Tackling Test Stress Tip 19: Unban Handheld Devices

I asked a number of colleagues to help me come up with some ideas for this series of blog posts. One of the retired teachers looked at me matter of factly and said, “you want a relaxing activity for kids after testing? Let them have their handhelds back.” The rest of the group laughed and agreed that would certainly be a stress reliever for the students. I’m sure many readers will have barriers to implementing this tip, but for those of you who can make it happen, here are some links to cool activities to do with cell phones in school:

A list from Steve Dembo’s blog

Six Things from Lindsay Clanfield

Texting Lesson Plan from Amy Bowllan


Related posts


  1. Jason said:

    I think that cell phones could have use in the classroom. Several rooms that I teach in do not have smartboards or projectors. When using GoogleEarth, the students cannot see the maps. If they had phones with internet they could see it very clearly and even edit the maps.

  2. Andrew Zemaitis said:

    My school is enforcing a no handheld device policy with our student population. There are many legal issues that forced this issue to come to a head. “Sexting” being the chief one. I think with proper supervision cells and iPods could be incorporated into lessons as demonstrated by some of the links listed above. The question is whether or not my school system and others like it are willing to risk the “liability” of their use in the classroom.

  3. Russ Kile said:

    Very unique and creative suggestions for the unbanning/use of handhelds. Do you believe these would work too? In pairs (to help students who do not have a phone) have students sample common sounds found in the school using the recording function. Students then guess what the sound is. This could be a great listening exercise. Also you could have one student text a story (that you tell him privately) to another but with certain words restricted and length restriction. Carry the story through several phones to see if the final recipient gets the story correct.

  4. Robyn Wolfe said:

    Hand-held devices are banned in my high school (although every student has one and uses it anyway.) I definitely agree that giving students permission to use their cell phones or media players would help them relax after a test; the use would have to be supervised however. Therein lies the trouble. How does one teacher manage to know what is happening on 25 hand-held devices at the same time? One way to help manage this responsibility would be to give students a task to perform with their phone after the test. For example:
    1) If they have a data plan, have the student research a question you assign using Google.
    2) If they have unlimited texting, have the student text or Twitter you a response to an extra credit question.
    3) If the student has a camera phone, have them take pictures in the classroom to create a picture dictionary of content vocabulary.
    4) If the student has a video phone, have them record an interview of a classmate to summarize the lesson.
    5) If the student has a media player, have them watch a video podcast you assign and write a short summary about it.
    It saddens me that 100% of my high school students bring a device into the classroom that has all of these amazing capabilities, and are forbidden to use it because of the potential for abuse. I’d like to see the ban lifted for supervised use in my school so that I could try some of these ideas with my own students after a test to relieve some stress!

  5. Porter Palmer said:

    @Robyn, I think you’ve hit on a very important issue when it comes to cell phones in school. Any tool (pencils and paper included)could be misused. When they are used FOR instruction, they can make a huge difference for student learning. I love your ideas!

  6. Tracy said:

    I think giving kids back their mobile phone after a test is a rather odd idea. I don’t understand the need to cosset kids so much.

    if you are talking about a formal examination or test then no, they should wait until the test period is over for everyone or they should use the time to go over their paper.

    While in lessons and in school kids should be focused on learning and not on gadgets and sending meaningless text messages. what they do after school or during lunch is up to them. But school is school and they should have dome discipline.

    This is probably a very unpopular view but I think a very valid point.

  7. Porter Palmer said:

    @Tracy, none of the ideas presented in this series have been about things for students to do while they wait for others to complete a test. The ideas are for things to do with students. Check out the comments above yours for some ideas that are focused on learning and don’t lack structure. Maintaining discipline and focusing on learning is a very popular view.

  8. Lynn said:

    I agree there are pros and cons to unbanning handhelds. Might have some success in doing that as a reward for finishing testing than as a standard teaching tool.

  9. Nicci Mangano said:

    @ Robyn Wolfe on “2) If they have unlimited texting, have the student text or Twitter you a response to an extra credit question.” I like your idea of twittering a response AFTER a test, however, in our school we try to drill it into students heads that they are not allowed to have phones during tests. Some teachers place baskets in the front of class to collect phones in until the test is over. If a student has a phone on them during a state exam at the end of the year, they automatically fail the test. I think twitter would be a great extra credit if they had the option to look up the answer to a question after the class was over (or the last 5 minutes) when everyone’s done with the test.

  10. Dawn Huston said:

    I was at a conference recently where the presented said, ” please take out your cell phone and text me your response to the question on the Smartboard.” I thought he was going to say to place your phone on vibrate.

    This great web 2.0 application allows you to text or tweet an response and it will appear on the web page. This can then be placed in a PowerPoint, Smart Notebook or any application that will accept a flash file.

    Poll Everywhere (http://www.polleverywhere.com/)

    I’ve tried this with teachers and they loved it. Still working on the administrations to have the High School students try it out.

  11. Cathy Minaudo said:

    My principal wants some ideas on using phones in our school. I think that the polling idea would be a great start. The poll everywhere demo with PowerPoint or Excel extensions would start a great school wide discussion on educational uses of these accessories that our students carry every day.

  12. MO said:

    This is a way to get around some of the ‘locked out’ sites that you may want to bring to the classroom such as Google apps.

  13. Matt said:

    Our school has a no gadgets policy as well, but I’ve found ways to integrate them into class, and luckily, my administrators like/trust me enough to let it go. I was brought in last year the Friday before classes started, due to an unexpected increase in enrollment, so for the two math classes I taught, supplies were already stretched thin – I didn’t have a class set of calculators, but everyone had one in their pocket to begin with, in their cell phones. My “aha” moment came when I noticed one of my students trying to listen to his ipod surreptitiously during class. In order to not get busted though, he only had one earbud in and was paying close attention with his open ear while working on the assignment and not talking with others around him – basically the opposite of his normal behavior. I didn’t say anything about it, and I called on him randomly during class to answer questions. He was on-topic and answered everything correctly, so I let him keep it up. He was a totally different student for the rest of the year and is doing very well this year also.

    Kids these days operate in environments we usually can’t fathom, with near-overload levels of information bombarding them. At home they’re listening to music, texting friends, checking Facebook, etc, and we want to put them in a chair, tell them to be quiet and focus all their attention on us, and we wonder why they go nuts sometimes?

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