This is a part of a series on mobile devices available for learning.


It seems like nearly everyone has a cell phone these days. There are “smart phones,” like the iPhone and Android phones, that are full featured handheld multimedia devices, but even regular cell phones with cameras and text messaging can be very useful educational tools.

Credit: Ian Kennedy
Credit: Ian Kennedy

Manufacturers and models:


The range of prices for cell phones ranges from free to $500+, depending not only on the features of the phone, but also on what service plan you sign up for with the carrier.


  • A large percentage of students already have cell phones. Running a BYOD program and filling in for those students who don’t have or opt not to bring their own device can be an inexpensive way to reach 1:1.
  • Cell phones provide a way to engage students in learning 24/7.
  • Cell phone use is growing and is likely to be the dominant computing platform.


  • There can be a distraction factor with cell phones, and as a result, many schools have policies against cell phones in school. We hope these policies will change, but see below for a work-around in the meantime.
  • The issue of carriers and monthly plans with different rates can be complicated for schools to manage.
  • BYOD programs mean managing a variety of different devices in your classroom. Possible solutions to that are focusing on common functionality (e.g. text messaging) or giving students options and letting them sort out what tools work best for them on particular assignments.

Killer applications:

  • For smartphones:
    • Blended and online learning
    • Ebooks
    • Multimedia
    • Writing
    • Research
    • Skills practice
  • For all cell phones:
    • Email
    • Photo posting
    • Text messaging
      There are so many things you can do with text messaging, including:

Things to consider and some opinions:

  • Think about your curriculum goals before deciding on any devices.
  • Cell phones are nearly ubiquitous and so essential to many students out-of-school lives that it doesn’t make sense to ignore them as a learning tool.
  • There is a lot you can do via text messaging that doesn’t require a smartphone.
  • Many schools have policies against cell phones in school, but there is no reason you can’t have students do homework with cell phones.
  • Cell phones can be used in school in “airplane” mode or with the wireless feature turned off. In fact, some schools use cell phones without a wireless feature even enabled.
Mobile devices: Cell phones
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