Valuable Teacher Tool: The Smartphone!
- 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 the 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 reference. I 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 to 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.
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.
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.