Classroom Management

4 Ways to Embrace Cell Phone Use in the Classroom

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We need to stop–like right now, today, stop–looking at cell phones as a nuisance. In the hands of capable, responsible students, they are an instructional tool. It’s time to make the argument FOR cell phones in the classroom. When we teach and model responsible use, we are investing both in our students and in the tools they use the most.

Cell phones are something on which students have come to rely almost constantly. Though that fact may be foreign to a lot of teachers and administrators, it is important that we come to a realization that students’ phones are not going away. The best thing we can do is embrace and utilize these powerful and versatile tools when we are working with our students: for research, for photography, for artmaking, and for publishing work.

Here are four ways to put cell phones
to good use in your art room.


1. Research

If your district’s internet is anything like mine, it is unreliable at best. Connections are slow, and many of the best art sites for research and resources are partially or completely blocked. Cell phones are generally more reliable with internet connections as you are not making your way through a maze of blocked sites. Plus, they provide faster access to the necessary information.

Would you rather have kids get out laptops, log on, connect, and go through four different sites they can’t see, or take 30 seconds to pull out their phone and find what they need? It’s no contest for me. Those small time savers can add up to a lot of extra instructional time over the course of the semester.

2. Photography

Cell Phones are better than most cameras. Why would you spend money on a classroom camera (or set of cameras!) when you can have a more versatile, higher-quality, and more user-friendly camera in the hands of the majority of your students? Your kids have plenty of experience with their cameras–trust me. Some simple instruction on composition, photography techniques, and camera settings will go a long way toward success with photography.

3. Artmaking Apps

There are so many great options for using phones and apps for artmaking. There are apps for graffiti and apps for color exploration. Or, for those of us that prefer to provide our students with more tactile experiences, apps can be used as a springboard toward other ways to create. The point is, there are countless resources available that students can use on their phones that will enhance their learning. Why should we deny them these opportunities?

4. Self-Publishing

Many teachers ask students to write about their work or even have students collect these thoughts in a personal blog. Portfolios can be curated on Artsonia or any number of other sites. In addition, students love to put up their own work on social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, among others.

Cell phones are undoubtedly the easiest way for them to photograph their work, edit those photographs, reflect upon and publish documentation of their process and their final products. Why would we have students use other technology when all the tools they need to do this are already at their fingertips?
As we have said so often, responsible use is key. Cell phones are both ubiquitous and a vital part of our students’ lives. We may not like it, we may not agree, and we may not understand, but that is the current reality. To pretend they are a nuisance, and to treat them as contraband is shortsighted. If, and when, we embrace cell phones as a useful tool for our art rooms, our art rooms and our instruction will be so much better for that decision.

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What is your cell phone policy?

How does your administration feel about cell phones?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Timothy Bogatz

Tim Bogatz is AOEU’s Content & PD Event Manager and a former AOEU Writer and high school art educator. He focuses on creativity development, problem-solving, and higher-order thinking skills in the art room.

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