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Valuable Teacher Tool: The Smartphone!

By Shari Edwards on November 28, 2012
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

Do you carry a smartphone? If you do, you have one of my very favorite teacher tools. My phone goes with me everywhere, and, although I don’t take calls, text my friends, or hop on Facebook while I’m teaching, I do use it in the classroom daily.








What makes my smartphone such a useful tool in my classroom?

Record board work by snapping a picture.
I email pictures to my school email account when themath class discussion around smartboard class needs some information saved for another day. I can project it at a later time for further reference.
Preserve that hard work! Once in a while one of my students will ask me to take a picture of some center work that can’t be saved.
Save lists for referenceI take pictures of lists of assigned jobs for a project, questions we have posted for later, and anything else we need for another day that is taking up board space.
"Virtualize" writing portfolios by making digital files of student writing. I snap a quick picture of a sample of each student’s writing about once per month. It makes a great writing portfolio that can be used towriting sample evaluate progress. Students can put together their own virtual portfolio with these pictures at the end of the year using a presentation tool.
Take pictures of things you need. When you see something you need for the classroom while walking through a store, snap a picture of it. Post a few by your door where parents will see them. You might get exactly what you needed!


Snap a picture and save a picture as a PDF.
 This is one of the most useful ways for me to use my phone in and out of the classroom. I have an iPhone so I use an app called Genius Scan. This little program allows me to take a picture of anything and turn it into a color or black and white PDF.pdf of center answers
Make a quick check sheet for a center. Many times, I just need a quick PDF for self-checking a center activity — to double-check the correct order of cards in a card sort, for example. Last spring I used the scan app to save a PDF of alphabetical order cards students pulled out of Easter eggs and put in order. They wrote their answers to each egg on a recording sheet. It wasn't pretty, but the PDF of the cards in order was great for checking quickly. Genius Scan has editing capabilities and can also send files to Evernote, Dropbox, and a variety of other programs.


Set up playlists and use them to play music for your classroom.
 Do you have music that you use during class? I use it on a daily basis with my 2nd graders. Usually, I use my laptop, but sometimes it’s unavailable. I have playlists on my phone that I can use for my fluency activities by simply plugging my phone into the speakers.


Fluency Timer  science list
Record running records for analyzing later. The fluency timer is an app that records a reader for one minute. I don’t hand my phone over to my students, but I can use it to record students' reading for playback. The program will allow me to email the sound file to myself.


Let students record information or draw thermometers each morning.
 During our weather unit, or when we learn about thermometers, I click on a favorite weather app and place the phone under the document camera.


Use the timer for assessments.
 This is an obvious use, but makes one less thing I have to look for when I need to time an assessment or a literacy or numeracy fluency test.


Count the minutes for stamina practice. I set it to count up. I can put it under the document camera if I want students to be able to see the time.


A Word of Advice

Clue in the administration! When principals walk into classrooms, they aren't expecting to see the teacher on a cell phone. To save you from a misunderstanding, I suggest that you let them know that you have found valuable ways to use your smartphone as a tool.

These are just a few of the many ways I use my phone. What is your favorite teaching tool?

Comments (16)

I love the idea of integrating more technology in the classroom and I also love my smartphone. Having internet access, email, sports scores all at a click of the screen is a incredibly convenient. I would love to look for ways to use it more in my room. My dilemma though, is that being a high school teacher, students are always on their phones. They are not supposed to be and it is a constant battle. One that I go back and forth on about fighting or not. I want to be involved and tuned in to what we are doing, but when they are texting, playing games, or snapchatting it is hard to be okay them having their phones out. So I find it hard to validate me being on my phone in class, when they are not allowed to be. I am sure if I worked to find some creative ways to use their phones, the gaming and texting issues would lessen. It would be a trust thing that they are using their phones appropriately. I totally understand at the elementary level how using your cell phone could be beneficial since the most of the youngster don't have phones to distract themselves. But until I find ways to integrate it and get them to use their phones appropriately, I will continue to fight the battle. As well as, have a hard time allowing myself to use it in class. Any thoughts or suggestions?

About to buy my first smart phone...Trying to decide between the 4s and 5. I am a teacher of adult ESL students and can envision using the phone in my class. Are there any benefits of having one phone over the other for this use? Thank you!!

I can't wait to use the Genuis Scan app!

I use "Class Cards", it is about $5. It works as a student engagement tracker. You can select students at random or not and evaluate their responses. It helps you track classroom participation and comprehension.

I'm always misplacing my EZ Graders, but I can always locate my phone to use Groovy Grader! Very helpful.
I've also been referencing Pocket Universe and other stargazing apps with my science curriculum. When we met for a family stargazing night, several families came with the stargazing apps installed & ready to go. It was awesome!

Great ideas, Megan! Thank you!

Last year during the writing segment of the day I would play strictly classical music from my iTunes app. The students loved it and sometimes if I forgot to put it on they would request it. They didn't realize they were also learning music appreciation at the same time.

Hi, Joy! I like being able to set up playlists of a particular genre of music. My students love to have music playing during writing time, also.
Thanks for the comments!

I have my alarms set up for when it is time to change centers. Almost always, one of my kids will hear it and get everyone else started cleaning up. I'm also using ClassDoJo for behavior and can access it through the phone. I'm going to try some of your ideas. Sara

Oh, yes, the alarms are very handy! It's funny how quickly our students become accustomed to the technology.
Thanks for the comments and ideas, Sara. I know people who use ClassDoJo. I should probably look at it sometime.

I use "Class Cards", it is about $5. It works as a student engagement tracker. You can select students at random or not and evaluate their responses. It helps you track classroom participation and comprehension.

I'll have to check it out. It sounds interesting!
Thank you!

I use the app Teacher Notes(it's free!) to take quick notes on students. I love that I can tag a single note to multiple students. Everything from a note saying that they are struggling with a certain concept, or a note saying they did not have homework that day, or even my notes from individual writing conferences, this app lets me quickly record my notes on students. You can then email them to yourself to save or print out to use for parent conferences. The same app on the iPad has the feature that let's you graph the number of notes per student so you can quickly see which students have the most/least notes. I prefer my iPhone though because it is small and always with me.

Thank you for the idea, Dorothy! I'll have to find that app. It sounds very useful!

Thanks, very useful!!!

Thank you!

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