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SmartPhones in the Classroom

Page history last edited by Roxann Nys 10 years, 8 months ago Saved with comment


Smartphones in the classroom?

Yes, there are many educational applications!


The cell phone industry is making a BIG pitch for using smartphones in the classroom. And, of course, there are a variety of opinions out there about using and not using them. My personal opinion--Why not? They are amazing tools, not toys, and so many kids are already carrying them around on a daily basis. Why not show them how they can use them to learn? When are we educators going to start connecting our kids to the real world? If we don't, I believe we'll find them looking elsewhere for learning experiences they can relate to...


How do we move away from this?


Cell Phone Policies

Many area districts are moving toward loosening up policies regarding cell phone use in schools, allowing students to use them during free time (lunch) and giving teachers the option to design their curriculum around the use of mobile devices. In my opinion, districts may be wisest to consider revamping their AUP's (Acceptable Use Policies) to include mobile devices, along with Web2.0 tools. The movement towards embracing the use of cell phones by students also must include taking time to educate students on proper use of phones at school, something that can be done within the classroom as teachers better understand the power of these devices and model effective use.


Here are a few resources that may be helpful as your district considers policy:



Need the 411 on text speak?

How many of these often used text abbreviations do you know?

idk                fb me        brb               10Q

imo                <33            ta                         im
jk or j/k          ur               r                          lol
wb                  sup            ty                         ta or taw
zzz                 cul8r          sms                     182


If you don't know what many of the mean, here are some useful text speak resources to help you:

Digital Life: Understanding Text Message Shortcuts-Cliffs Notes (free)

Text Messaging, Chat Abbreviations, and Smiley Faces-Webopedia

Translate text messages into plain English OR plain English into text abbreviations at lingo2word.com

The Largest List of Text Message Shorthand...on the Web  (R rated-includes offensive text language)


Some Creative Ways to Use Cell Phones in Classrooms

(Please add your ideas in the comments section!)


Cell Phones and Time Management

Reminders and alarms are some of the most useful, built-in tools on a cell phone. Most cell phones come with the ability for you to set an alarm at a certain time of day or on a certain date. You can set alarms to remind you when assignments or projects are due or when a test is coming up. These reminders can be set up weeks and months ahead of time. Students can also set reminders for themselves for homework time (to help keep them from texting right through it.)


Cell Phone as Audio Tools

  • Many cell phones come equipped with a voice recorder. If you tend to forget things, this is a very handy tool. Use the recorder to help you remember homework assignments, memorize terms, practice foreign language pronunciation, and dozens of other tasks. If your phone doesn't have the voice recording feature, you can accomplish many of the same tasks by sending yourself a voice message.


  •  Many schools have their own in-school news programs and the voice recorders on cell phones are handy when conducting interviews to include in news stories.


  • Yodio (a mashup of the terms Your and Audio) Create a free account and link it to your cell phone number. Call the Yodio number and record your voice. Create a YodioCard which includes 1 min. of audio and 1 image for free. Create longer YodioCasts or YodioTours if you wish to be entrepreneurial (for a fee.) Consider how you could use Yodios:
    • with students on field trips-taking pics with cameras and recording their observations
    • as a way of receiving feedback from students after a lesson 
    • younger students could comment on drawings they've made and easily share with families via your class website (you can embed them) or via email. 


Here's their "quick guide"

My first Yodio. :-)



Getting the most out of your cell phone camera

The camera function, when used appropriately, can be a very useful tool. With more focus on multimedia reports and presentations the camera allows you to capture images on your phone wherever you find them. Do remember rules about copyright, however! Also, keep in mind that many cell phone cameras take lower quality pictures/video, so when you transfer them for use elsewhere, remember that you will not be able to enlarge images very much.


There are several ways you may be able to save and transfer the picture. Depending on the cell phone, you may be able to use a memory card, Bluetooth technology, or a USB cable that connects your cell phone with your computer. In some cases, you may be able to email the images to yourself and then add them to your projects via your computer. You may have to do a little detective work to find the best method for your phone.


QR Codes and cell phone cameras (or other mobile devices with QR code readers)


Wondering what those funny looking black and white squares are that seem to be popping up everywhere? They're QR Codes, which contain links to anything, including audio, videos, pictures and websites.


Tony Vincent shares his "how to tips" and MANY great ideas in his LearningInHand Podcast#25 about using QR codes/readers in your classroom:



This video illustrates how we are using QR Codes to enhance learning opportunities for our students at McGuffey School District in Claysville, PA

QR Mobilize is one of many QR code creators out there that you can use (free!) to create QR codes for your classroom and school


Leverage Your Contacts Function

Every cell phone comes with a built in contacts/addresses function. A great use of this "app" is as a vocabulary study list. Enter the words then, in the "notes" section of the contact, enter the definition of the word. Create a "group" for each separate list (most phones have this feature) and make it easy to keep them organized. When the contacts list is opened, you'll see just the words listed. Students can quiz themselves on the meaning and then tap the word to open up the definition info they stored in the notes. Students can also enter spelling words into a group and pull out their phones to review/study whenever they have a few extra minutes.


Google Search-Mobile

From the blog "Classroom in the Cloud"

Did you know Google is accessible by text message? Try it out – send this text right now to 466453 (google): Define disdain

In moments you will receive a text back with a list of definitions matching the word disdain. Think of the possibilities if all of your students had a comprehensive dictionary available at their fingertips. For example: Next time you take a class trip to the zoo, have students define the animals' scientific names that are displayed in front of each exhibit. A later discussion on these names could be a great way to explore species and taxonomy.


Some universal Apps for use on any platform (apps for Android, iOS, Blackberry, web-based) 

DropBox Go Paperless! Dropbox lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily. Access any file you save to your Dropbox from all your computers, iPhone, iPad, Android mobile devices, Blackberry and even the Dropbox website!

Evernote With Evernote, all of your notes, web clips, files and images are made available on every device and computer you use.

Collect information from anywhere into a single place. From text notes to web pages to files to snapshots, everything is always at your fingertips. Snap a photo, record some audio and save it. 

Share your notes and collaborate on projects with friends, colleagues and classmates. Save everything cool and exciting you see online and in the real world. 

Scavenger Hunt with Friends (Lite, .99) Easily set up your hunts and complete the items on your list using the camera on your mobile device to provide evidence that you found the item. Set up one-on-one or multi-player hunts with your friends and compete to see who can complete the most items and rack up the most points. Get points based on the difficulty level of the item." I read about a library media specialist who used this app to create a library hunt so kids could learn how it was organized. 

Class Dojo Class Dojo gives teachers a quick and easy way to focus on developing positive behavior over time. Available on iOS, Android and mobile platforms. Use Class Dojo to:

  • Improve specific student behaviors and engagement by awarding and recording real-time feedback.
  • Print or email beautiful behavior reports to easily engage parents and staff.
  • Save time by recording behaviors and accomplishments right in class, with just one click: NO extra data entry required.


For cell/smart phones with Internet browsers-

The sky is really the limit here...as long as you have good connectivity, most of the Internet is available to you (flash-based resources are usually not.) Google maps to keep you from getting lost (or for students to locate places in the news or that they're researching,) or accessing free e-books. One good source for ebooks comes from text2ph.com, a site that allows you to access books stored on its server. You just download a few pages at a time and there are hundreds of public domain novels as well as short stories available on the site. You don’t even have to download any software to use this service.  For public domain audio books available as mp3 files, which are compatible with most smart phones, try Librivox.



Thanks to Theresa Neuser, CESA 7 ETS Distance Learning Coordinator, for this info


Google Voice gives you a single phone number that rings all of your phones, saves your voicemail online, and transcribes your voicemail to text. Other cool features include the ability to listen in on messages while they're being left, block unwanted callers, and make cheap international calls. Google Voice is free to use. You can sign up here.


Here are some examples to use in education: 

  • Math Text Homework Hotline
    • Teachers use SMS forwarding for homework help
      • Teachers feel comfortable giving out a number
      • students can ask for help using text
      • Teacher can respond from phone, web or email
  •  Science Data Gathering
    • Students leave the classroom to gather data
      • Students forward data via text to teacher
      • Teacher collates data
      • Students return to use class set of data

Other Google SMS tricks like posting via SMS to your blog and getting text reminders of calendar events, are available here.


Verbal Response/Fluency Practice using Google Voice
From the blog "Classroom in the Cloud"
The easiest way to have a student self-edit a piece of writing is to have him/her read it out loud. Errors in punctuation, usage, and transitions become evident as the student stumbles through them. The reason why this editing strategy is rarely used is a matter of logistics. A teacher can't ask 25 kids to read out loud at once in class, and there's no guarantee they'll do it at home if assigned as homework. Unless, of course, they can be held accountable. That's where Google Voice comes in. The service provides the user (presumably the teacher) with a free phone number that comes with voice mail that is automatically transcribed and emailed. This is ideal for several reasons. First, the phone number does not have to be connected to a working phone (so students have no direct way to call the teacher). Second, the teacher has two ways of assessing student work – aurally and by reading the transcript. There are other pay services (Jott, Gabcast, Gcast) that work in a similar way, but hands down, Google Voice is the best option


Similarly, you can use Google Voice as a way for students to perfect a speech  

      • Students call in and give their speech
      • Students and teacher can listen to speech
      • Teacher can download or email speech to students
      • Transcription will tell if student is they are enunciating and speed is correct


Or, for a foreign language class - Sentence Structure (or other word/phrase practice)

      • Students speak sentences in English and the foreign language
      • Teacher and student can listen to it for critique
      • Message is stored so students and teacher can see progression of fluency



Gather Instant Responses


Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Student responses are visually represented for multiple choice, true/false and Short Answer questions. For pre-planned activities a teacher can view reports online as a Google spreadsheet or as an emailed Excel file. 



Twitter in the classroom and as part of your PLN (personal learning network) 

I use Twitter (on my smart phone and on my laptop) as part of my PLN (Personal Learning Network) to stay abreast of what’s happening with those I follow. Of course, not everything everyone posts is earth-shattering or important or even informative, but I have found it a good way to keep “in the know” about many new developments/announcements about EdTech info.

When you set up your Twitter account you have options as to who to follow and who can follow you (I know, at first it seems a little creepy…someone following you…) but you have complete control at all times. Yes, there are spammers who will try to follow you, but you can easily block them.


Twitter will FORCE you to say whatever you want to say in 140 characters or less. What a great way to learn to be concise.


Think how many of your students have cell phones and access to text messaging. Twitter could be a useful tool for you to remind them about an assignment due or a test coming up or ANYTHING else! Consider Twitter–email is SO yesterday! :-)


ALSO: Many area school districts are now using Twitter to update users about the latest district happenings! One of Green Bay Schools' “followers” is local TV station WFRV. What a great way to get the word out to the community!


How can Twitter fit into learning environments? Dr. Monica Rankin, Professor of History at the School of Arts and Humanities at UT Dallas, wanted to reach more students and involve more people in class discussions both in and out of the classroom. She had heard of Twitter... She collaborated with the UT Dallas, Arts and Technology - Emerging Media and Communications (EMAC) faculty to create this experiment. This video is absolutely worth a look. (posted by Ian Jukes)


Check out further resources about Twitter, including how to get started and a Twitter vocabularly link on my wiki.




How does it work? Create an account online and then

  1. You ask ask a question
  2. Audience responds using mobile phones (or Twitter or the web)
  3. Responses are displayed via PowerPoint, Keynote or the web

Poll Everywhere is free for audiences of 32 people (for the K-12 plan) or less and they offer paid plans for larger audiences. K-12 and Higher Education semester-long plans are also available.  The individual teacher plan ($50/year) allows you to export responses for grading purposes as well as moderate responses before they are posted.


Try out a PollEverywhere poll about using cell phones in the classroom!


Create a text message summary of a literary work

Check out this example project from one student. 


Study using your cell phone

Looking for ways to improve and increase retention of material outside of the classroom? StudyBoost is a tool that may help you. (Beta right now, but seems to work well enough to try it out!) StudyBoost could help make studying easy and convenient by complimenting studies using Instant Messaging or Text Messaging. You will need to set up an account online first, and then connect it to an existing social network (like Facebook, Google Talk) to use IM-ing, or to your cell phone number to use text messaging. The service is free!




Cel.ly is a new mass text messaging service that says they are interested in schools using their free service! You can get started by texting "start" to 23559. Cel.ly will ask you for a login/password. You then go to the website Cel.ly, login and set up text message channels. Each channel is set up with a keyword so that students, teachers, community members, and parents can join your mass text message with a keyword from their cell phone! There doesn't seem to be a limit on the number of people that can join your mass alert. Cel.ly also gives you three choices in how you want to set up the mass text alerts. You can have all members send messages back & forth to the whole group. You can have only the teacher (owner of the channel) send messages to the group. You can have the group members send messages back to the teacher only! In addition your texting channel can be public or private. All messages are archived in Cel.ly. Send messages via the Cel.ly website or via phone.

Thanks to Liz Kolb (@lkolb) for this information


Pulse.to is similar to Cel.ly. You can login to the website, create a free account and then you start to set up pulses. You can have a public or private mass texting channel (called "pulses"). In addition, you can select if only the pulse owner can send messages or if everyone in the group can send messages. Pulse.to works in many different countries besides the US and Canada! Pulse.to includes 25 free messages (credits), with additional credit packages available from $5 for 100 credits. (And there are NO automatic recurring monthly charges. You only buy credits when YOU want them!) Thanks to Liz Kolb (@lkolb) for this information

Google Voice is a free service from Google that allows you to get a phone number that you can use to ring all of you phones. Sign up for a free account and you can use it for the services listed above with your students. This way you never have to give out your cell phone number to students. You give them your Google Voice number. You can set the Google Voice number to ring whatever phone you want to. You can have voice mails go to your email account, your cell phone, home phone, your neighbor's phone, or any phone you choose. It can even ring all those phones at once if you want. You can set up the number to send you a text message when you get a new call. You can give out the number and use it for text messaging as well. Using Google Voice with the one of the services mentioned above allows you to communicate with your students without ever giving out your personal phone number. Thanks to Liz Kolb (@lkolb) for this information



Think of Wiffiti as an interactive whiteboard for your classroom or event. New Wiffiti messages are instantly displayed center screen and are easily viewable from a distance. Older messages then fade back and move as an animated cloud, providing enough ambient activity to continually stimulate audience attention and encourage engagement. Interactivity is multi-modal - it can happen at the location via mobile phones, or online via easily embeddable website widgets. Incoming content streams and web and mobile messages update across all instances of the addressed Wiffiti screen automatically.


To avoid anonymous posts, users can register on the Wiffiti site, connect their cell phones and create their own names, which can then be shared with teachers. Note: you cannot delete individual posts from your Wiffiti screen, but you can delete a screen. To get public results on a topic, try adding keywords to your screen.


Lots of potential for use in your classroom or at special events and more. 



Additional Resources

CESA 7's iThings wiki pages for lots of info about using iPhones, iPods, iPads in the classroom (including how to make plan, shoot, edit and publish a movie on an iPhone!)


Step by step instructions and lesson plans can be found in this outstanding article "40 Quick Ways to Use Mobile Phones in Classrooms" by Katie Lepi  2012-10-13


"How Teachers Make Cell Phones Work in the Classroom" by Tina Barseghian,  May 10, 2012

"In the most ideal class settings, mobile devices disappear into the background, like markers and whiteboards, pencil and paper – not because they’re not being used, but because they’re simply tools, a means to an end. The “end” can be any number of things: to gauge student understanding of a concept, to capture notes and ideas to be used and studied later, to calculate, to communicate, to express ideas."


Skype information and resources on my wiki page about videoconferencing (about 2/3 down the page)


Another article of interest is "Educators Look at Using Cell Phones as Teaching Tools" The article features how cell phones are being used in Joe Wood's science class at Somerset Middle School in Modesto, CA. [published in Aug 03, 2009, The Sacramento Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX]


 "From Toys to Tools: Connecting Student Cell Phones to Education" (2008) This book is written by Liz Kolb, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan studying Learning Technologies. She is also an adjunct Professor at Madonna University and a former high school teacher and technology coordinator. Liz has a website called "CellPhonesInLearning.com"  Inside Michigan Education conducted an interview with Liz that you can read online. Here's an excerpt from the book.


Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project: Y U Luv Texts, H8 Calls: We Want to Reach Others But Not to Be Interrupted

"Texting's rise over conversation is changing the way we interact, social scientists and researchers say."


LG has teamed up with Jane Lynch of Glee and other professionals to bring some mobile safety education to parents (and teachers!) They have some lessons and a series of videos that are perfect for introducing mobile safety, discussions about sexting, mobile harassment, mobile teasing, driving and texting, and more with your kids. (Note: Some videos on the site are not loading correctly but you can find a few of them on YouTube.)



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