The Ups and Downs of Using the Smartphone as an Educational Tool

The following is a guest post written by Vigilance Chari, freelance blogger and content writer. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us.

A while back, having a mobile phone in the classroom meant confiscation or detention; but now, many schools are increasingly accepting them as useful learning tools. While only a handful of kids can get a laptop for daily classwork, the number of smartphones in an average classroom has risen tenfold over the last couple of years.

Given their easy internet access, the many educational apps and the convenience of being used anytime and anywhere, smartphones have all it takes to encourage learning.

However, it’s not easy to keep the use of phones entirely academic. In fact, when it comes to using these gadgets during lessons, the number one concern among teachers is how to ensure students don’t abuse the privilege. How do you keep students from texting friends and updating their social media pages under their desks?

This, among other questions, raises eyebrows as to the efficiency of using mobile phones for educational purposes. Nevertheless, no teaching practice is perfect. Like other methodologies, the smartphone has its ups and downs.

The benefits of using smartphones for teaching

With smartphone use by young students spreading wider every day, there are several practical reasons why, as a teacher, you should allow the useful little gadgets in your classroom. These include:

Student comfort

Experts unanimously agree that using tools that students are comfortable with is among the most effective teaching methods. In today’s world, the smartphone has become as familiar to kids as basic pen and paper. It’s therefore easier in some cases to make a point clear by telling a student to take a look at their phone, rather than to flip through monotonous pages of a book. By the same token, in many cases learning materials may not be optimized for mobile devices and a lot of work will still be needed before mobile learning aids are taken seriously.

Quick answers

While the use of smartphones as a ready source for answers is debatable, teachers often find it easier to teach when a student can get any questions they may have resolved by a quick glance at their smartphones. Not only does it save time, but it also exposes learners to additional information as they search for the answers they need.

Bringing life to a classroom

Through the audio and video capabilities of a smartphone, education can become more lively among disinterested kids and teenagers. Visual learning through video images, music and voice is an efficient way to get a difficult concept understood by a confused student and, consequently, make the teaching process more engaging.

Educational Apps

Smartphones give students access to a horde of learning applications, which are available in a wide range of subjects. From serious apps to game-like exercises, these packages encourage intuitive thinking and playful competition while enhancing the way learners grasp new ideas.


Aside from educational applications, the smartphone app store is well populated with scheduling tools. One such app is Remind, where students can sign up to receive text reminders whenever they have an upcoming assignment due, or a test coming.

Not only does it motivate young learners to plan their studying, but it also engages parents, who sign up just to keep track of their children’s homework.

Social learning

Through online groups, virtual chat-rooms and texts, smartphones encourage students to work in groups. They can share information and discoveries on common subjects and projects, and, therefore, move together towards a common goal, in a manner with which they are all comfortable.

In addition, students can connect with other like-minded learners from around the world to broaden their minds and expand their scope of thought.

Fostering an interest in technology

When modern gadgets are incorporated in the learning space, even kids that were oblivious to how they work and what they can do will begin to grasp a little basic knowledge. Moreover, using smartphones on a daily basis gives students constant access to information about the current trends in technology, growing their enthusiasm from a young age.

The downsides to allowing smartphones in the classroom

Undoubtedly, mobile phones have a lot to offer the modern-day classroom. However, some limitations discourage their universal acceptance as an educational tool.

For starters, smartphones are not exactly durable. Sure, when well taken care of, they may last longer than most frequently-used books. But in the classroom, accidental knocks, drops and spills are inevitable. Because it’s quite impractical to buy children high-end devices, we’d recommend more budget smartphones for students to take to school as they will likely need replacing within a couple of months due to general wear and tear.

Additionally, smartphones may look small, but they’re complex devices with quite the learning curve. Before any meaningful learning can take place, a student needs to master the phone’s numerous functions and applications, and this exercise can waste a significant amount of valuable time.

Then, of course, there’s the negative effect that smartphones can have on a student’s attentiveness in class. We’ve touched base on having your students taken away by texts and social media, but what about the random ringtones that may interrupt valuable learning sessions? Allowing phones in the classroom requires a teacher to be constantly roaming around watching students and making sure they’re staying on task.

“How” not “if”

Despite the challenges, many schools have come to terms with the advances in technology, and have accepted the role of smartphones in the classroom.

So, the question is not “if” to use smartphones, it’s “how” to use them. Nearly all students own or have access to a phone and having a “no phones allowed” policy in school would require a lot of monitoring, just to keep learners from sneaking in with the small gadgets.

Therefore, an easier approach is to utilize the smartphones in teaching. Students will be eager follow the conditions given to keep the privileges of using these devices in class.


Critics will cite cheating in exams and unauthorized socializing as concerns, but the fact is, smartphones are an integral part of a student’s life. Rather than imposing stringent rules, innovative teachers have the opportunity in the modern age to take up the role of helping young learners to use their phones properly in the pursuit of knowledge, although in reality this may be easier said than done.


Author’s Bio: Vigilance Chari covers tech news and smartphones at SmartphoneNinja. She is an International presenter and published author. When she’s not writing, she spends her time as an enthusiastic professional party planner and part-time painter.  You can contact Vigilance Chari via email at



10 Apps Essential for Students from the Online Education Blog of Touro College

Do Smartphones Have a Place in the Classroom? from Paul Barnwell, the Atlantic

Finding the Best Budget Smartphones Market Research from Vigilance Chari, SmartphoneNinja

How Do Students Use Their Mobile Devices to Support Learning? A Case Study from an Australian Regional University from the Open University Journal of Interactive Media in Education


Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.


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