A Smartphone Becomes a Teacher’s Best Friend

I did not have a smartphone when I started teaching. The phone I had was basically used for making and receiving calls outside school hours. That is all I need in a cellular phone, I had convinced myself, what kind of person needs all of those crazy gizmos and gadgets at their fingertips?

Teachers…the answer is teachers!

I got my first smartphone a few years later. Still a novice technology consumer, I used my new cell phone to simply check personal e-mails at lunch and check the weather before heading out to coach at a cross country meet. Still, the phone rarely made it out of my purse unless I needed a clock at recess or a stopwatch at practice.

Well, after that phone was batted into the toilet by my cat one morning, I upgraded to another, better toy smartphone. Now I could download “fun” apps such as Dictionary.com, iTranslator, and Google Maps! I could also look up YouTube videos, peruse the Internet, and check my school e-mail account at any time.

I even made up a game with this new handheld apparatus. If a student asked me a question to which I wasn’t sure of the answer, I would time myself and the powers of 4G to see how fast I could retrieve it. How tall is Mt. Kilimanjaro? Give me 30 seconds and I could tell you. (Approximately 19,340 ft.)

More than anything else, I really began to rely on this device for communication with parents. Since most smartphones today are equipped with high resolution cameras, I began to use the camera to share our classroom discussions with parents at home. Here’s what I would do:

Step 1: Take class notes on the board.

This is an example of the notes I would write for the class to copy down.

Step 2: Take a picture of the notes with my smartphone (see picture above).

Step 3: Send the picture via e-mail to my class distribution list.

I would send the picture of the notes with a brief email, usually sent directly from my phone.

Step 4: Parents review the notes at home with their children.

I found out later by accident that this really became popular with absent students who missed a day or two of notes. Also, if a student forgot their notebook at school the night before a test, they could pull up the notes in their parent’s email and still be able to review.

Keep in mind that this same transference of notes can be done just as easily with iPads and Flip cameras (with Wi-Fi or 3G network capability). Plus, you don’t have to just take pictures of notes. Do a cool activity in class that day? Snap a quick picture and share it! Reading a new novel in class? Take a photo of the cover so parents know what to look for in their child’s backpack. Use that smartphone to get parents involved and keep them included in what you are doing!

Five Other Fun Apps for Teachers:

Bookabi (Free) – Make storybooks with cartoon characters in 2D or 3D.

Pinterest (Free) – A surplus of teaching tips and ideas are just waiting to be explored at pinterest.com, and their app makes it even easier to access it all!

Quizzam ($0.99) – Use this app on iPhone or iPad to give quizzes in a group setting while keeping students engaged!

Writing Prompts for Kids ($1.99) – Help young writers break out of their shells with a variety of creative prompts!

Pencils, Words & Kids ($4.99) – This app gives ideas for writing, a How-To guide for beginning writers and struggling authors who can’t seem to get the words to flow.

Happy Apping!


3 thoughts on “A Smartphone Becomes a Teacher’s Best Friend”

  1. Interesting idea! I’ve finally gotten used to having students whip out their smartphone to take a picture when they are doing work on the board in class or after school. While I have other systems in place for students to access class notes from the day (I scan in my annotated teacher notes and post to the class website) – I still love this as a way to share a piece of the classroom with parents. They do crave communication and being kept in the loop – something I’m trying to do a better job with this year, although since I have students ranging from Freshmen to Seniors I will have to decide what’s appropriate at each level. Thanks for giving me a new idea!

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