Incorporating mobiles into the classroom.

Smartphones and cellphones are a part of most people’s daily lives. It connects us to world and serves as a compact device for multitasking ourselves on a daily basis. Most people have one from young to old and they are becoming better and better as they are redesigned after the needs of consumers. So why do we not include them in schools? In classes? Or for educational purposes?

Many will cite that it’s for the safety of the students, that it’s distracting them from learning and that they already spend too much time behind a screen… But maybe the school system was just not prepared for it? I remember when phones came out in South Africa, while I was in 6th grade at primary school. I had just gotten an old Siemens phone, me and some friends were playing on it before class. The teacher was late and we were waiting outside, once she arrived the first thing she did was to confiscate the phone and write a demerit in my homework book.  The entire schooling system seemed to have gone into a crisis mode on how to deal with this new threat to our education. It became something negative and was initially banned from schools. When they realized it was here to stay they adapted the rules, students were allowed to have phones but must be kept out of site. It’s been 10 years since I left school but the rules have not changed that much.

Why should we use mobiles in the classroom?

  1. They are part of the students’ daily lives- most of them have one and use it multiple times per day for various reasons, why not also for learning?
  2.  They are compact and portable. It is easy to take them outside, on field trips or to move around in the classroom with them.
  3. They engage students more and they enjoy using it. Mobiles engage us in an audio, visual and kinesthetic way.
  4. They can access information easily and help students to keep track of learning.
  5. They can help students store data and review it at a later date.

So how would we do this?

  • Knowing why we use them.

Using a phone in the class just for the sake of using it, does not accomplish anything. We need to be able to explain why the use of this tech is helpful. Eg. Media literacy, creativity, self-directed learning. Having clear goals you want to accomplish with the use of this tech.

  • Don’t dress up the tech.

Making students watch video clips on their phones instead of using a class TV or projector is not something new. It’s using just giving a new device and old job. Having students make their own videos instead, letting them edit and present work that way.

  • Know the functions and limits.

Smartphones can not function like a computer or an Ipad, so don’t expect it to. Wanting students to type out long essays or asking them to read a textbook like articles on a phone screen will not be fun or effective.

  • Be creative and flexible.

Using mobiles will not always go according to plan. So allow for a lesson to stray if needed, reflect on why it happened and adapt the plan accordingly for future use. You can use apps or the functions on the phone for different reasons than what they were originally intended for.

  • Trust – Allow students to find their own way of doing things.

Allowing students to use their own knowledge and creativity, could yield better end results than having had to comply with a single use. If they are truly engaged in the activity and challenged by it, they will most likely do the activity and not like some people fear, stray off the path and get distracted by something else.

  • Don’t force an app to fit your class or vice versa

With today’s technology, we don’t have to rely on others making the things we need for our classes or feel frustrated by the limits applications place on our classes. You can make your own apps or mobile games for students to use during classes, specific to your learning goals and outcomes.

What can we use?

Smartphones and mobile are compact multi-functional devices, their application in our classes curved only by our imagination.

Language classes:

  1. During language classes using the audio and visual functions of a phone will usually be the most used applications. Students can make their own visual flashcards on a phone to help review vocabulary that they learned during the lesson, and then even add audio to it to listen to the correct pronunciations. They can use this to listen to and review as much as they want after the class has ended.
  2. Make videos or stop-motion films. Students can demonstrate different language structures and choose how they want to present it eg. real actors, toys or drawn cartoons. The videos can be uploaded to a google account or YouTube directly from their phones. Videos can allow students to practice their language use, they can record, listen to and evaluate whet they said and choose to correct it or use it as it is. Shy students can have a chance to speak too since they can use icons/toys/animations act and be voice actors, instead of being the center of attention themselves.

Other classes:

  1. During math classes, students can play mobile games where they can practice math concepts in a way that isn’t boring but give them the repetition needed to master the skill. They can also discover geometric shapes in a  2D or 3D. Making constructs and photographing or filming them. Using mobile app functions to edit shapes they find in real life by drawing in lines ect., and this will keep them more involved.
  2. Research for classes and class discussions- Many apps allow ideas, work or links to be shared and tagged or categorized. They can follow these tags and take part in classroom discussions, making everyone more involved. This can be especially useful in very big class settings where the teacher has only a limited amount of time and cannot get to every student individually.

There are endless possibilities, finding the right ones for your lessons and students might take time and research but it would be well worth it.

General Ideas for application of mobiles:

  • Audio applications
  • Video applications
  • Visuals
  • Games
  • Research
  • Collaborations


Daccord, Tom. “5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make With iPads (And How To Correct Them).” N.p., 27 Sept. 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.

Prensky, M. (2005, December 2). Shaping Tech for the Classroom. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from

Roggenkamp, Daniel. “Gathering authentic language snippets using mobile devices.” Retrieved: 12 February 2017, from


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