Part 2: 36 Smart Ways to Use Smartphones in Class

Smartphone Use 36 IdeasIn continuation of last week’s article, Part 1: 44 Smart Ways to Use Smartphones in Class, here is a new list of thirty-six additional ideas to help leverage the power of these tech gadgets in the learning environment. In this blog post, I have attempted to avoid any redundancies, and I sincerely hope my endeavors were successful. Please join me in helping educators everywhere creatively use smartphones by contributing any overlooked uses and supportive responses via this survey. The shared comments can easily be assessed by clicking this link.

Use Smartphones to Collaborate

  • Have students collaborate with their off-campus peers by exchanging phone numbers. This may sound far-fetched, but the organization is easy to set up. Through teacher communication, an explanatory permission letter, and a shared Google form/spreadsheet, appropriate information from many students could be distributed. Imagine, for example, three different classes from three different schools collaborating on a shared project. Now that is “real-world.”
  • Use the Skype smartphone app to accomplish the same task mentioned above. I am blessed to be in a school with a strong wi-fi setup. Obviously, you will want to check on the availability and coverage of wi-fi in your school.
  • Embrace the power of augmented reality with apps like Planet Finder to make a lesson plan more realistic. Imagine thirty in-class students pointing their smartphones towards the sky to reveal the actual location of Jupiter, Mars, or Saturn.
  • Use Junaio on a field trip to continually research and access information on-the-go. This app uses augmented reality to “float” informational bubbles in the direction of the host area. Although it is often used by shoppers and social media fans, Junaio is well worth the time spent investigating its potential educational value.
  • Participate in an on-campus scavenger hunt to locate QR codes that link to assignments via the teacher’s pre-made YouTube videos or other websites. This active lesson can be as intricate as time allows. However, teachers should not take on all the stress of creating the QR code-based mega-lesson. Students can create QR codes directly from their smartphones. Apps like Qrafter and Redlaser can help with creating and viewing quick response codes.

Use Smartphones to Communicate

  • Have P.E. students/athletes post workout data by using a Google form/spreadsheet. Instead of the old school format of a wall poster where students pencil in their workout maxes, P.E. teachers and coaches can ask students and players to quickly post their athletic progress directly from their smartphones. This method encourages educators to abandon the time-consuming and inefficient task of periodically calculating the data. Instead, educators can simply input a formula and share the spreadsheets online and/or print them out and make visible on classroom walls. Students will also have the freedom to continue their workouts and training outside the classroom without having to remember to record their scores upon return to school. They can take care of inputting the data immediately after performing the task.
  • Athletic coaches can also integrate powerful apps like Cyclemeter, Heart Rate Monitor by Azumio, and iMapMyRide with modern workout accessories like heart-rate monitors to create powerful and accurate data. Click here to see how Coach John Calipari of Kentucky is doing something similar to get the most out of his players. Just imagine how this on-going data collection could be integrated into science, math, language arts, and even history lessons. Heck, you could even ask an art student to illustrate the growth of an athlete in a symbolic drawing or painting, while inviting a “Music Theory” student to create an instrumental song that accurately depicts the same student’s triumphant transformation.
  • Generate interest in a lesson by asking students to peruse new movie trailers and identify correlations between the storylines and the assigned standards. Flixter works perfectly for this assignment.
  • Extend lessons by having students listen to related podcasts.

Use Smartphones to Create

  • Not enough cameras to go around when recording original movie trailers and mini-movies? No worries. Allow students to use the powerful iMovie app to produce polished videos. On a personal note, I see this so often with my 13 year-old son who routinely turns a slow, laid-back Sunday afternoon with his friends and cousins into a collaborative movie-making expedition with a create-on-the-go script, multiple camera angles, and an accompanying soundtrack. With this app, students can elevate any lesson plan by creating an interesting movie trailer.
  • Use action movie and Extras4iMovie apps to bolster and add special effects to any video. Would you want students dodging a runaway car during class to make an effective mini-movie? With a few swipes of the thumb, the same special effect can be added with these way-too-easy apps.
  • Rig a smartphone or iPod to any tripod to avoid recording “floating” scenes.
  • Lean on Videolicious and Vidify apps to create less-tedious, short films.
  • Use apps like Mouth Off, Zippo Lighter, Lightsaber, and Rimshot for visual props and to liven up any in-class skit or presentation.
  • Upload audio, video, pictures and text to a polished online, multimedia presentation using the Capzles app.
  • Create an instant song with Songify. Have no singing or rapping talent? No worries. Just speak into the app and let it work all the magic.
  • For the more serious musicians, use SoundCloud to record original sounds, songs, and podcasts to share with the world.
  • Take an a cappella recording to newer heights by producing original tracks with Easy Beats and other beat-maker apps.
  • Assign students certain topics and allow them to create boards of informational pictures via Pinterest. These Pinterest boards of images, information, and links can be shared with the entire class as additional resources to kick-start any unit.
  • Take beautifully edited pictures and share with anyone through Instagram.
  • Have students create an informative collage of pictures that address a particular area of concentration. These collages can then be printed and posted around the classroom for yearlong references. PicCollage makes this way too easy.
  • Capture symbolic photographs of lessons studied and send with textual citations to Posterous for viewing by the entire class.
  • Leverage the power of Juxtapose to “photoshop” or transpose pictures.
  • Declare everything as a potential note by setting classes up from day one with Evernote. By sharing “notebooks” as a class, students are able to treat anything as a potential note. Whether a picture or text, students continually add to the shared documents that are accessible from anywhere.    
  • Have teams document their progress with large, collaborative projects with Pinterest, ImageFave, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.
  • Make a geometry lesson real by photographing examples of various angles and theorems on campus.
  • Add audio and explanations to pictures and invite comments with Audioboo. Think of it as the speaking version of Twitter. This app would be excellent for interviewing, reporting, documenting, etc.
  • Write an original poem with symbolic pictures using Visual Poet. This app could be very effective during a campus walk designed to take pictures of nature while linking those images with original poetry to reflect a particular genre, such as Romanticism.
  • Bring out the inner artists within all students by allowing them to represent their understanding with drawings. Check out the Draw Something Free app.
  • Create and share podcasts with Audioboo or other voice recording apps.

Use Smartphones to Curate/Coordinate

  • Take a Google Literature Trip in Google Earth.
  • Explore the world directly from students’ desks with Google Earth.
  • Take pictures of on-screen notes and use Evernote to write directly on those pictures. 
  • Diffuse students’ indecision by encouraging the use of simple selection apps like Dice.
  • Check stocks in Economics class with the touch of an app.
  • Read available PDF’s directly from smartphone when not enough books exist or when you have already reached your copying maximum. Here is a PDF file that would be very handy for my American Literature class: The Red Badge of Courage.

Still not convinced? Check out this parody of Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa’s “Young, Wild and Free” that illustrates how these awesome tech gadgets are revolutionizing the classroom. Written by my friend and colleague, Dave Guymon, and me, it is appropriately titled “Smart, Sleek and Me.” As with the smartphones-in-the-class issue, we wanted to take a negative and turn it in to a positive. I hope you enjoy.  

John Hardison

John Hardison is an interactive facilitator of learning and blended learning specialist at East Hall High School (Studio 113 & EPiCC).

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