Ten things to do with mobile devices from day one

The below ideas can be used from day one in your classrooms with a selection of mobile devices. None of the below ideas require a particular model of device, although on the whole Apple and Android devices are the most versatile.

1. Set an inquiry question at the start and let them find the answer

One of the first things you can do with mobile devices is leverage the power of Wikipedia and other information websites. Rather than giving them the information, give them a question or research statement and a specific requirement as an outcome. For example, the research statement might be ‘find out three facts about ecosystems’ or a question might be ‘what are the five most important things to consider when writing an argument essay?’ They can then share these as a class at the end.

2. Use QR codes as an easy way to point them to websites and text of interest

QR code readers enable students to scan QR codes you create which can then take them to either a wepage or some text you have created. Go to http://qrcode.kaywa.com to create your QR code, and get your students to download the free kaywa QR code reader app for their smartphones.

3. Create your own wiki pages to store learning materials

Use a wiki site like wikispaces – you can set up educational wikis there with some excellent resources, and all for free. If you make your wiki externally viewable without a password students can then send wiki pages to longform readers: see below.

4. Get them to download a longform reader app so they can download text and images to their device

Apps like Readability and Pocket enable you to download a simple, clutter free mobile browser friendly version of any text-based webpage and save it to your device. This is particularly useful if students don’t have wireless access at home. I prefer Pocket because of its interface, but both are equally simple to use. Longform text is far better than PDFs for mobile devices: avoid PDF for all but larger tablets such as the iPad.

5. Use an online polling site for instant feedback

Using a site like Polleverywhere, you can set up a free poll that can then be responded to by sending a link to the poll. You could send the link via email or Edmodo, or access it via a QR code.

6. Create a short screencast as homework and then use the lesson to discuss/embed the learning

There are lots of screen recorders out there, but none of the free ones are much good. There are also some very expensive ones out there, like Camtasia and Adobe Captivate, but for simple screen recording I’d recommend Techsmith’s Snagit. It’s currently £37 for one and £28 if you buy more than 5. It has a nice simple interface and outputs to either YouTube, Screencast.com, or your hard drive.

You can then use Activstudio software to create a short lesson where you do the main teaching of concepts, then use the following lesson to create activities which embed this learning. For even more ease, you can use a graphics tablet such as a Wacom Bamboo, which enables you to write onto the Activstudio screen. Good for working through problems as you would on a whiteboard in a lesson.

Audio is important with these sorts of screencasts – it’s better to record through an external USB mic than the internal one. USB mics by Samson are excellent.

7. Get students podcasting

Get students to create podcasts to show what they’ve learnt. They could record an ‘interview’ or create a revision cast for others to listen to. Check out http://www.knowliz.com/2009/11/8-iphone-apps-to-create-podcasts-for-free.html, an Android app like Easy Voice recorder, or a Blackberry app such as Voice Record to get started.

8. Use the camera function to take photos of the board/collaborative mind maps on sugar paper/anything really

We don’t want them never to write anything down, but if there is a particular collaborative outcome they want to record, they can do. If they send this to you via Edmodo you can then share it with the group, so that those without smartphones can have access via a site like Edmodo when they get home.

9. Leverage the power of the digital flashcard

Apps like StudyBlue (available for iOS and Android) are a very good way of students memorising concepts through creating flashcards. They can load up pre-existing content or create their own.

10. Enable students to read each other’s work

If you turn on the sharing function in an application like Edmodo (group settings, Advanced options, unclick default all members to read only) you can enable students to send short snippets of their writing or problem solving to the whole group for comment.

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