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Teachers' Class Promotes Cell Phones As Next Great Learning Tools

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A new course at Columbia University's Teachers College looks at cell phones not as a classroom distraction, but a tool. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

In one class at Columbia University's Teachers College, students don't get in trouble for having their cell phones out. It is the first course in the country training teachers on how to use mobile phones to teach in their classrooms.

"There is a real need to make use of this technology because this technology is already in people's hands. It's cost effective, it's cheap and affordable," says Dominic Mentor of Teachers College

Based on research done at Teachers College, the course explores the ways educators can use cell phones for educational purposes.

"Cell phones have definitely become mini-computers. They are becoming more and more powerful, they are becoming fast, they're becoming user-friendly," says Mentor. "There is so much that you can do with it. I think most people only use about 5 percent of the phone's features."

Some educators say cell phones can replace many of the expensive technology systems being sold to schools. However, the 1.1 million students in the city's public schools are not even allowed to bring cell phones into the buildings.

Professors at Teachers College say rules like that will eventually have to change.

"Last summer, the new Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, he talked about that kids are on their phones for 10, 12 hours a day but most of them can't use it in class or in school," said Nabeel Ahmad of Teachers College. "So it kind of makes sense in a lot of ways to start integrating it. Instead of using it as a distraction, how can you use it as a tool?"

Teachers College first started offering the cell phone teaching course last summer, and it has been so popular that the school is adding an advanced level this summer.

"I think it's really forward-looking of the faculty here to develop these types of courses, because they are relevant to people who are interested in using the technologies in their writing, in their research but also in the field," says student Colette Mazzucelli. "So it's a mix of theory and practice, which is great."

"It's not about mobile programming or everyday use of the phone, but more about what are the theories we can use and apply in an educational setting, and in my case, health education," says student Tseday Alehegn.

As cell phones become an increasingly important part of people's personal lives and work responsibilities, they may soon become an important part of the classroom.

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