We Grow Teachers

5 Ways Classrooms Can Learn From Mobile Apps

Mobile phones have historically been banned from the classroom and seen as a distraction to education. But with new developments in education apps, there are some very powerful mobile concepts that can be transferred the classroom.

1. Provide instant feedback

Mobile technology allows users to receive instant feedback for almost anything. Whether it’s reading a restaurant review on Yelp or becoming the new mayor of Starbucks on Foursquare, users are always connected to what others around them are saying and doing.

To provide faster feedback in the classroom, harness the power of checking for understanding and exit tickets to see each student’s progress before they leave the classroom and move to the next lesson. Keep in mind, the goal of these quizzes is not to grade the student, but to declare what topics they have already mastered and focus on the ones that need work. It’s also important for the students to feel like they can give feedback to the teacher, so start a suggestion box, a classroom Facebook page, or a coding system where students can rank how comfortable they are with certain topics or classroom activities. 

2. Build contextual lessons

Anyone that has learned a language in an immersive environment knows that learning from your surroundings is far more powerful than reading vocabulary in a book. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “you learn by living”.

Schools can often be a sterile environment where students are expected to learn from the textbook or lecture. In a language classroom, you could establish a rule that only the second language is spoken once students step foot in the room. Also, try to apply lessons that are relevant to the classroom surroundings so that students are exposed to authentic language rather than language used solely to learn grammatical forms or vocabulary. For example, if your students are getting their drivers’ permits, utilize cars and road knowledge in math and english classes.

3. Break lessons into bite-sized pieces

Mobile technology is nothing if not convenient. Content is available in doses as small or as large as you want. During a ten minute bus ride you can catch up on CNN’s world news. In two minutes between phone calls, you might be able to play four rounds of Angry Birds. Everything is quick and easy to consume.

The same concept can be applied in the classroom by breaking lessons into small and diverse pieces. Perhaps the first ten minutes of class will be a news video, the next fifteen minutes will be a collaborative activity, and the next fifteen minutes will be a student-run lecture. Making sure that each component scaffolds the next will not only enhance understanding, but also increase learner motivation and attention.

4. Personalize lesson content to students’ interests

The beauty of mobile apps are that they are extremely personalized. Apps often learn from your interests and actions so that they can provide different experiences to different users. Voxy for example, a mobile language education app serves sports lessons to sports fans or pop culture lessons to socialites.

One size never quite fits all in education. Students are diverse individuals with a variety of interests. Perhaps Johnny is more interested in sports, while Caroline likes astronomy and Jonah enjoys building activities. Try to use activities and assignments that can be personalized to fit each individual’s interests to ensure their full attention and increase effort and output.

5. Incorporate a social aspect

Apart from the giants of Twitter and Facebook, many mobile apps are tapping into social media. For example, you can play Dice With Friends on your phone or chat online during World of Warcraft to reach a goal together. Skype connects students wishing to learn a foreign language, and Pinterest allows you to share dreams with pinners worldwide. While you may not physically be together, mobile apps allow you to be constantly connected to those around you.

As simple as this sounds, encourage your students to interact with each other! Try a flipped classroom concept or blended learning style such as those designed by 2tor. The students can utilize class time to help each other and apply what they’ve learned. You can even pair with a class in another school (or even abroad) and hold Skype lessons with each other.

This is a guest-post by Jess Weeg from Voxy.com, an innovative language learning platform; image attribution flickr user iamlamont.com, welsmissions, and havefunteaching