Speaking the Students’ Language: Using Smart Phones & Apps to Enhance Learning in the Classroom

Some professors discourage or even forbid their students from using laptops or mobile devices in their classrooms. But not Janet King of the College of Southern Nevada. We are all using our mobile devices during this conference, aren’t we? And wouldn’t we be annoyed if we were told to stop? Why do that to students?

Janet has enthusiastically embraced the opportunities for using mobile devices as teaching tools in her classroom. At first she suspected that her students were no so much more about technology than she did, just because they were students. But that’s not the case. Students need to be taught how to use apps and other technologies in their active learning.

Janet does some simple things in her classes to encouraging sharing of information over mobile devices. In an actually pretty cool implementation of QR codes, she includes links to online resources in her lecture slides so students can easily scan the code and then read along or save the article, post, etc. She also uses the mobile apps in her school’s CMS (in her case Canvas) to make lectures, textbooks, and other course materials available to students on their phones. She uses online quizzes to gauge  students’ comprehension of the material, and uses tools like Google Docs and Dropbox to allow students to work collaboratively on group projects and all post updates to the same presentation, for example. And she is excited about the potential of tools like Google Glass in classes like culinary arts or healthcare fields. Imagine if students could watch their professor’s hands as she sutured a would or chopped an onion? Rather than be afraid that students will be distracted by the mobile devices many of them already own, Janet argues that teachers should continue to explore ways to incorporate the tools students use every day into their classroom experience.