Learning Curves: Teacher’s Pet: Turning Smartphones into Learning Tools

Posted by | Apr 29, 2012

Students can't seem to tear themselves away from their mobile phones. They're surfing, texting, posting, and calling one another at every opportunity—and often at all hours. Teachers often regard smartphones as toys and distractions and frequently ban them from the school or classroom, but some savvy educators are rethinking that approach. They're turning that obsession into a learning tool and using it to facilitate stronger student engagement.

Schools that cannot afford expensive technology can often afford to purchase smartphones. There are countless free or low-cost apps and services accessible with a mobile device that can be put to work in the classroom. Here are just a few ideas made possible through the wonder of Wi-Fi:

  • solicit feedback from your students after a lesson, test, or field trip

  • ask students to record their speeches, musical and vocal performances, and foreign language assignments and send you the file for evaluation

  • use a mass text emailing service like Celly ( to broadcast assignment reminders and messages to parents and students and receive private replies

  • have your class follow breaking news and important events together on Twitter

  • use Google Voice and other apps to communicate with your students without ever sharing your personal phone number

  • have students text you a sentence using one or more vocabulary words

  • encourage your pupils to take notes on their smartphone and email them to you when they are finished

  • ask students to take a poll using their smartphones

  • have your class write a collective cell phone novel

Interested in learning more about how to incorporate emerging mobile technology into your instruction? Visit these Web sites for inspiration and advice: