Smart Tip: Circumventing Mobile Phone Bans in Classrooms
March 15th, 2009

Recently I was tweeting with an innovative educator regarding a mobile learning project she is currently developing. In our micro-conversation I learned that she would like to augment her students’ project based work by introducing mobile phone usage in to the classroom. This seems like a logical idea, use phones to increase communication amongst students and thus enhance the level of collaboration for the projects they are working on. Sounds great! However, sadly this is not how it works in many of today’s institutions. Mobile phones are banned in the classroom for many reasons, [There is an interesting discussion going on throughout the interlink as to whether we should ban mobile phones in primary and secondary schools?]  but maybe the main reason is precisely what  Mimi Ito points out in that mobile phones “enable young people to escape the demands of existing social structures and parental surveillance.”1
Yet, despite the ban on mobile phone, industry, including many teachers and the digital natives are still  looking for ways to introduce them into the classroom.

Alas!, the winds of change are stirring. Schools are beginning to acknowledge that mobile technologies (maybe not phones) DO have a place within the classroom. One such beloved mobile technology is the Nintendo DS, an internet enabled portable “gaming” console which is quickly becoming a normal possession among students of all ages.  Many countries such as Japan and the United Kingdom have introduced Nintendo DS consoles into the classroom because there are numerous educational uses for them (And surely less disruptive than mobile phones).

And there are many uses for the Nintendo DS. In its current state the it can already be used  for peer-to-peer text and pict-o-chat (essentially a basic SMS or primitive white-board ) within the classroom, but little is know that this gaming console has the basic hardware configuration to essentially turn it into an VOIP mobile phone.

Hence, today’s Smart Tip is to turn your Nintendo DSlite into a mobile phone Trojan horse, thus allowing anyone (with a little technical prowess) to circumvent existing mobile phone bans in classrooms.

The following video is a wonderful tutorial on how to turn a Nintendo DS into a phone.

“Using a free SIP server and a new homebrew application, you can turn a Nintendo DS (connected to wireless LAN) into a VOIP based mobile phone”

Reference: 1: Ito, Mizuko (2005) Mobile Phones, Japanese Youth, and the Re-placement of Social Contact. Springer London.

Lookout for the NEW Nintendo DSi scheduled to launch sometime this year. It has many enhanced features which would support enhanced communication and and augment collaboration within the classroom.

The above video was a tip given by Timo Wilks of mobile zeitgeist

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I teach in a charter high school for inner-city youth and our school policy forbids the use of iPods and cell phones in the classroom. As a result, we spend more time taking away potential learning tools than actually teaching the students. Instead of looking at these devices as educational expanders and enhancers, our school policy (and I am confident this is a common mistake made by many public educational institutions) creates a conflict between one generation’s view of mobile technologies (that they are a distraction and a method of usurping authority) and another generation’s concept of mobile technologies as a tool of everyday life and learning. This approach does not take advantage of the multiple mediums available to present and analyze information, nor does it aim to produce the necessary skills that the current generation of students will need in order to succeed in the constantly evolving business and environment of the 21st century.

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