An apple, a bell, and a grammar guide signifying conventional education.

Todd Petrie/flickr

Smartphones and other mobile devices have long been labeled as distractions and learning impediments in the classroom — but not anymore.

In the past, inattentive students would often pass notes or gaze longingly out the window during class. But today, students are sending texts and effectively gazing through a window to the world, all with the help of their smartphones.

To many, mobile devices are an inherently distracting technology, which is reason enough to ban them from the classroom for good. But some educators are looking at smartphones and tablets in terms of their potential as teaching tools, suggesting that the power of the mobile platform should be harnessed rather than hindered.

An Ongoing Debate

According to a recent article in the UK-based newspaper, The Times, this idea of smartphones entering the classroom is at the center of a heated debate amongst regional educators. Some teachers and administrators view the devices as mere distractions at their best and, thanks to the prevalence of cyberbullying, outright dangerous at their worst.

Some even feel that smartphones are so detrimental to the learning process that they should be banned not only from entering the classroom, but from the school grounds altogether.

On the other side of the coin are those education professionals that see the inherent potential in the platform for good.

Their argument is essentially this: considering the undeniable ubiquity of mobile devices in the world today, denying students access to their phones and tablets in the classroom will only serve to create a disconnect between students’ educational environment and their everyday experiences.

They also point out that as the contemporary workplace becomes increasingly technocentric, educators must ensure that their students are properly equipped for future careers with this fact in mind. They should therefore encourage pupils to embrace and explore every form of technology at their disposal.

How Mobile Devices Fit Into the Classroom

Recently, a number of websites geared toward teachers and other education professionals have addressed this question of how smartphones could be integrated into the classroom. TeachHub, for example, suggests that teachers use smartphone apps to record lectures, provide access to course materials, and distribute in-class tests and questions and track the responses.

Teachers can also use smartphone apps to keep their students engaged in the course content, according to [email protected]. Apps like Google Docs, FaceTime, and Trello can help facilitate a multitude of student activities, including class discussions, group projects, peer reviews of essays, and video and article sharing.

Most of these services are compatible across multiple platforms, which means that students could, for example, work on a group project on a tablet in the classroom during the day, then continue working together from their smartphone or family computer when they’re home in the evening.

Educational Apps Are the Future

While there are a number of great multi-purpose apps available that could enhance the education of potentially billions of children, nobody understands what students need in order to learn effectively better than their teachers.

With Infinite Monkeys, teachers can build affordable apps designed to meet the specific needs of their own students. The platform’s easy-to-use, drag and drop interface means that zero prior programming experience is required.

In less than 20 minutes, teachers can launch virtual discussions, paperless homework submissions, mobile lecture halls — literally anything they can think of to enhance the learning experience.