10 Ways to Engage Students with Cell Phones in the Classroom
Want to increase student motivation and engage- ment? The answer could
be in your students’ pockets. Here
are 10 ways to use cell phones in
school that your students will love:
1. Student response system. Ask students multiple-choice questions
or let them respond freely with
a text reply. This assessment tool
allows teachers to gauge students’
mastery of a skill. Poll Everywhere
( www.polleverywhere.com) is a
free (for 40 students or less) student response system available
for cell phones, computers, or
any internet-enabled device.
2. Reinforcing vocabulary with
visual representations. Have
students use cell phone cameras
to go on a scavenger hunt around
the classroom and/or school to
take pictures representing vocabulary words.
3. Repetition of vocabulary. Text sentences incorporating vocabulary
words covered in class to students.
This will help them learn the
words in context and encourage
them to review the words they
learned in class.
4. Source for answering questions.
Ask students curriculum-based
content trivia questions and allow
them to use cell phones to answer
the questions via text message.
5. Accessing information. Allow students to access information from
ebooks and approved web sources
via cell phones.
6. Recording class projects. Have stu-
dents use cell phones to record
presentations or experiments.
Students review the video and
write reflections on what went
well and what they would do differently in the future.
7. Communication with teacher. Allow
students to text questions to you
during class. You can read each
student or group’s question to the
class and lead a class discussion to
find the answer.
8. Increasing reading comprehension.
English language learners and
students with reading difficulties
benefit from listening to audio
books to increase their fluency
and comprehension. Students
may download audio books to
their cell phones and listen during
9. Translation of questions. Students
receive a question in Spanish (or
another foreign language) via
text and work in teams to translate and answer the question.
They text the answers back to the
teacher, who projects them on a
screen for the class to review.
10. Recording or note-taking. Students
who have dysgraphia, dyspraxis,
or other writing difficulties may
use a cell phone to record lectures
and presentations as well as take
As with any tool, it is imperative for
the teacher to first set parameters for
using cell phones in the classroom.
You should explain what are appro-
priate and inappropriate uses of cell
phones in learning. The best way to do
this is to have a class discussion about
cell phone users’ rights and responsi-
bilities. Allow students to determine
the rules, as well as the consequences,
for abusing the privilege of using cell
phones in the classroom. Giving stu-
dents the power to develop rules gives
them ownership in their learning.
—Kimberly LaPrairie is an assistant professor of
instructional technology at Sam Houston State
University. She has 13 years of private, public,
and higher education experience and holds
teacher certifications in secondary mathematics
and business education.
—Lautrice M. Nickson, PhD, is an assistant
professor at Sam Houston State University. She
helps teacher candidates develop professional
dispositions, knowledge, and skills to effectively
develop as professional teachers.