Using cell phones in the classroom when computers are not available (by Fabiana Casella)

Fabiana Shortlisted

Congratulations Fabiana! Click this image and “like” the facebook image to vote for Fabiana!

Everybody is talking about 21st Century skills and preparing students for a whole different world. The truth is that our students have become digital and there are a whole lot of educators around the world who are still “analog”. That is why I would like to share my work with my two secondary school groups with as many teachers as possible. Internet and Technology in the Classroom have made a huge change in my daily teaching experience.

My story starts right after my first online presentation for The Future of Education Reform Symposium 2013, (RSCON4)  where I was kindly invited to participate by Shelly Sanchez Terrell. Some hours later, I got a message from Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto, who asked me if I would like to write for this High Tech Ideas in the Low Tech Classroom section in Teaching Village. I was flattered, and accepted immediately, but it really took me quite a long time to put ideas together and I thank my dear friend, Rose Bard, for giving me some support.

We do not have computers or tablets in the classroom, only computer labs which are used for computing classes mainly. So when I wanted to integrate technology in my classes, I decided to ask my lovely students and parents as well as administrators, if they would agree with the use of cell phones or Smartphones during the English classes. The answer was an enthusiastic  “YES!! Why not? Absolutely!” They were all very supportive.

Fabiana Casella_5th Advanced 2013_Argentina

My first step was to open an account in Edmodo, the educational platform for teachers, in order to protect my students’ online identity. In this way, I was able to have my students download the Edmodo application, or simply go to the webpage, sign in and join the group I had created for them. It was a fantastic experience for the children and for me. Just seeing them setting their phones in English, then creating a username and password to become members of the group, and finally reading my welcome post filled my heart with pride and joy. There were some students who obviously could not log in so easily, and that turned into one of the best moments. Students started to help each other, giving instructions in English and using the target language beyond the classroom context! From here, we were able to use many online tools and applications as part of our lessons.


Last year, the fact that 100% of my students had a Smartphone (except for me as I just bought one) was a double advantage. I was able to blend my classes, post follow up activities and also some articles to be discussed in class. They could also show me their work in class or even log in and ask me questions about my posts. It certainly required a much bigger effort for me, because I had to think what to teach face-to-face and to check my students’ online assignments and the ones written on paper, the traditional way!

Anyway, I am proud to say that these children responded wonderfully! Almost all of them worked hard all year and completed all of the projects. Those who did not manage to complete all the work were unable to do so because of problems with their Internet connection or power outages at home, the two principal and very common obstacles around this area.

No matter how much you trust your students, as a teacher you need to keep a close watch, and rethink or polish your classroom management skills to suit new situations. My students are teenagers and can start chatting on Whattsap in less than a second! When I caught one of my students on Twitter (without my permission), I asked him to “tweet” in English. That turned into an incredible experience, because his “friends” replied in English, too, while we were in class. Later, students spontaneously volunteered to retell the updated news in every class. It was completely their idea! So we had Twitter readers from The New York Times, Reuters, CNN and other news broadcasters. Having a speaker every class was a real delight! These reports led to discussions on current topics, all in English.

Fabiana Casella_nd Advanced 2013_Argentina

Since we began using cell phones in class, my students and I have worked on many exciting and educational projects together, and with other teachers and students around the world. You can learn more about our projects in this recording from my RSCON presentation (the the slides  are on slideshare) or an interview I did with Vicky Loras.

United Nations project

How did I learn how to integrate cell phones in my teaching? I am not a an expert techy teacher! I am just a teacher! (I know Cecilia Lemos would not like to hear me say that!) Honestly, I am just a teacher who believes in  motivation, creativity and happiness in the classroom. Integrating some technology, as I stated above, made a big difference in my classes. First of all, I promised my students we were going to go GREEN and we did! Later, I said they were going to be able to express themselves in different learning contexts and they did! I think that practicing their foreign language both in the classroom and beyond the limits of the school has been key to student progress. How did I learn to integrate tech tools? I started to read articles, browse Internet websites on technology in education, and listen to the experts by attending as many free online webinars as I could, because conferences and lectures here are too pricey.

During 2012, I had the chance to take a course taught by marvelous Jennifer Verschoor on Tech Tools for the English class, certified by the National Technological University of Argentina. That was the starting point. Since then, I have read and listened to Shelly Sanchez Terrell, Nicky Hockly, Gavin Dudeney, Nik Peachy, Pete Sharma, Vicki Hollet, Rita Zeinstejer (Argentina) and many more. In March 2013, I decided to start studying a Specialization in Education and ICT delivered by the Ministry of Education, so now I have a much more “formal” tuition. “If there is a will, there is a way” is one of my favorite English proverbs, and I believe that this is especially true in teaching. Even if you have a low tech classroom, you can find a way to integrate technology into your teaching!

Fabiana_CasellaFabiana Laura Casella is a passionate English teacher from Argentina, blessed mother of two, and very interested in ELT, Education, Literature, History, Psychology, Music and being a Connected Educator. She has been teaching English to all levels of children, teenagers and adults since she got her Bachelors Degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Between 2001 and 2008, she moved to the United States with her family, where she taught Middle and High School ESL and High School Spanish. Fabiana believes that getting involved in social media and staying in touch with educators around the world has made her grow as a teacher tremendously. You can follow Fabiana on Twitter (@FLCasella) and learn more about her class projects on her blog.


Note: This article byFabiana Casella originally appeared as a guest post on Teaching Village and is licensed under a Creative Commons, Attribution-Non Commercial, No Derivatives 3.0 License. If you wish to share it you must re-publish it “as is”, and retain any credits, acknowledgements, and hyperlinks within it.






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  1. Pingback: Using cell phones in the classroom when compute...

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this, Fabiana! I really enjoyed seeing the projects your students have created, and it’s hard to believe they were all done with cell phones. You found some great ways to make the most of the technology you had available in your class.

    • I would like to thank you, Barbara for giving this opportunity to share what my students do! I am really thankful and proud to be featured here in Teaching Village!
      Thank you once again for all you do for Education and children, Barbara!
      Best wishes,

  3. I loved the way you are learning by doing! I also teach the same age group and all the students have smartphones. Some students don’t have computers at home, only the phones.
    We also use edmodo. I love it!
    Surprisingly, a few students don’t want to use their phones for schoolwork, and will wait their turn on the one computer we have (old). they say I don’t have the right to ask them to waste their battery for school! Even though they love the fact that my room has so many sockets for charging!
    Impressed that you used twitter – haven’t gotten there yet!

    • Dear Naomi:
      Life in schools is hard in many places around the world! My students´ batteries are sometimes low, too or worse… we don´t even have enough signal to connect: those whose connection is better will share their phone with a classmate. These children are unbelievable!. Anyway, it is not we use the phones all the time, there are many Grammar and Vocabulary topics to cover so, we resort to technology” at least once every class.
      I know you can do at least some! Remember, baby steps!
      Best of luck!

  4. Pingback: Using cell phones in the classroom when computers are not available | Teachers Blog

  5. Loved how you managed to find a way to move forward, rather than complain because your students do not access to technology in the classroom (well, even if you complained a little bit … that did not stop you), and this decision of using their smart phones is so wonderful, I see teenagers keep their phones in their hands almost all day long, it looks so smart to encourage them to use it in English.
    Thank you for sharing the process, this is very inspiring for all of us.
    Inspired and creative teacher Fabiana

  6. Pingback: Using cell phones in the classroom when compute...

  7. So. Dear Fabiana
    First, let me thank you for sharing your teaching experience. I have eagerly red it. As to using cell phones, in fact, I did tell my students yesterday that the future was using them in efl lessons. I would use them but it is totally FORBIDDEN at my School. Should I ask the authorities.?
    Thanks and congratulations

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Carlos!. I did ask my administrators as you can read in my article. Let me be honest, cell phones are totally forbidden in my school too! It is just a question of turning in a good plan and account for what you are going to do with them as well as your classroom management strategies. Does this make sense? Hope it helps! Kindly, Fabiana

  8. Dear.
    Thinks for sharing your teaching experience.i am student but I like teaching I read it your very experience in teaching I want to learn something to you.

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  11. I liked your article, which I read because I use smart phones in my classes with adults every day, too.

    We use ipadio and audioboo apps, which are both available for iPhones and Android phones. Students record themselves speaking using the ipadio app for retelling stories or interviews and the audioboo app for pronunciation, repetition, reading aloud. The idea is that they set up their ipadio and audioboo accounts to automatically post to their e-portfolios on WordPress, where they post their corrected writing, too.

    I really recommend teachers to experiment with recording students on smart phones and to overcome obstacles to the use of smartphones in class. It is also important to get the school to install wi-fi and allow students to connect to it.

    • Dear colleague,
      Thanks for your ideas. Please if possible, send me more detailed info to use the apps you use for my lessons.
      Thanks faithfully,

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  14. Your article, dear Fabi, is an inspiration to all teachers who wish to adapt to the new world Technology has opened up for us. I will put up the link in Tic en el Aula to help all members see that, as you very well say, “when there’s a will there’s a way”.
    My admiration, my congrats, and a hug,

  15. I am so happy for you and I hope one day I will be able to use these ‘tech’ items as well…it’s a dream that may come true.
    Good for you and your students are lucky(-:

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  17. Pingback: Fabiana Casella and the First Crusade | Lane Less Travelled

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  20. Pingback: Self Reflection 4: Cell phone usage | EDUC 230 York

  21. Thank you for sharing your teaching experience with us!
    You were lucky enough to get that permission for using smartphones/mobile phones in classes, we’re still not allowed to use them in my school. The same as you and your students, my students and I don’t have any computers in our English classroom, so the only way we can use them is for homework since many students have them at home. And we do so. And it works.

  22. I love the idea of using mobile phones for creative lessons. I participated in several courses this summer about using technology in the classroom. I am worried that I won’t be able to keep up with lesson plans and execution of them. I love that you shared these ideas and also those of Vicky Loras. If you have any other ideas please share them. Thanks.

  23. Hi Fabiana,
    Thanks for the great post! The experience you shared can really open our eyes to the fact that there are definitely great ways to capitalize on what we have regardless of how trivial it may look. I’ll certainly reconsider how to make use of what I may have access to in my low tech teaching environment.