Internet Tools for Teaching: Cell Phone Project Blog

Posted on August 5, 2011 by cpawlowski.
Categories: EDIM514 Internet Tools for Teaching.

Greeneville High School in Greeneville, Tennesse permits cell phone use in the classroom for learning purposes.  Following a long battle of cell phone rule breaking, it was decided that the school would embrace the technology and put it to good use.  It was the Principal Dr. Linda B. Stroud’s article describing how her school solved the cell phone problem by turning the mobile devices into learning tools.  Read her article, If You Can’t Beat Them…Join Them!, posted on the Greeneville High School website.  Greeneville High School not only said, “Yes” to cell phones, but actually had a plan to make it work. Students must have phones on silent and place them on the corner of the desk when not in class use. When you think about it, the rule is generally the same when using a graphing calculator for mathematics class because students do get distracted and they need some boundaries no matter which tech tool they are using. It gets better…There is a 7-day wait period or $20 return fee for a student who does not follow the rule. This is brillant. As stated in the policy, “Seven days is a purposeful number because students and parents will not typically purchase another phone during a seven day period…Additionally, a seven-day period of time will include a weekend without a cell phone for students, which they want to avoid at all cost!”

The article itself prompted me to contact all 11 mathematics teachers at Greeneville High School via their school email addresses and then one social studies teacher recommended by one of the math teachers.

I emailed each of the mathematics teachers and one recommended social studies teacher in hopes of receiving a response to my plea for information about how they use cell phones in their classroom.  This is the email each teacher received:


I am a secondary mathematics teacher studying for my Master’s Degree at Wilkes University. The Instructional Media courses I am taking are completely on line and are associated with Discovery Education. This week we are discussing cell phone use in the classroom. I came across your school’s success in adopting a cell phone policy which permits students to use cell phones for learning at school. This week’s assignment encourages everyone in the class to contact a teacher who conducted a project with cell phones and interview them via phone, email or videoconference. You have guessed it, I am using email. There are just three questions I need to ask. I hope you will take a moment to answer the questions, to help me complete my assignment. I will use the information for educational purposes. I must give a brief summary of your successful cell phone project, including quotes from the email interview, and what I have learned in the process.

Here are the three questions or topics from which I need to gather information about your best practices with using cell phones in the classroom:

1. Please describe your school policy for cell phones in the classroom. (You may skip this one if you wish because I have seen your principal’s letter posted on your school website. The letter itself is what prompted me to contact you.)

2. What kind of parental involvement and feedback did you receive?

3. What challenges, both technical and policy related did you need to overcome to make the cell phone project or lesson successful?

If there is something in particular you would like to share about the project and these questions did not cover, please feel free to elaborate. I welcome any and all information you would like to share. My school currently does not permit cell phone use; but I hope schools in general will see the benefits of using the mobile devices.

Please, please respond to this email as soon as possible. My assignment is due Wednesday, August 10, 2011.

I am sending this email to all of the mathematics teachers at your school, hoping to receive a response. Thank you for helping a fellow mathematics teacher!


Cindy Pawlowski

Student at Wilkes University studying for Master’s Degree in Instructional Media

9th Year Secondary Mathematics Teacher

Online Course: EDIM514 Internet Tools for Teaching”


Just 13 minutes after sending an inquiry email to Johnny P., a mathematics teacher at Greeneville High School, I received a response sent from his Blackberry.  He plans to reply Sunday night or Monday afternoon.

This is an update.  Johnny P. responded as promised…”Our policy restricts the use of phones from the time that they enter the building (7:30) until school dismisses (2:40) unless it is under the direction of the teacher.  The parents have been very supportive.  The have been occasions…where there has been a partent who has come in and balked at the program…The parents at the high school now are becoming more acclimated to the rules because the same policy has been implimented at the Middle School. [At the Middle School] the teachers don’t use them as much within the classes, but their confiscation policies coincide with ours.  As far as using the cell phones within the classroom, the parents have paid for the data plans, so our philiosophy became, they have it so why not let them use it.  It becomes a free resource for the system.  Making sure that the majority of the students had access to the technology is a big hurdle to overcome.  If I am doing a poll from, all students need to be actively involved.”  He has also permitted sharing phones to complete polls.  “The bigges hurdle was the teacher’s ability to ‘jump in’ and use it.  Most teachers saw it as something new and unknown.  This is why our administration left it up to our own autonomy as to whether we could make it a part of our classroom or not.  Never once was it required, but those who used it, loved it.”—Johnny P.

Johnny P. creates multiple choice questions on the site.  Then the students text answer choices.  the class can watch the data collected and calculated live.  This method “gives each one of the students immediate and confidential feedback as nobody sees the actual response that each one texts (unless they blab).”  I enjoyed Johnny P.’s sense of humor and was thankful for his informative response.

Susan M., a mathematics teacher at Greeneville High School, responded to my email stating that she does not use cell phones for learning and suggested I contact Amber S., a Social Studies teacher at the same school.  Susan stated that she agrees with her school’s cell phone policy, but technical challenges got in the way of using them.  “Primarily, two reasons that I didn’t use cell phones involve availabliity and self-discipline.  I had students who had no cellphones; this limits their participation in the classtoom.  I also had [students who] were [not] disciplined enough to only use the cellphones properly in the classsroom.”  Susan shared that “teachers who have used cellphones in the classroom were pleased with the results.”  Her “mathematics department is making a transition to using TI-Mspire CX calculators, which can be used in the same way as cell phones.  In this way, students will have an equitable ability to send answers similar to the cell phone.”  I Googled the TI-Nspire CX calculators and watched the tutorial video.  This technology will definitely make math lessons relevant with photo capability.  I really like being able to manipulate the graphs, too, expecially the differentials.  I also followed her suggestion and sent Amber S. an email for further information.

Barbara C., a mathematics teacher at Greeneville High School, also responded to my plea for cell phone projects from her iPhone.  Even though her students have not participated in cell phone projects, the fact that she used her iPhone to respond to my email, I believe, emphasizes that mobile devices are used heavily for all types of communication: email, video, pictures, texting, and voice.

Posted below are a few more responses I recieved from my plea for cell phone projects and list of questions.

“I teach Special Education Students at GHS and to date I have not used cell phones in my classroom.  Our administration is very supportive and encourages using cell phones, but to date it is not something I have personally used.  Good luck..”—Charity P.

“I do not use cell phones in my classroom yet.  Hopefully one of the other teachers will give you the information you neeed.”—Steve C.

“I am actually a social studies teacher, but I do use cell phones in my classroom.  I personally have no had any parent feedback.  I typically only use cell phones with the website where students are asked a question and they can text in a response.  I have found this helps those who don’t like to verbally respond in front of the whole class.  This also does not require any parental involvement.  Due to the current policy it is very easy for me to execute any lesson using cell phones.  We are very lucky that we have a great administration and technology support system that enables us to really execute almost anything we can think up.  I hope this helps.”—Amber S.

Well, every response and every bit of information helped me understand how cell phones can be used in the classroom.  I am so thankful to the teachers at Greeneville High School for responding to my information request and for answering my questions.  Please read this Greeneville High School’s informational and wonderful guide to adopting a useful cell phone policy and suggestions for implimenting projects. The PDF file is entitled Cell Phones in the Classroom, Easy to Use, Easy to Manage. The file begins with the cell phone policy already mentioned, but continue through to discover helpful tips to impliment the usage of cell phones in class. There are activities, articles, teacher handouts, and websites to get you started using cell phones as learning tools. There are even links to two of Steve Dembo’s articles from 2008 and 2009! This school not only had an idea, it had a plan.

I am particularly interested in ways cell phones might be utilized in math class. Math4Mobile is a project application you can download for free. Cell phones can scan barcodes to bring graphs to life and enable changes in the appearance of the graph. Java offers five mobile phone applications for free. Plus, read the quick blog post written by Ben Rimes about Cell Phones in Math Class. The article admits that even though the guts of a lesson may not use a cell phone, the device can be used to motivate and engage the learner.

I have learned several tips and ways to use cell phones in the classroom listed in Greeneville High School’d Cell Phones in the Classroom, Easy to Use, Easy to Manage.  This is a resource which I will refer to repeatedly to keep my mind active with cell phone learning examples.  Many of which I can share with other teachers, too.  I learned how easy it is to reach out to other teachers with questions or requests.  I was so happy to receive responses to my attempts to communicate and learn from them. 

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