5 Ways to Use Your Smartphone as a Learning Tool

No apps required! Who knew your phone could teach your kids so much with just its regular features?

By Allison McDonald
Feb 27, 2017



5 Ways to Use Your Smartphone as a Learning Tool

Feb 27, 2017

Editor's note: This post was originally published on March 31, 2016.

What is one thing that most parents have?

Yes. A crazy schedule. But besides that, most of us have smartphones. As parents, we all have to be cognizant of the amount of screen time our kids have, but the five ideas I've outlined for you below aren’t about your kids playing an app or zoning out watching a video. They’re about using your phone as a learning tool in a much more active way than either one of those more common uses. And here’s the bonus prize: you don’t need to buy anything extra — these ideas use the regular features on your smartphone. You probably even use your phone like this already but are unaware what you’re doing is beneficial and yes, educational for your kids.

1. Texting family members. Works on spelling and using proper language when using texts.

My five-year-old thinks the biggest treat ever is texting her dad at work. She knows she must be responsible with my phone (I am always right there anyway), and while these short form letters are not as beneficial as actually writing a letter, they are much more accessible. She works on spelling, and my husband is careful to model proper language for her and my nine-year-old son when he gets his turn too.

2. Dialing Phone Numbers. Works on number recognition and memorization.

Do you remember back when we just memorized phone numbers? Letting your child dial mom at work or grandpa for a chat works on number recognition when they are young, as well as memorization. These skills help with things like math facts and sight words. A bigger benefit though isn’t even academic; it’s that your young child will know important numbers in times of emergency.

3. Taking Videos of Your Child Reading. Builds fluency and confidence.

Some kids are shy about reading in front of their parents, but, getting to watch themselves read? That’s rad! My kindergartener hates popcorn reading (when a parent reads one page aloud and the child reads the next), but she’ll read me pages and pages if I record it for her to watch back. I don’t critique her reading because it’s much more important that she’s simply reading and building her confidence. (Plus, I know she’s self-evaluating as she goes, and while watching herself on the video afterwards.)

4. FaceTime Bedtime Stories. Be a reading role model and bond.

We live in a world where we can't always tuck our kids in at night. Whether it’s because of business trips, marriage separations, grandparents in different cities (or countries, like my kids), there are countless reasons why special people are far apart. FaceTime (or Skype or Google Hangouts) lets you read together even if you aren’t together. And it reminds your kids that reading is still fun, and a priority when you’re apart!

5. Family Photo Stories. Practice storytelling.

Kids learn about how stories work by reading and creating them. Storytelling using family photos is a great way for kids to practice being storytellers. You can model comprehension strategies like character motivation, connecting elements of the story to prior knowledge and so much more just by flipping through your family photos on your phone and asking “Tell me about this picture!”.

How do you use your smartphone as a tool for learning? Tell us about it on Scholastic Parents Facebook Page!

Featured photo credit: © BraunS/iStockphoto


Check out bloggers Amy Mascott and Allie McDonald's book, Raising a Rock-Star Reader: 75 Quick Tips for Helping Your Child Develop a Lifelong Love for Reading. Get expert advice and learn new strategies for your young readers.

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