My Life (aka my cell phone)

If you could use a mobile phone in your classroom, how would you use it? If you have used a phone in your teaching, was it helpful? Did it encourage engagement? If you teach in a traditional college classroom, then there is a good chance that it did.

I find it hard taking phones in the classroom seriously. They’re so attached to the social realm of people’s lives that it feels like I’m trying to appease the masses if I try and use mobile technology in class. I did try a couple of times though without a lot of thought about genuinely constructive use. My attempts have been more of the throw-it-out-there-and-see-if-it-flies variety.

There are purposeful uses of mobile technology, however. In the 2015 study, “Crossing boundaries: Lecturers’ perspectives on the use of Whatsapp to support teaching and learning in higher education,” D. Gachago, S. Strydom, P. Hanekom, S. Simons and S. Walters give us some concrete uses for our phones besides using them to check Facebook.

Gachago, et. al. start by giving us a very academically-focused explanation of the framework called boundary crossing that they use to approach their research, which in most instances I would explain briefly, but in this case I’m going to skip it entirely. It bogs down the simple idea that mobile devices do have benefits in the classroom. It does help to support their research, though, so if you are really interested in this topic then go and read the original study.

In the meantime, the researchers used three instructors, in different teaching situations, to introduce mobile phones into their instruction. One instructor used a reflective technique to allow the students more interaction with the material as well as interaction with how their peers relate to the material. This instructor also noted that it was possible to develop more trusting relationships with the students through use as a social media tool. Another instructor used the app for reminders of deadlines as well as updates, using it as a handy communicative tool. There are benefits, and mobile devices can be used effectively in several ways. Here are a couple of examples.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 4.17.21 PM                 Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 2.52.02 PM                  Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 10.08.18 AM

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 2.55.11 PM                                                 Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 11.05.06 AM


Some things to think on:

  1. Would it be helpful to allow students to interact with the material through group reflection in this way?
  2. Which of the different ways that the instructors in the study used Whatsapp would be more effective for you with your students?

Tools I used:

Whatsapp for the chat.

Pixelmator for the image editing.


Gachago, D., Strydom, S., Hanekom, P., Simons, S. & Walters, S. (2015). Crossing boundaries: Lecturers’ perspectives on the use of Whatsapp to support teaching and learning in higher education. Progressio, 37(1), 172 – 187.

Thanks to Kristine for helping with the chat.



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