How students at Chaparral High School are using cell phones to learn in the classroom

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - Students at Chaparral High School are using cell phones, devices that used to be banned, as learning tools in the classroom.

Assistant Principal Kyle Ross brought back the idea after attending a conference, where he says using cell phones in the classroom was the hot topic.

"The cell phones are a really great novel way to get the students very interested in what we're doing," said Dawn Morford, a human anatomy and physiology teacher. "There is something else about using that piece of technology that draws them to what you're doing."

It also gives teachers a quick glimpse to see if students understand what they're being taught, said Morford, who started incorporating cell phones into her lesson plans last year.

She uses cell phone-driven polls to gauge their understanding. Morford will pose a question and students are asked to send a text message with what they think is the right answer.

The system will tabulate the answers, which gives her an idea if they're on the same page and if she needs to go further in-depth or move the lesson along.

"I'm able to get real-time information without having to collect papers and read through them and grade them," Morford said.

Naina Rao, a Chaparral senior, loves the fact teachers in other classrooms are using cell phones as teaching tools. She used a cell phone in her math class last year.

"We use cell phones everyday and it's a great day to incorporate that with learning," Rao said.

Morford admits they are high school kids so they might sneak in a text message or two, but for the most part she said they stick to the class work.

"They're actually so engaged with what they're doing that they really do focus more than when they're just listening to doing something else," Morford said.

Morford also uses text messaging when she wants to remind kids of an upcoming project or test.

Ideally, she'd have computers or tablets accessible to every student. Already, she is getting some help from the Scottsdale Unified School District, who is installing wi-fi connections at their five high schools.

"We're using them for our calendars; we're using them to communicate with friends and co-workers and by giving them the opportunity to do that in class it makes school more closely resemble the world they live in," Ross said.

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