This morning after reading, “Thumbs Race as Japan’s Best Sellers Go Cellular,” I learned about a new genre of literature called the cell phone novel. Not surprisingly when you think about it, young people across Japan (especially women) are using their commute time to tap away at best selling novels on their cell phones. For example, the New York Times article notes:
A 21-year-old woman named Rin, wrote “If You” over a six-month stretch during her senior year in high school. While commuting to her part-time job or whenever she found a free moment, she tapped out passages on her cellphone and uploaded them on a popular Web site for would-be authors.
After cellphone readers voted her novel No. 1 in one ranking, her story of the tragic love between two childhood friends was turned into a 142-page hardcover book last year. It sold 400,000 copies and became the No. 5 best-selling novel of 2007, according to a closely watched list by Tohan, a major book distributor.
This article immediately brought back memories of my time teaching English and early literacy classes in Japan 5 years ago. All of my students had cell phones. In fact, I constantly had to tell my 7-year-old students to put away their phones during class! That said, after reading the aforementioned article this morning, I began thinking about cell phones not as villains of the classroom, but as teaching and learning tools. Children love their cell phones, so how can we get children to use cell phones in a manner that might help build their literacy skills?! Some ideas:
1) Have students type their own cell phone novels. Make sure to okay this with parents in advance! Text messaging can be expensive without a prepaid package!
2) Have students make a photo documentary using the camera function on their cell phones. After they take a sufficient number of photos, they can upload them to sites such as Flickr and type narrative descriptions for each picture to share with classmates, family and friends.
3) Have students create educational podcasts with their cell phones (or home phones) using free services like Gabcast that allow users to record podcasts using their phones. The podcasts can then be uploaded to blogs or other multimedia sites to share. Thanks to Liz Kolb for sharing this idea!
4) Have students text message their parents homework assignments so that after school there is no confusion as to what is due the next day.
For more ideas on how to use cell phones as teaching, learning, technology and literacy building tools, check out this excellent video presentation by Liz Kolb filled with ideas on how to incorporate cell phones into classroom and homework activities. Her ideas are guaranteed to get your students excited about school assignments! Thanks Liz!