives, and this cannot be overlooked. Just image, if every day you walked into your office, your boss or supervisor demanded that your cell phone be kept in a locker until the end of the business day. Yes, school is different, and phones are often a huge distraction (Fortnite, anyone?), but they are also, a literal encyclopedia in our pockets. How often do we do a quick google search for a word we don't know, a phrase we hadn't heard of, or when we need help figuring something out? My own google search history, for example, includes "how to strip a wire", "how many teaspoons in a tablespoon", and "Beychella dance routine" (but that is neither here nor there).

The reality is that we use our cell phones in a multitude of ways, and some of these ways can bring a positive impact to a students' learning experience. What if next time a student doesn't know a word or doesn't understand a question, we ask them to take out their phones and look it up? Perhaps even asking other students to do the same. We can then ask, "who found a different definition?" "how are they related?" "how are they different?" Cellphones can be a great tool for learning when used in the right context, but more importantly, it can help students become curious, take initiative, and think for themselves. Curiosity helps us ask questions, push boundaries, and make key connections that we otherwise wouldn't, and isn't that the kind of inquisitive thinking that we wish for all our students? 

Niara ValérioComment