Today, teachers are struggling to engage and motivate students of the “iGeneration.” Part of the problem has to do with generational differences in technology. Today’s students are almost completely “digitalized”—most of their teachers are not! Instead of banning the iPhone and iPod Touch from the classroom, we need to incorporate them into our lessons.
I’m relatively new to the teaching profession and younger than many of my peers. Perhaps because of youth, I’m better able to relate to my students, and they feel more comfortable opening up to me. They’ll say things like, “Why can’t I bring my laptop to school or use my iPhone in class?” or “Why do I need to memorize that date when I can look it up on my iTouch?” These are good questions! After all, as adults they will need to be able to access, process, and apply information more than recite a list of memorized facts.
What role can the iPhone or iPod Touch play in education? I’ve discovered countless ways to incorporate them into classroom activities and make the learning experience more rich and enjoyable. In this article, I’ll highlight a few of the apps we use in my 8th grade math class. (Separate references are provided for apps that have been updated for the iPad.)
Get the iPhone into the classroom
These few suggestions barely scratch the surface. A wide variety of apps are available for students and teachers alike (See articles on pages 64, 69, and 71) But the first thing to do is get the iPhone into your classroom Open up communications with your administration and show them the possibilities. It may take a little time to get them to buy in, so start doing it now! Go ahead and take the risk. If I can do it in a special education classroom, you should at least give it a try.
Top classroom apps
TweetDeck helps you interact with Twitter and Facebook accounts. Twitter has many educational applications. For example, professional development has traditionally been an in-school activity, but Twitter makes it global. I use TweetDeck to connect with other educators to share, compare, and review 21st century instructional tools and teaching methods. I also use it to Tweet homework, daily class happenings, important dates, or “shout outs” to my students. Parents sign up as well, after I explain to them how I use it in the classroom.
There is no better way for students to demonstrate that they understand a concept than for them to create a story about it, and Story Kit lets them do this. Students can write text, take pictures (iPhone only), import photos, create illustrations, record sounds, and put them all together in their own story. I have found many uses of this app in my math class. For example, I’ll ask a student (or group of students) to create a story that describes how to solve a specific math problem. When it’s finished, and I’ve checked it for accuracy, I have them pass around the iPhone so that other students can learn the lesson. We also use other technologies, such as a mini camera to record their StoryKit project, so they can take home their masterpiece to show parents or have their lessons while they study.
I teach special education and my students range in their level of disability. Most middle school kids do not like to take notes, but my students have particular problems with it. To help them, I use the camera on my iPhone to take photos of notes I’ve written on the whiteboard and then print them out and/or e-mail the photos to them. I also use the Camera app to motivate them. For example, if a student receives a good grade on a test/quiz/assignment, I’ll take a photo of it and e-mail it to his or her parents. It’s amazing how much work 8th grader will do to get that picture e-mailed home. I also let my students use their phones to snap photos of my calendar and of homework assignments on the board.
- Free (built into the iPhone)
- Grade Level: K-12
Simple Goals helps students create specific goals and monitor progress towards achieving them. For example, some students use it to make sure they arrive in class on time, others use it to self-monitor and eliminate distracting behavior. It lets you list positive goals or negative habits, check them off, and view simple success stats. As a teacher, I have to collect a lot of data on student behavior and classroom performance. Simple Goals makes this time-consuming task easier for me.
SimpleGoals – Goals and Habits Tracker
Almost across the board, middle and high school students need to work on their organization skills. Awesome Note is a flexible organizational tool that can help with these skills. They can use it to create to-do lists, create notes and insert images into them, insert clickable links in notes (web, e-mail, phone numbers), search for text in notes, e-mail notes from the app, and more.