Educators should embrace mobile phones
A survey 1,500 parents by Opinium found that on average, UK children owned a phone by age seven, and a smart phone by age ten. It is not unusual for children to be able to operate a smart device before they can tie their own shoes. This in itself marks the shift in the use of technology over the last decade.
Children want a mobile phone for a number of reasons, but very often parents are just as keen as they rely on them as a way to ensure the safety of their children when they are out of the house. This typically includes allowing the child to take their phone to school. Yet many schools have taken issue with mobile phones being brought into schools, and a raft of device policies ensued. Right or wrong, this has typically been vehemently pushed back upon by both parents and students. If mobile devices were embraced by educators, there are a number of learning benefits they could derive from using interactive polls in their classrooms:
1) Check student understanding
Checking student understanding of a topic in real time before progressing to the next can be challenging. Asking for a show of hands of those that would like further time on the content typically leads to nobody wanting to expose themselves. However using a real time poll to check if students want more time on the topic or to move on would be anonymous and far more likely to drive an honest response.
There will always be students that are less outspoken than others. Even asking for a simple show of hands might make a nervous and reserved student uncomfortable. Particularly in a new class setting, using a poll on the phone and then showing the results on a screen will help the quieter students to be involved and gain confidence in the value of their input.
3) Increase engagement
Students can quickly become disengaged if the delivery of content is flat. One way to increase engagement and to improve learning outcomes is to introduce interactivity and perhaps a level of fun. Real time polls allow the teacher to do fun quizzes, perhaps pitting one group of students against another and asking multiple choice questions of content that has been covered.
4) Content direction
There will be a syllabus that the teacher is adhering to, however, there will often be time to deviate from the syllabus for wider learning. In this case it may be very useful for the teacher to gain input from the students as to what they would like to learn about. Real time polls can be used to suggest a handful of topics, and then students can vote on what they would prefer.
Schools do have valid concerns for the use of mobile phones by students in school. However, in the event they are going to be used, and perhaps safety of students is one driving force, another is that they can be utilised within the classroom setting to participate in real time polls and drive student engagement.