Mobile Learning: Let’s Do It!

I know a few key facts about each of my students that helps me realize that I need to integrate mobile learning in my classroom. For one, all of my students (100% of them) have mobile devices with internet access. Another fact, they use these devices for at least one hour every evening after school and a lot more frequently on the weekends. Roughly 75% of them chat with a friend or family member regularly using a messenger app and 100% of them play games.  

One other fact, I’ve never actually seen any of them use their phones in school, that is until I completed a Scavenger Hunt that required them to bring their phones to school to take pictures and videos, and upload them to a folder for the whole class to see. They loved the activity. They were so engaged with the content – answering questions, finding clues, and simply finishing the scavenger hunt – that they nearly forgot about the goal – to get the most points and win! And, of course, to review the math concepts we’ve studied this semester.

After seeing how much fun they had using devices in the classroom, I thought there has to be a way to do this more often to benefit the students. However, I need to figure out how to do this in a smart way. Here are some guiding principles I think I would need to address before using a mobile device in the classroom:

  • How much time will it take to integrate technology into this lesson? How much time can I set aside to introduce the activity and the technology needed? Is this time well spent?
  • How is a mobile device enhancing the lesson? Is it a means to achieve the learning objective? Am I using the phone to promote 21st century skills?
  • Have a I used the app I’m planning to use with my class before? Have I spent enough time fooling around with the app myself? Have the students used it before? Do I need to give a tutorial?
  • Have I made my plan for phone use clear? Was I specific in planning out how the students will use their phone? Is there room for creative use in a different way if a student knows of a different program/app to use? Have I clearly defined my expectations?
  • Have I assigned project leaders? Have I chosen students to be the experts of this app so I have more helping hands walking around to ensure the project goes well?
  • Do I have a backup plan? Do I have additional resources that can make the plan still work, if say, I lose internet access during the class? If everything goes haywire at the last minute, do I have another option I can use to supplement or replace my activity?
  • Do I have a system in place? Have I sent a permission slip home to parents about phone use in this activity? Have students signed a contract detailing that they are accountable for their phones? Is everyone’s phone labeled? Do the students have a special place to leave their phones to make sure they don’t get lost or damaged?

Once I have addressed these principles in creating activities that integrate phones into the classroom, I can begin to do just that.

Here are some explanations of why, and how, I would implement mobile devices into the classroom:

Navigation. Why not use some of the basic functions we use all the time to help students get used to GPS at a young age? Students can start tracking the location of objects and recording different features. For example, let’s say you’re studying plant life in your class. Students can walk around school or their community, find specific plant life, write down its location, then record observations about its size, leaf texture, and condition. If you wanted to complete a history project, you could explore a historical site in your area and have students break up into groups to record their findings of artifacts and document where they were located so the whole class could find other them. With this type of activity, you could also keep in touch throughout with the use of the mobile device (Ash 2010).

Collaboration. Another great way to integrate devices into the classroom is using chat programs to get discussion flowing and questions answered. A teacher could have live threads for questions as a way for students to post their questions without disrupting the flow of the class. That way, the teacher can finish their train of thought, and then address all questions at one time. Or, better yet, if another student knows the answer, they could post it and share their knowledge with the rest of the class. There are also those really engaging topics that students just don’t want to stop talking about. If they have a forum to continue discussing online, who’s to say they will stop? It allows for students to engage more thoroughly with the topic and they could continue discussions into the evening hours if they choose.

Quick solutions to problems. Alternatively, some of the questions that students have are simply understanding a word or needing a visual aid to help reference what a teacher is discussing in class. Why not let them quickly look it up? This is a great way to start getting learners to research their own questions online quickly and efficiently (Ormiston). For example, when teaching students about underwater landforms the other day, my students wanted to understand the actual depth of the Mariana Trench and one fact is that Mt. Everest could actually fit inside of the trench. This could be an opportunity for the students to look up the exact height of Mt. Everest and see for themselves how tall Mt. Everest is, and imagine the mountain fitting inside of the trench.

Photos and Videos. Using basic photo and video apps to create engaging presentations, documenting things they see, collaborating with another to make a cool project, are all easy and simple ways to see the future of mobile devices in the classroom. These types of projects also leave room for student innovation. They can pick their own apps that they know how to use well to create projects independently or with their peers.

Fun. Last, but certainly not least, how much fun do students have using their phones? Tons! It’s hard not to see how much they actually love using their mobile devices. It can transform a lesson from “watching paint dry” to actually painting a wall with friends, and there are so many ways that we can do this. If you can take one activity and make it more fun, why not? It will be more fun for the students and more fun for the teacher. You can take a math lesson and turn it into a scavenger hunt that uses various apps – for example, GPS, photos, and videos. You could have your students check in at locations when investigating their community for pollution and document what they see, or take videos of park features if they’re learning about urban spaces, etc. There are a myriad of ways to use mobile devices to make lessons more fun.

We can see all of the benefits mobile devices can contribute to a lesson, so why not include them in the classroom? We know that our students use them everyday and it’s high time that we harness their capabilities as a use for learning. They will need their mobile devices in order to develop 21st century skills that they will need in the workforce later on, so we should start using them as early as possible. As long as we do this in a well-planned and orchestrated way, I can see nothing but a positive outcome.

Sources

Ash, K. (2010, October 15). Educators Explore How to Use GPS for Teaching. Retrieved February 02, 2016, from http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2010/10/20/01gps.h04.html

Hardison, J. (2013, January 07). 44 Smart Ways to Use Smartphones in Class (Part 1) – Getting Smart by @JohnHardison1 -. Retrieved February 02, 2016, from http://gettingsmart.com/2013/01/part-1-44-smart-ways-to-use-smartphones-in-class/

Ormiston, M. (n.d.). How to Use Cell Phones as Learning Tools. Retrieved February 02, 2016, from http://www.teachhub.com/how-use-cell-phones-learning-tools

Sinha, R. (2013, May 15). Integrating Mobile Technology into the Classroom. Retrieved February 02, 2016, from http://edtechreview.in/trends-insights/insights/330-mobile-technology-in-classroom

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