Perhaps if we didn't think of cell phones as phones but rather as devices we may see greater possibilities. Thinking of the cell phone as a phone makes even me want to bar them from the classroom; the distraction they will create to a learning environment. After all, none of us had a phone in class. And I think it is safe to say that those of us 30+ can remember what the "wall phone" looked like, or at the very least, we can picture the cordless base station. We remember that the phone was used to call and chat with others, rarely did learning take place over the phone.
However, today's cell phones, smart or not, do so many functions that we need to think of them as devices that also can be used as phones. Other such devices including laptops and tablets are used to enhance the classroom. By the way most of these devices can be used like a phone; texting, imessaging, skyping and Facetiming. However, must of us would happily accept a classroom set of devices finding a way to overlook the phone function and instead look at the research possibilities or learning apps that can be applied.
So, if you are someone who is still fighting the fight to keep "phones" out of the classroom, I challenge you to change the way you look at the small rectangular device. Then invite it into your classroom. Have your students begin to use use Twitter, make a video problem, send in their answers via text or SMS, supply quick formative feedback via poll anywhere. The possibilities are endless.
It is amazing to see anyone that still struggles with thinking of smart phones as devices; cell phones are too broad a group though. For those still fighting the issue you might want to do some reading about augmented human intellect. Vannevar Bush first wrote about it in 1945 when he argued that machines could function as an extension to human memory and he proposed a machine that he called a Memex. Yes, you read that correct the year was 1945. For all of you who like to mention Prensky's digital natives and migrants this may come as a shock. Fast forward a bit and you can read about some research going on in 1962 in a proposal by Douglas C. Engelbart.
Where we are was envisioned a long time ago, but the educational institutions have been slow to prepare for it. Simply suggesting that cell phones be allowed in to the classroom is not enough. The manner in which assessment is done must change. Think about how assessment can properly be done when each student has a personal repository of information in the palm of their hand. What are the skills that will be most important for people to possess in the future?
For some perspective evaluate how innovative you feel Apple is... would it shock you to find out that they invented very little? Apple has been very good at, what the educational world would call, plagiarism. Before any Apple fans get bent out of shape please read this article to get a better idea of what I mean. Apple combined a bunch of different inventions that other people made and mixed them together to create some very special items. Other people even conceived of the items before Apple did. How does the K-12 environment encourage and nurture this ability?