There’s a movement about called BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) that suggests in-class mobile learning might be the wave of the future. Some educators see it as a way to add extra learning layers to class time. Some are exploring response-type apps as an alternative to paper tests, and many are using the opportunity to learn more about mobile technology, themselves.
As with any new development, there are policy issues that come up — some kids who don’t own devices, rules to limit texting and gaming in class are needed, and teacher education is a plus. In the long run, smartphone classrooms may leap to the forefront in terms of student aptitude, and the challenges of establishing boundaries are outweighed by the benefits.
How can you be a cutting-edge mobile learning teacher?
- Set aside certain class periods as a time for students to use mobile technology to find answers. Be sure students and parents know in advance which class meetings will be smartphone sessions, so they can adjust parental blocking for that hour.
- Establish a Facebook page for your class, and encourage students to communicate among themselves about current subjects. Strict rules for posting should allow only for informative, positive communications. Monitor the page closely.
- Find an educational app that supports and enhances one of your subjects. Set aside class time for students to work with the app and talk about what they’ve learned. Be sure parents are involved in downloading or, at least, approve the download.
- Encourage students to tweet throughout a film or lecture, with the goal of teaching others through posting comments and insights about what they’re learning at the moment. This is an excellent teaching tool, if used with constraint and planning, because it requires students to pay close attention. Show the live tweet stream on a large screen for those who aren’t tweeting.
- In upper grades, encourage students to snap a photo of your whiteboard notes, so they’ll have a copy to study along with their own notes. Or, better yet, take a photo of your board and either post it on the class’s Facebook page or send to the class email list.
Getting parents involved is key
Especially in lower grade levels, parents or guardians need to take an active role in their kids’ use of smartphones. Parent teacher conferences should include a technology segment to explore how involved parents are in their kids’ smartphone activities, and discuss how they might use them as learning tools.
- Organize a discussion for parents about smartphone safety and security at school. Present facts and ideas about smartphones in the classroom to your school’s PTA meetings or call a parent gathering.
- Send home a copy of the Mobile Contract with each student. Ask that the contract, or a copy of it, be returned to you with signatures after it’s been discussed at home, so you’ll know the students’ mobile restrictions.
Be sure your students know how to stay safe on their smartphones.
Kids need to know the rules for safe smartphone behaviors. Teachers are in a perfect position to raise awareness about security, using posters, mottos, messages and the materials offered by NCSA. Student reminders can include:
- Keep your phones “clean” and updated. Never send texts or photos that could compromise your privacy.
- We’re all entitled to privacy. Get permission before snapping and/or posting someone else’s photo.
- Don’t overshare on social network posts. You may attract unwanted friends.
- Don’t respond to texts or calls from anyone you don’t know.
- Keep your geo-location features in the off position unless they’re intentionally in use.
- Not all apps are safe. Learn to read permission screens and/or have parental approval before downloading apps.
We recognize that teachers often carry the double burden of teaching kids as well as educating their parents. We hope our learning materials and those from NCSA will be helpful in bringing mobile technology to the classroom in a responsible and constructive way.
Please share your ideas about using smartphones in the classroom. Are you using mobile technology for teaching? Do you have some great ways of incorporating smartphones into your lessons? We’d love to hear from you on our blog or Facebook page.