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Mobile Learning: What’s the point of using Apps in Education?

Using Mobile Devices in the Classroom - TeacherCast Guest Blog

Cell phones have long been an enemy in classrooms across the United States. Teachers are constantly on the lookout for the glow of a screen coming from rows of students and many will confiscate phones on the spot. Typically cell phones in schools settings are seen as learning distractions, devices for bullying, and vessels for cheating.

But although many educators still have a low tolerance for phones in the classroom, they are becoming increasingly useful learning tools. A number of cell phone applications are making waves in the educational community. Teachers that are willing to embrace them are often seeing greater engagement with their students and are finding many innovative ways to teach required subjects.

Enhancing the Learning Experience

A wide variety of different smartphone applications are designed to complement the material that is already being covered in the classroom. This means that they can be used both to help improve student learning while at school and to work as study materials when not. Apps that are highly valued by educators range in age level and subject matter and typically have respectable interactive components.

For instance, The Chemical Touch is an app designed to help students understand the periodic table. Elements are color-coded based upon a particular variable (i.e. mass, atomic weight, etc) and, if clicked on, provide basic information regarding the chemical.

On the other end of the spectrum, apps such as Shakespeare Pro are designed to help students understand Shakespearean writing. Since many high school students struggle to make sense of his writing, and nearly all must read at least one play before graduation, it can be a huge benefit. By clicking on a word in the app, users can view a layman’s explanation of what Shakespeare is actually talking about.

Checking for Understanding

A learning supplement is not the only way in which cell phone applications can be utilized in the classroom. Another impressive way in which to take advantage of the technology is to check the understanding of students in real time. Applications such as these are designed to allow teachers to quiz students on topics quickly and assess knowledge gained.

This information can be profound in that is enables teachers to evaluate what percentage of students are comprehending lecture materials. Furthermore, they can determine which students are struggling with the subject matter easily before graded exams take place. Because students answer questions privately, or in small groups, this method can also help to encourage participation from every student.

Preparing for the Real World

Finally, the use of technology such as cell phones apps can be thought of as a means of preparing students for careers in the real world. A growing number of positions in a vast array of fields use smartphones regularly. For instance, many social workers use phone applications and other technologies to help patients manage anxiety and to track progress. Another example is in the world of athletic administration where professionals frequently use phone apps to track player fitness and health.

Although many students are experts in the use of their technological devices, frequently there is a missing link when it comes to their professional use. Many students struggle to keep the personal and professional accounts they typically manage through their phones separate. Educating students on how to use their phones as tools rather than as entertainment will become a key goal in secondary education and professional development.

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In many classrooms across the US, cell phones are still considered enemy number one. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Smartphone applications can be utilized in a number of ways to complement teaching materials, test understanding, and help prepare students for their future. Deciding to take steps toward allowing phones in the classroom is a big commitment, but the benefits can be equally as impressive.


Brittni Brown is a current masters candidate at the University of Idaho. In her free time, she enjoys a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, and camping.

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