More students than ever are learning with a smartphone by their side. While some teachers fear that smartphones in the classroom distract students from their lessons, savvy educators embrace the latest technologies to engage with their students and encourage new learning strategies.
Three of the most popular smartphone features – texting, social networking, and playing games – can all be utilized for digital-age learning. Here are some ideas how:
- Make office hours virtual. Schedule a one-hour period in the evening when students can communicate with teachers about homework problems or questions via text. Extend this period the night before exams.
- Use photos and video. Encourage students to capture real-world examples of classroom lessons through mobile pictures or videos that can be sent via text to the teacher. Teachers can carve out 5 minutes once a week to share the examples with the entire class.
- Digitize the phone tree. Make sure every student has the phone number of at least one other student in the class in case they are sick, miss an assignment or have questions with homework.
- Make learning social. Create a Facebook page or Twitter hashtag for the class where students can discuss assignments, share study materials and collaborate.
- Engage on Twitter. Teach students to engage with the outside world by encouraging them to insert themselves into one or two Twitter conversations weekly that revolve around class topics.
- Influence your class. Provide a list of 10-15 “influencers” that students should follow or “like” at the beginning of a semester, based on the subject matter. Ask each student to report on one interesting thing they learned per month.
- Make learning a game. As part of the class syllabus, suggest mobile games and apps that will help students with the curriculum.
- Foster some healthy competition. Encourage students to share with the class when they find mobile apps that help with school. Put aside a few minutes to teach students how to play and give extra credit points to the student with the highest score at the end of the semester.
Smartphones are a reality for today’s students. By encouraging them to use their smartphones in the classroom as part of the learning model, teachers can reach their students in the ways that are most comfortable to young people, and show them that school and outside interests can collide in a way that makes learning fun and tangible.