September 15, 2011

Diving into the deep end of mobile learning

Thanks to a marvelous Personal Learning Network, I recently stumbled upon the web-based text application, Celly.

For roughly a year, I've been casually searching for a way to have my students use text messaging for class discussions -- an easy way to introduce mobile learning. Celly is definitely the answer, as it allows administrators (or curators, as Celly calls them) to create private text rooms (cells), where students must acquire access from the teacher.

My zeal sometimes gets the best of me, when it comes to integrating new technology into the classroom; I'm not one to test something for weeks, prior to using it. So, only a few short days after discovering Celly and setting up the cells for each of my five classes, out came the mobile devices.

The most shocking discovery was that in some classes, less than half of the students had cell phones. (Some reported that they simply weren't allowed to bring them to school.) Those who did participate were genuinely excited about the experience. After a few insignificant texts -- "This is cool," "Let's do this all the time," "Wassup" -- the conversation soon turned to a spirited discussion of books and their impact on the readers.

As is the case with most new technology, there were a few glitches. Some wireless service providers did not interface with Celly. Some students had phones set to block texting, and they didn't know how to disable this security measure. Plus, like a Twitter chat, the Celly discussion moves very fast, and some students complained that it was hard to keep up.

Still, in the long run, our first experience with texting was a major success and a true example of results-only learning. I'm looking forward to doing it again.