The capabilities of smartphones are becoming greater as time goes on. Implementing technology in the classroom and promoting digital citizenship is vital for education. Although cell phones can misdirect focus within education, using smartphones — and best practices —  in the classroom can open up a whole new realm of possibilities throughout curricula. 

Why Smartphones Are Good for Students.

Smartphones are becoming more common in school because they offer a variety of benefits beyond calling/texting communications, quick answers, the weather, and social media. Cell phones are gaining acceptance inside US schools because they can be positive for students in a variety of ways.

A study by World Scientific News concluded that as the technology available for cell phones continues to evolve, smartphones can be capable of positively contributing to student learning, curricula, and academic effort as a whole. 36.5% of the 274 students analyzed (159 male, 115 female) agreed that mobile phones assist them in their learning as a whole. 

The students also agreed that cell phones are also helpful for informational exchanges between peers and educators. While there are some downsides to smartphones in the classroom - such as distractions, up-training, and failed multitasking attempts - the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

assistive technology

Can Cell Phones Be Educational Tools?

The rise of mobile education for children of all ages brings forward the question of how and where to bring cell phones into the classroom. Prior to formal education, today's students can become technologically savvy, so it is important to consider the ways to use cell phones in the classrooms to enhance education.

Bringing Multimedia to the Classroom.

The ways to use a smartphone for student interaction are limitless. Examples of multimedia in the classroom are:

  • Using audiobooks for alternatives to traditional reading;

  • Using songs or music videos to teach a lesson;

  • Using slideshows to introduce a new topic;

  • Using games to add fun to dry topics;

  • Using virtual reality to offer alternative learning spaces.

Multimedia can also distract learners, so it is important to follow tips towards keeping students engaged by doing the following:

  • Offer explicit instruction;

  • Test all multimedia prior;

  • Incorporate movement;

  • Create stipulations or classroom policies surrounding alternatives to traditional instruction.

As Part of a Student’s Individualized Education Plan.

Some students require additional educational support in the form of an individualized education plan (IEP). Cellphones can be used to facilitate assistive technology and the IEP. Students who are auditory learners can record lectures. Virtual reality smartphone capabilities can help eliminate distractions and promote visual learning. 

It becomes important to understand which technology provides educational benefits, and which distracts from education, and that ultimately, is based primarily on intent. Consider three primary questions when determining whether to use a particular technology:

  1. What is the assistive technology needed for?

  2. What up-training or prerequisites are needed to make use of the assistive technology?

  3. Is there proven correlation between the assistive technology and the desired outcome?

Viable assistive technology found in schools can be used for:

  • Access (physical boundaries);

  • Augmentative communication;

  • Assistive listening;

  • Computer-based instruction;

  • Environmental control;

  • Mobility;

  • Recreation/leisure;

  • Visual aids.

Important Considerations When Introducing Smartphones.

Prior to introducing smartphones within your curricula and classroom, you need to be aware of potential issues, concerns, and considerations. “Considerations of the Use of Mobiles Phone in an Educational Context” examines things such as the distractions that mobile phones bring. Once you decide to bring cell phones into the classroom, it becomes necessary to create a classroom policy surrounding acceptable smartphone usage and unacceptable phone behavior. Parental controls can be a great resource for setting boundaries. 

It’s worth noting that not all students own or have access to a smartphone. In cases like this, the school will either need to provide school-owned tablets or alternative devices (which brings forward an array of new concerns), or a parent must be responsible for a kid’s plan. It is also important to analyze how effectively your smartphone introduction is working; assess and address accordingly. 

apps for students

Apps for Students.

In addition to the various practical uses of smartphones within classrooms, students can use their mobile devices to organize information, collaborate on various projects, and create a more efficient educational experience on a continual basis — both at home and within the classroom. The following apps — pulled from Common Sense Educations Top Pick List of reviewed, credible applications — will help students achieve greater academic success:

Best Planner Apps for Students.

One way to ensure efficiency within the classroom is finding a solution to organizational and planning apps for students, parents, and educators to collaborate schedules. The following apps are viable options:

  • Choiceworks: Offers easy-to-use digital collaboration that focuses on developing self-control, social skills, and daily routine management. Choiceworks costs $6.99 and is available exclusively on iTunes;

  • myHomework: Offers the ability for students to manage their schedules and planning with digital guidance from educators. myHomework is free to download on Google Play and iTunes;

  • WorkFlowy: Offers a simple platform for teachers and students to organize lists and plan. WorkFlowy is free of charge, and it is available exclusively online;

  • Time Timer: Offers up to 99 customizable timers with various options to manage and conceptualize time. Time has a one-time cost of $2.99 and is available on Google Play and iTunes.

Best Note-Taking Apps for Students.

Helping children take notes and organize their notes in a manner that is scannable and well-organized helps children stay on top of their work. The following apps are viable, well-reviewed apps for note-taking:

  • Bear: Offers writing, editing, and syncing note-taking capabilities. Bear has a free version, as well as a pro version offered for $1.49/month. The pro-version allows for themes and export options. Bear is exclusively offered on iTunes;

  • Evernote: Offers digital notebook organization and collaboration. Evernote is free to download, with a Premium option that costs $7.99/month. The Premium plan offers more monthly uploads, improved note size, and collaboration space; offline access is gained, as well as the number of devices that are available to use the application on. Evernote is offered on Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes;

  • Microsoft OneNote: Offers a large platform for thinking and organizational collaboration. Microsoft OneNote is free of charge and it is offered on Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes;

  • Notability: Offers versatile note-taking for students that also considers the best suits for varying learning styles. Notability is $9.99 on iTunes.

Other Useful Apps for Learning.

There are other apps to consider when introducing technology into the classroom, as well as must-have educational apps for parents. It is important to find apps for international students and students with disabilities as well. Other useful apps to take into account are:

  • Kahoot: Offers a fun jeopardy-style game as a fun alternative to traditional assessment and studying. Kahoot is available online and ranges in cost from $10/month to $40/month depending on the amount of participants;

  • Quizlet: Offers study tools — broken down by subject — such as flashcards, tests, spelling quizzes, matching games, all for free and available online. Quizlet is free, but Quizlet Pro is $1.99/month and it offers offline access, scan-in options, and ad-free studying;

  • Remind: Offers message reminders to keep both parents and students up to speed with events, homework, upcoming projects/tests, etc. Remind is available for free online;

  • TinyTap: Extensive array of educational games. The app is free to use, and also offers the ability to create your own games. It is available exclusively on iTunes.