These are my notes from Kay Tibb’s presentation “Cell Phones R 4 More Than Texting: Let’s plan for them, not ban them!” at the 2010 MACE (Mid-America Association for Computers in Education) Conference in Manhattan, Kansas. MY THOUGHTS AND FEEDBACK ARE IN ALL CAPS. Kay is the Technology Director for USD 353 in Wellington, Kansas.

I worked at the Challenger Learning Center before it closed because of lack of funding

years ago all 40 of my students had Palm Tungsten handhelds
– we discussed what learning with a Palm looks like…
– I let students sync their Palms to their home computers at home
– I was so amazed by what my students did with their Palms
– they loved working with their Palms
– I had a student who had MAJOR behavior disorder issues: when he had that Palm in his hand and was doing his science lesson, spelling, etc he was a whole different person

Favorite story: that student was doing a game instead of his spelling
– I said, “you know the rules, you all made them, I didn’t…” and that was all it took

cell phones are so much like that now…

Palms had old technology called a “tri-beam”
– let the Palm go out to the internet, that was 7 years ago, there were VERY few sites that were mobile compatible

Today there are a pletheora of mobile sites
– are even some sites that let you change YOUR site to be mobile-compatible

My district does not YET let our students use cell phones during the day, but I am working on that with our administration
– I have some supportive teachers, and some teachers who are absolutely, positively against it
– I want to open it up so those teachers who WANT to allow the use of cell phones for learning

Cell phone as an organizing tool
– calendar: assignments are due
– appointments with counselor
– calendars can take the place of the agendas

The other day I asked someone in our 1600 student district how much we spend on agendas: almost $7000 per year now
– that is a LOT of money, that is just for the middle and high school (that $7K is for just those 900 students)

98% of our kids, even in 5th grade, have a cell phone now

no one is modeling the use of this cell phone / mobile technology for students
– you don’t have to add anything to your curriculum
– just start using them in respectful ways, and ask the students to use them in respectful ways

I can guarantee you high school students don’t lose their cell phone
– make sure kids pay for the insurance for their cell phone, so they can get a new one if it goes swimming

taking notes
– even the cheapest cell phones have a notes section
– notes are time stamped: so you can use them as a hall pass time/date stamped

Also task lists
– what is due and coming up

store passwords

my cell phone has a password keeper

Voice notes: record homework instructions, parent questions and quick reminders

most phones have a voice notes feature, I don’t know of a phone (even the cheapest ones like Jitterbug) have a voice note feature

– basic calculator comes on most cell phones

Erate helps pay for telecommunication devices, including CELL PHONES


Website access


Digital Disconnect
– studies show economic status does not seem to be a factor in ownership of cell phones among students
– the digital divide is no longer between economically advantaged and disadvantaged, it’s between digital natives (students) and digital immigrants (teachers)
– cell phones are essential tools students use to communicate with the world around them, inside of school learning is isolated from students’ everyday technology culture
– cell phones are not going away! Let’s plan for their use as a learning tool
– we need to demonstrate good digital citizenship

If you would take my cell phone away, that would be like taking me off of life support

Countering what we heard in Janet’s preso this morning, studies show students do NOT know how to use technologies responsibly and how to learn with
– we need to embrace these technologies, like laptops these devices are NOT going away

now some cell phone companies are MAKING consumers buy data service
– our kids are bringing these devices with unfiltered access now

FCC is not about to block cell phones in schools: they do not block them in movie theaters is one of my favorite websites
– lets you create instant polls for cell phones and allows up to 100 votes for free


You can see the results of polls immediately, use this as a student response system
– free, you don’t have to give your students YOUR cell phone number to have students send you voice messages, pictures, and text messages
– audio can be downloaded as a mp3

Google Voice
– I love this! It transcribes my phone messages to text
– does a pretty good job of transcribing

We will use Google Voice for today’s scavenger hunt
– you will text me first so I’ll have your cell number (students don’t have to have a GV number, just the teacher does)

Liz Kolb’s book “Toys to Tools” has a great example letter that you can use to send home to parents

Cell phone Scavenger Hunt
1- Text your name to my Google Voice number
2- Answer the question on the screen (with PollEverywhere)
3- With your table/group make a list of ways you could use (or any digtial dropbox) with your students
4- Text or call my # with your group’s ideas


One of the most important things I learned when using Palms with students was that I didn’t have to know everything!
– this can be very empowering for your students

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7 Responses to Cell Phones R 4 More Than Texting: Let’s plan for them, not ban them!

  1. meg ormiston says:

    This sounds like a great session, thanks for the summary. Glad I was not there, I might have shouted “Amen” a few times!

  2. Kay Tibbs says:

    You are welcome to shout “Amen” at my session any time 🙂

  3. Kay Tibbs says:

    Thank you so much for the help and the great article!

  4. Ryan Collins says:

    Thanks for the notes! As something I’m quite passionate about, I like reading what others are doing.

    As for CIPA, after reading through it I don’t think it pertains to student bought cell phones, only to cell phones purchased through the district. In that case, you would need to talk to your provider about filtering the cellphone. I’m pretty sure Blackberries can be locked down and pass all traffic through a filter/proxy for CIPA compliance.

    As I understand it, CIPA would also apply to school purchased Kindles

  5. bored@stumbleupon says:

    If you think 99.99% of your students wouldn’t use their phone for cheating or texting you then are perfect example of the failure of our education system, the ***** teachers.

    So you came up with a few secondary uses for cell phones that are almost less distracting from learning then your usual trite garbage lessons? Phones were made to communicate, not do school work. That is their primary function, and that is what they would be used for. Any thinking contrary is naive insanity.

  6. Wesley Fryer says:


    I censored the profanity from your post.

    Sorry to hear you’ve apparently had a series of negative experiences with teachers and the formal education system in your area.

    I hope those bad experiences won’t stand in the way of you obtaining a worthwhile education that will open doors for you and enable you to live the life of your dreams.

    Tools can be used for lots of different purposes, and cell phones are no different. Phonecasting is one of my favorite educational uses for phones, when the recordings created are put into digital stories.

    I believe education is about and should be about CREATING content and SHARING ideas, not just listening to the ideas of others, reading the ideas of others, and CONSUMING that content. I think Kay Tibbs does as well, and that philosophy was part of what she was sharing in this presentation at MACE.

  7. Kay Tibbs says:

    I too, am so sorry to hear of your negative experiences with teachers and in education. I was very fortunate to have teachers who inspired creativity and encouraged using tools/materials for purposes other than their primary function if that purpose was to solve a problem. Utilizing cell phones for educational purposes is solving the problem of not enough current/updated technology available in classrooms today.

    Cell phones have so many more functions than simply being a tool for communication. Most cell phones today come with features such as calculators, notes, cameras, calendar etc. All those features listed can be used for classroom organizational tools. I taught 5th grade and I can remember wishing each of my students had their own calculator! My wish came true when I was given the opportunity to teach using PDA’s. Each of my students had a Palm and installed on that Palm was a calculator, notes and a calendar among many other wonderful applications. We used those calculators when needed and no one was without a calculator! The Notes and calendar were wonderful tools to help keep track of assignments due, log-in information, lists etc. Just like how business people use their cell phones today.

    I also would encourage all my student to cheat! If, by cheating, you mean call/text someone to get an answer. I’d say go ahead! That’s what I do as an adult when I don’t know the answer. By cheating do you mean using your resources to find information? That’s exactly what I do when I need information.

    Memorizing answers for a test is not education. That is a nice skill to have, but it isn’t going to get a person through life like the skill of using the tools at hand to find answers and information needed to solve problems.

    @Wes: YES! I agree that education is about CREATING content and SHARING ideas!imputed

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