Why should a teacher be prepared to allow or require students to use mobile devices to achieve learning objectives?

The answer here is pretty simple.  Avoiding the use of technology in today’s classroom is doing a disservice to yourself as a teacher and each of your students as well.  Just three days ago, I was sitting in an international airport, observing people as I like to do as a way to pass time between flights.  One of the things I observed was the number of people (mostly youngsters) playing games on their cell phones.  Immediately in my head I thought what you would expect: “kids these days are glued to their phones!”  However, reality is that when I was in high school just 12ish years ago, we had a similar addiction that was virtually impossible to attend to at school: Playstation and Xbox.  I can remember vividly talking to friends about new games we had purchased, levels we had beaten, or upgrades that we had unlocked.  This was no doubt a distraction to our learning and it was absolutely no part of our curriculum in school nor did I ever hear of any schools trying to integrate these game consoles to help students learn better in Math or Social Studies classes.

Today as teachers, we have an advantage – we CAN integrate our students’ favorite pieces of technology and CAN use them to directly help with learning in ANY classroom.  Think about that… how amazing!  The very thing that distracts students from traditional classroom learning can be transformed into their primary learning device.  Yeah, so what if they check a Facebook notification or install the latest update on their favorite gaming app – at least that distraction is gone for the moment.  The point is that we have their attention through the use of a very strong tool.  Asking students to complete an assignment using a mobile device in today’s learning environment should be just as common as I felt it was back in the day for a teacher to remind me to use a #2 pencil when bubbling in my answers on a test.

But, how do we keep students on task?

Guiding Principles & Best Practices for Mobile Learning

1. Have a clear indicator in the classroom telling students when it is okay to have mobile devices out and when it is not (Hudson, 2013).
If your classroom is not a 1-1 setup yet, this is important.  Make sure that students know when they can use their personal mobile devices and when they need to pay attention to activities in class.
2. In order to spend more time learning and less time typing in URL’s, making QR codes for students to scan to access websites is a game-changer in time management (Hudson, 2013).
3. Teachers must have a backup plan if technology fails (Zhu, n.d.).
It is inevitable that when it comes time for you as a teacher to present your most anticipated lesson using 100% technology that you have prepared feverishly for, the school network will crash, or you will have forgotten your laptop at home, or half of the class would have left their mobile device at home.  Be prepared for this.
4. Group sharing and collaborating through the use of mobile devices is so easy – make sure to use this as an asset and have students peer review and learn from each other instead of just submitting all assignments to you as the instructor (Zhu, n.d.).
5. If using mobile devices in class will be a normal practice, rearranging the desks so that it is easier for the teacher to monitor students’ screens is wise (1:1 Classroom Management, n.d.).
6. Use a visible timer for shorter in-class activities to help keep students on task (1:1 Classroom Management, n.d.).
7. Restructure lessons to include mobile devices more often.  For instance, instead of having students complete a test review on paper, develop a Kahoot! where students compete.

Using Mobile Activities in a Physical Education Class

  1. An idea that I referenced in a previous assignment was the use of a mobile device to record a game of football being played in class.  The students’ task would be to edit their recording and provide voiceovers – acting as a sports broadcaster.  The catch here is that it is in an EAL school where students are learning English, and students are required to use a certain amount of vocabulary words and phrases in their broadcasting that they learned throughout the unit.
  2. The ability to record form and execution of countless sports movements and play the movement back on a delayed timer is quite valuable.  Instead of just telling students time and time again “your form is wrong,” you can actually show them by use of a tablet on a stand.
  3. A teacher can use a mounted mobile device to record and analyze class for assignment grading at a later time.  It is inevitable that when grading PE classes on participation, sportsmanship, or hard work, one or two students get missed.  Filming the class for potential review at a later time minimizes this risk.
  4. (I realize this directly references an app, but I couldn’t help to not include it) As I mentioned earlier, Kahoot! is an excellent tool for class.  Compared to other test review strategies, this has no greater of a prep time than others.  Students can be individual or grouped on a mobile device to compete against each other in a quiz game that has a fun way of scoring questions based on amount of time taken to answer each one.


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1:1 Classroom Management. (n.d.). Retrieved February 06, 2017, from http://www.duxbury.k12.ma.us/Page/8152

Hudson, H. (2013, May 28). 10 Classroom Technology Policies That Work. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from https://www.weareteachers.com/10-classroom-technology-policies-that-work-2/

Zhu, E. (n.d.). Practical Guidelines for Using Technology Tools in Classroom Teaching. Retrieved February 05, 2017, from http://www.crlt.umich.edu/gsis/p4_3