Mobile phones

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In this section we will be considering the following topics:

  • What other teachers consider to be essential kit... and how to get your hands on it!
  • Why mobile devices are useful teaching tools.
  • Practical ideas for using mobile phones in the classroom.


Let's run through the options and highlight the pros and cons associated with different mobile devices. We'll also share some first-hand hints and tips given to us by practicing teachers.

  • CollectiPods / mp3 players and other hardware that people are getting rid of! Even out-of-date ones that will not run the latest apps can be used for storing tracks and recordings if nothing else.
  • As many mobile phones as you can get your hands on. People tend to trade in smart phones but even entry-level phones often have internet access. Even better if you are lucky enough to get some unlocked or SIM free ones. However you are severely restricted in your use if your school does not have a wireless network. Even so, one for the teacher that can be connected to the smart board is good.
  • If you are going to invest in tablets, despite the fact that we are Mac addicts, we would strongly advise getting android tablets not iPads. They are cheaper to buy and, more importantly, there are far more free apps available for them.
  • You also need to take into account that you will need a Wi-Fi connection first because otherwise you will not be able to download software easily or use them for the purpose they were designed – as mobile devices! This does sound as if we are stating the obvious but a school we know recently bought ten of them without considering this. Doh!
  • Invest in specialist software (for iPads use Configurator) which allows you to put a standard set up on all your iPads instead of having to set them up one at a time. It is perfect for the classroom where devices need to be quickly refreshed and kept up to date with the correct settings, approved policies, apps and data.
  • Check your insurance – if you are taking tablets or smart phones off site, the small print in your insurance policy may well say that they are not covered – we know a school who found this out the hard way. Again, Doh!
  • EnoughiPads/tablets/iPhones for 1:2 learners in a class would be a good long-term aim (some say, dream). By the time pupils are in their teens, they can cope with devices that have different user interfaces.


Warning As with all things, check that your school's IT policy allows you to use mobile devices and/or software in any given way BEFORE starting!

Why not use the inbuilt calendar for reminding students about tasks and homework assignments.

Use an SMS system like ConnectTxt
to send reminders to learners. E.g.

  • Next session reminders.
  • To bring particular materials/resources or kit.
  • Homework reminders (they'll love getting that text on a Sunday evening).
  • To tell them that a lesson is cancelled (According to most students, this is "The best text EVER!")

Simple, but effective - use the timer feature on a mobile phone for timed activities. Make one student "The Keeper of Time" when completing the activities. Hey presto, healthy competition and lots of enthusiasm! In my experience,students love the horn sound of the'Alarm' tone, but there are others you can choose from if it's too irritating.

Students with texting plans can text Google (466-453) to define a word by sending define: (put wordhere). Responses returned in less than 30 seconds.

Students access full text websites and use the cell phone as an e-reader or text book. Teaching Shakespeare? There's an app for that!

Fact : Every cell phone has a calculator! For calculations that happen outside the classroom, for math or physics projects or any other subject that would have calculations or equations activities, it can be an easy way to solve these equations wherever learners find themselves.

Set a class task of recording a personal log for a week. Students can use voice or video. Logs can (and probably should) be edited prior to sharing - add images or text using movie software. Give a frame work or theme as a starting point.

Very, very basic, but if you're a Science teacher, you've forgotten to order the stopwatches and you're too scared or too far away to go back to the lab technician to ask for them (DO NOT get on the wrong side of lab technicians), simply ask the kids to use their mobiles. They will have them hidden on their person anyway.

Seek and spell GPS - Brilliant download for SmartPhones. Simply load app, wait for GPS to find your location and then gather the virtual letters to create words. You can play with other players and race to locate the letters.

Most (all?) modern phones contain cameras. These can be used to take photos of work from the board, examples of models, posters or other things that can't be glued inside a book. If they contain video recorders, students can film short sketches which could then be bluetoothed to the teacher to be shared.

Use any one of the many polling services to have your audience send a quick response to anSMS short code. One example of a service is Poll Everywhere

Instead of hulking out the department laptops - grouping kids together with internet phones can be an innovative way to undertake research tasks. Provided boundaries are set then it can prove a great success!

Homework diaries get lost or become tattered - for many pupils a mobile phone is a prized possession. Phones can replace homework diaries: setting work and reminders are an easy way for pupils to engage with learning!

You could present information / assignments / feedback to learners by generating QR Codes or use them in lessons

Use in Wall displays too to bring added intrigue about a) what QRcodes are and b) to relay further information they can find on the topic


Digital storytelling projects can be easily implemented with mobile phones because they allow: Audio Recording, Photo sharing, Video Webcasting ,Video Recording, saving chat logs and writing text messages... with a publishing option for some apps to a website

So, camera phone + OneNote(or Evernote) = instantly searchable notes

Step 1. Take a picture - of any text/diagram

Step 2. Paste into OneNote (or add to Evernote)

Step 3. OneNote/Evernote indexes the text for searching

Handwriting is indexed as well as typed text making it incredibly powerful for capturing stuff like:

  • notes from a whiteboard/blackboard
  • information from plaques on monuments or at museums
  • text you can't remove/scan from the source - precious document
  • any text you can take a picture of - other people's notes...
  • There are iPhone apps for OneNote and Evernote
  • There is an Android app for Evernote


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