Mobile phones in the classroom? The answer is yes!

Once upon a time, I hated it when students brought their cellphones to class. Ten years ago, if students brought their phones to class, it was only for two reasons: a) because they were scared of their manager and had a difficult job where they needed to be available all the time, whether they wanted to be or not; or, more likely b) because they really believed that a call from Mamá, saying, "Buy bread!" was more important than class time was.

Things have changed. First of all, not many companies are offering free classes to their students anymore. People who didn't behave themselves in classes have not been given more classes. (There's an economic crisis, dammit!) The best reason, though, is because phones can do so much more than they could in 2001. As a result, I want to learn some new things, too, especially how to welcome phones into the classroom. Here are three reasons to keep that phone on while you're learning.

Don't write it down - take a photo! Even the cheapest mobile phone now has a decent camera on it. If you find it hard to take notes AND take part in the class at the same time, use the camera on your phone to record what's being written on the board. (I do this a lot when we have a class with a lot of grammar, and there's something I want to remember.)

Keep track of your homework assignments and exam dates with a notes application. I use Evernote because I can link it in with Gmail, and it can use the camera's capabilities

Use an online dictionary like Dictionary.com, instead of a paper dictionary. I'm not sure if Oxford has any plans to release a free app of any of their dictionaries (wouldn't it be great to have the Advanced Learner's Dictionary for free on your iPhone and save €45?) but you can get Dictionary.com for free, and I'm sure that there are probably many other reference books available through Android and iPhone (I've got a Blackberry, which has lots of good stuff but not any of the big publishers. Not for free, anyway.)

Before I forget, the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary is now available, totally free, through the Oxford University Press website.

Obviously, there are some things you still shouldn't do with a phone. You won't be permitted to bring any kind of telephone into an official exam, such as First or TOEFL, and it would be very unwise to do that with a school exam. Turn the settings to SILENT so that you don't disturb anyone, don't take phone calls in class (if you need to take a phone call, let your teacher know before class starts and be subtle about learning) and be careful how much texting you do in class. After all, you ARE in class for a reason!

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