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January 2, 2013

It’s Really Time to Start Using Those Smartphones in the Classroom #30in30

What is everyone waiting for? Just about every students who walks through your classroom door is carrying a powerful computer in his/her pocket. We need to start using them and stop just talking about mobile learning. And we don’t have to make it all fit in the classroom. Put those phones to use outside the classroom too. I’ve surveyed my students for the last 3 years and look at how many have cell phones. Only 1% (3 students) didn’t have one.

Survey of ENG102 students for past 3 years.

Survey of ENG102 students for past 3 years.

textsmsNinety-one percent of my students have text messaging on their phones and indicated that I may contact them via text with important information. Yet, I didn’t take advantage of that. No, I haven’t sent one important information text message to my students in 3 years. However, they’ve undoubtedly received text messages in regards to my classes. How is that you may ask. Well, let me tell you. Many of the educational tools many of us use today, including our LMS have built in tools that allow for students to set up text alerts. For instance in Canvas, students have the option to add their phone number to receive SMS notifications. And in Canvas there are a ton of notifications that can be set up. We just have to tell them about it and encourage them to use it.Another way students have used their mobile devices in my class without much effort from me is with a tool I’ve posted about previously – Piazza. You can read more here. Piazza has a mobile app for your phone (AndroidiPhone) that allows students to participate in group discussions on the go. They can also ask questions of the class or instructor on the go.

Here’s what the app looks like on my phone (right and below).

phonepiazzaStudents can alternate between discussion posts, general questions or group interactions. It encourages tagging so content is organized well by tag and by week. As an instructor, I can override any preferences for “Do Not Disturb.” That means if a student turns off notifications from the app, I can make it send them an email anyway (sneaky). This is great for push notifications. The best part is it integrates right into Canvas, including a menu bar item on the right (see below). This also makes it easy for students to sign up.

Lastly, we need to teach students how to use email properly with their phones. I don’t blame them, I don’t want all my Maricopa email coming to my phone either. I set up filters and only send the good stuff. If  you use email with students, teach them how to set up a filter for your email address or a special subject header you may use for announcements. Then those emails will be go to the phone and the rest of the stuff will remain unread in their in-boxes.

Piazza and Canvas images:



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