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Volume 26, Number 4
July/August 2010

“Dumb” Phones, Smart Lessons

Schools Answer Student Calls for Mobile Computing


In Santa Ana, Calif., Judy Pederson smiles when she sees her ninth-grade English Literature class bent over their cell phones, furiously texting. They are engaged and on task, and she will soon have their thoughts on the possible consequences of Friar Lawrence marrying two star-crossed lovers in sixteenth-century Verona. The students’ texts go from their phones to a website to the white board on her classroom wall.

“Before, it was difficult getting them to write,” says the Valley High School teacher, who has decided to exploit rather than fight the oft-observed teen addiction to cell phones. “But now when I ask them to compose back stories or give advice to conflicted literary characters, they’re into it.” Her only requirement is that her students, who generally come from first-generation immigrant homes, use standard English.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.