Is your lesson plan cellphone-ready?

To the dismay of teachers everywhere, the cellphone has infiltrated classrooms around the world. As an EFL teacher in the Language Institute at Bangkok University, I see many students with a Blackberry cellphone, iPhone, or other brand of smartphone. Admonishing or politely asking the students not to use their cellphones in class has little or no effect.

Use in classrooms favoured

A global online survey reveals that 70 percent of the respondents favour the use of cellphones in the classroom. Some educators see this digital intrusion as an opportunity to determine if learning, and specifically second-language acquisition, can be improved using appropriate exercises that can be completed using a cellphone.

The International Association for Mobile Learning is one such organisation (http://mlearning.noe-kaleidoscope .org/). Located in the UK, it is exploring this issue with the aim of supporting a worldwide community of mobile learners. Countries that have conducted surveys on the percentage of students who own a cellphone report figures close to 90 percent.

Ubiquitous

The cellphone, with all the features and thousands of applications now being offered for use on the gadget, functions as a mini computer. With all these applications in existence, one would think the time has come to find a workable teaching methodology that has at its core the now-ubiquitous cellphone. The Institute for Educational Technology is doing this.

Also based in the UK, it highlights Prof Agnes Kukulska Hulme's new findings on the use of portable technologies to create new learning. These technologies will be released this month.

New lesson plans needed

Likewise, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is building 30 new learning laboratories in libraries across the US in support of President Barack Obama's "Educate to Innovate" programme. A host of new digital devices are featured in these learning facilities.

The education industry is going through massive changes to keep up with a burgeoning world of information. The cellphone is forcing educators to move into a higher gear because it provides students instant access to vast arrays of information in multiple formats: graphical, musical, visual and aural.

The suggestion is that newer lesson plans will need to be devised to adapt to the increased usage of these Mobile Assisted Language Learning (Mall) devices, making the cellphone a boon for the L2 (second-language) classroom.

Students are ready, are teachers?

From simple text messaging to sophisticated interactive mediated learning, the cellphone is more than just a way to call a friend. It has become a tool to gain instant access to information from any place in he world.

With nearly 1.5 billion cellphones in use around the world, it is obvious that their use in education _ inside the classroom _ must take on a new meaning for educators.

With all this in mind, I conducted an informal survey among a sample of students at Bangkok University, and the findings showed that there is a willingness to learn English using the cellphone. The most-favoured application of the cellphone is to SMS the teacher for instant feedback. Vocabulary-building and reading assignments are now being given to students to see how their English improves with the use of a cellphone.

As Thailand's IT infrastructure expands and addresses all these interactive issues, it should not be too long before Thailand becomes a leader in cellphone education. The research has begun, and my guess is that Thailand will be using cellphones to educate students in the very near future.


Willard Van De Bogart is a teacher at Bangkok University and is conducting research on the use of cellphones in the classroom. He can be contacted at

vanflight@hotmail.com.

About the author

Writer: Willard Van De Bogart