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The Power of the Mobile Phone (outside the classroom)

Most secondary school and FE students have mobile phones.

Sammy White considers the advantages mobiles can have in sharing answers and how she encourages her students to connect.

SJ White Phone 3

I have always been a fan of giving the answers when setting work with students. My year 7s once asked why and I explained; “I  am more interested in how you get your answer than if you get it right or wrong.” Now I am in FE it is still a curious point for adults who see it as cheating. The old teacher’s phrase of; “you’re only cheating yourself” may have passed my lips but I am genuinely happy to hand out answers and learn methods used rather than the number of correct answers achieved.

Seeing approaches used and methods selected gives insight and allows misconceptions to be addressed. Digitally this is challenging. Often the best tool for the job that my students have found is their mobile phone. That small thing that was forever causing problems in the face-to-face classroom now takes center stage. Its touch screen supports the fluidity of handwriting, including my subject, maths. Its camera supports the photography of paper-based work. Its voice recorder helps students verbally explain where they are at in their work. Its 4G allows learning to happen even when wifi isn’t stable or available. The mobile phone might even have the most powerful processor of any of the devices your student has access to.

As a teacher then, how do I select and create opportunities for the mobile phone to do its thing? That pesky touch screen means when I paste an image it slides about! 

That image sliding about is easily fixed with locking images in place, or by adding the images as a background to my slides, allowing students to write and annotate over the top. 

For clarity, I may lock multiple items in a background via themes to ensure I capture all the work I am looking for from my students. Highlighting where I want them to answer and what I am looking for in their answers. I cheekily add a confidence rating too where I can to get a feel for how the task went too.

Some questions work better when answered on pen and paper. In this case, I insert the image of the question into a Microsoft or Google Form, add an answer box for the correct answer and a file upload option. Students can then upload an image of their handwritten work. I can then review all the images via the SpreadSheet or Google Sheet of responses as well as seeing at a glance those correct or incorrect answers too. Similarly, where I require an audio or video response I would use file upload as well. I like to hear students explain how they got their answer, I can then build my next starting point plan with that information. Plus now more than ever I am seeking ways to hear my students’ voices more, to make those connections and, our relationships even stronger. But I guess that’s why phones were made mobile, so we could all stay connected.

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The author

Sammy is a former maths teacher having taught across secondary, alternative provisions and FE Sammy now works at Texthelp as a Teaching and Learning Specialist. Sammy was named in the EdTech 50 in 2021 and holds an ACMALT from the Association of Learning Technologists. Sammy is a Microsoft Certified Educator, Word Expert, Google Innovator, Trainer and Coach. Sammy has recently been delivering her own workshops on using GIFs to model and bridge the digital divide to UK colleges and schools. You can connect with Sammy and read more of her work at

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