The popular polling and quizzing software Socrative launches 2.0 today! The entirely free service has seen a full interface redesign with some robust upgrades to its teacher interface with expanses to its quizzing, space race, and quick poll features. Check out this short video on Socrative’s features:
I love Evernote. I use it for just about everything and encourage my students to employ it in their studies to help them stay more organized. Today, Cult of Mac published a great “How To” for using Evernote on your iPhone. Be sure to check it out!
Evernote is a fantastically useful service, with clients for the web, Mac, PC, and iOS. The iOS version is as full featured as the desktop version, a rarity these days, and really makes Evernote my go-to app for keeping track of stuff of all kinds.
Here, then, are four fantastic tips and tricks to get the most out of the Evernote app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch….
Read the complete article here at Cult of Mac.
Teaching with SmartPhones
Most will express frustration at their problematic nature: they’re a distraction; they make noise; they can be used for cyber-bullying or cheating. That said, I think that more and more educators are recognizing that cellphones, and especially smartphones,can be a useful learning tool. But how do teachers make that happen?
As an early adopter of smartphone technology, I immediately recognized the incredible computing power they possess. Many students now have pocket technology that’s much more powerful and innovative than the equipment used in early manned space flights.
Still, like my colleagues, I imagined cellphones as a huge classroom management struggle.
So I set out to test a theory, with this basic premise: If teachers actually direct how students will use their cellphones in class as learning tools, we can minimize their role as a distractive presence.
I am the first to acknowledge that my teaching situation is not the same as many other educators. I teach in a small, independent school. My students generally come from a financially stable background and I teach fairly small classes (15-22). All of my students have some type of smartphone device. I understand this is not the case for all teachers. But most classrooms will include some students who have internet-capable devices, and many of the activities I will discuss here can be done in groups with just one device per group.
Supporting lessons & activities
A good rule of thumb for any classroom use of cellphones: the lesson/activity must be engaging as well as productive. You don’t want technology for the sake of technology (and students aren’t going to be intrinsically fascinated with a device they use routinely when they’re outside of school). If the students don’t enjoy what they’re doing, they will be more tempted to use their phones inappropriately.
In Class Polling/Quizzing – One of my favorite tools to use in class is a program called Poll Everywhere. I wrote about this service in an article at my personal blog: “Poll Everywhere – A Free/Cheap Alternative to Polling Hardware.”
This is a great piece of software to use in the classroom (and it’s free for audiences up to 40). You can create quiz questions for which students text in their answers. No expensive clicker systems to buy, set up, and maintain! If students register their cellphone numbers (a requirement in my class) you can even track their answers for impromptu quizzes or review!
In-class Backchanneling: Backchanneling refers to the use of networks & social media to maintain an online, real-time conversation alongside spoken remarks.
For example, if you attend a keynote presentation at a conference these days, you’ll often find that some listeners in the audience are using their mobile devices to comment to other audience members about things the speaker is saying, while the speaker is saying them.
Backchanneling can be a great way to give quiet students a voice, to introduce additional facts and insights during a lesson, or simply to encourage “conversation” during lecture or group readings when you don’t want to actually interrupt the presentation.
While Twitter is probably the most popular medium for backchanneling news and entertainment events (using #hashtags to create an instant network), teachers will probably want a more controllable platform than Twitter provides.
Educators can readily set up a private backchannel using free webtools. One popular program is Today’s Meet, which allows individuals to create temporary rooms to host backchannel discussions.
Poll Everywhere can also be used for this purpose. Plus, it allows you to moderate comments and prohibits any anonymous contributions.
In-class Readings & Handouts: Smartphones can also be used productively in the classroom as eReaders for books and handouts. I place all student handouts into DropBox folders (see my previous Voices article: “DropBox – a Superb Classroom Tool”). If we are reading or doing work in class, they can access our Dropbox space via the internet and open reference material without printing it up or asking for a new copy. It’s literally right in the palm of their hand.
Of course, for traditional reading materials (textbooks and paperbacks), you can use mobile apps like Kindle eReader, Nook App, iBooks, or Google’s Play Books (just to name a few). Many of them host free content and some allow you to load content of your own. This is a great way to save money on book purchases and photocopies. Using these apps, students can even highlight and annotate.
One of the greatest active uses I have found for smartphones is in the area of research. I remember the days when I made photocopies, took meticulous notes, and tried to employ a series of notecards in a vain attempt at some semblance of a coherent organized system. Smartphones do a much better job. In this case, the power is in the apps!
My favorite research tools on the smartphone are “camera scanners” (which capture information using the phone’s built-in camera). One of the best apps I have found is a program called Genius Scan+ – available for iOS, Android, and Windows based phones. This app allows you to take pictures of documents (even books with those bendy pages), crop them, and then enhance them for ready viewing. You can create notebooks of documents (if you are copying sections of a book or article) and then store them on the device or export them (as a photo image or PDF) toGoogle Docs, DropBox, Evernote, and more. It’s a great tool for you or your students to organize research materials.
Evernote is another great application that students can use to organize their notes and images, take voice notes, write notes by hand, gather web clippings, sort emails, and more. You can put them into pre-categorized folders (class, project, theme, etc) as well as give them “tags” which makes them easy to search and sort later.
Google Search on the Go!
Most people can grasp the power of having Google in their pocket, but few recognize that the mobile version of Google is much more than a web browser. The Google Search App can be used not only for traditional searches, but has a voice search feature as well. You talk — it searches.
My favorite feature of the Google Search is its ability to perform searches using images! This feature, called Google Goggles, is a creative way to search the internet for image based content (watch the video). I employed it last year in a creative field trip experiment at the local museum.
These mobile Google capabilities offer a great way for students to explore material on the fly, using a variety of media. Any content, images, etc. that they find can be sent to a Google Drive account.
Stepping out with smartphones
I hope these ideas will be enough to stir the interest of fellow educators and encourage you to begin experiments of your own. And if you’re already using smartphones in your classroom and you’re doing something you don’t see here, please share in the comments!
When we combine the modern smartphone with wireless internet access and the remarkable number of cheap and free mobile apps now available, we find that they are truly amazing pocket-sized learning devices. Whether educators like them or hate them, the reality is that cellphones are going to become pervasive in our classrooms, if they aren’t already.
We can choose to be proactive — to employ and direct the use of these powerful tools — or we can continue to exert our energy in combating them.
If we are truly preparing our students for the future, then I believe it is our obligation to incorporate these ever-present devices into our daily teaching practice.
Image of smartphone: BigStock
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About the author
I teach at Trinity Valley School in Ft. Worth, Texas. I’m a student of the human condition: history, philosophy, art, and culture. I am a passionate educator. I am a lover of new technologies and their ability to share knowledge. I blog at Indiana Jenand you can find me on Twitter @teacherjencarey Meet the rest of our Voices.
Today, I gave my talk “Cell Phones in the Classroom: From Enemy to Asset,” (see my previous post on preparing for it) for the Independent Curriculum Group at the beautiful campus of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, TX. Here was the published summary of my talk:
From Enemy to Asset: Cell Phones in the Classroom
Cell phones have replaced note-passing as the biggest distraction in the classroom. Schools have tried to attack the problem with blanket bans or restrictive policies. But what if instead of viewing cell phones as the enemy, we use them as teaching tools? Most students have more computing power in their pocket than was used by NASA to send men to the moon. This session will explore innovative classroom uses for cell phones.
I was quite nervous about this talk – my colleagues were entirely strangers, I was in a new environment, talking about a ‘controversial’ topic and at the last minute I found out two horrifying facts: that the session would be 75 minutes (I had anticipated 50-60) and that I would be presenting first! The night before, I spent a lot of time tossing and turning as well as frantically changing my content.
The day began and my room ended up being packed – we were dragging in extra chairs and for a time, it was standing room only. Seems like this was a topic that hit home for a lot of faculty – after all, cell phones are pervasive.
Turns out, I had a great audience. They were incredibly talkative and engaging. They asked pertinent questions, brought up legitimate concerns, and shared constructively. In fact, my problem wasn’t that I couldn’t fill up the time, I just didn’t have enough!
We spent most of our time playing with Poll Everywhere. I’ve posted previously about my very positive experiences with the software in previous blog posts. They liked its ease of use, the broad application, and moderator features. In fact, we spent probably 70% of the time talking about this particular piece. Here’s an example of one of our ‘back-channel’ chats
We next moved on to DropBox (if any conference attendees are reading this, remember this is the link that will get you 250mb of bonus space!) – I was surprised by the number of teachers that were unfamiliar with this program, but they all became excited quite quickly at its cross-platform capabilities, file storage and transfer, as well as means of distributing materials to students who now seem loathe to check their own emails (my students often ask me to text them when I email something important). I highlight DropBox in my post about using your Smart Phone to go paperless (or less paper-y).
By the time I finished both of these products, we had only a few minutes left. I showed them a few examples of other products, namely Scanner Applications (like Genius Scan Pro) that students can use in their process of research (and help organize with DropBox or Evernote).
A few of the conference goers stayed after ‘the bell’ to ask me about some of the creative suites (that I used for digital storytelling projects, which you can read about here). I also put out a stack of business cards that were collected up – hopefully to contact me in the future, but possibly to ensure they got the spelling right on their complaints.
I didn’t get a chance to distribute my handout (not sure what happened to my copies). But you can download a copy of it here: Austin Presentation (it includes all of the software I went over, or planned to go over, in the talk).
- Top Productivity Apps
- Top Communication Apps
- Top Photography Apps
- Top Music Apps
- Top Reading Apps
- Top News Apps
- Top Games
- Top Education Apps
- Hall of Fame Apps
- Honorable Mentions
There are some amazing Gems in here (I picked up a few) and the prices vary from Free to $29.99. See the article: MacWorld’s 2011 App Gems Awards and my earlier article “Best iPhone (iOS) Apps for Students.” As always, add your own!
Today, my 9th graders were working in the library on their research papers. I had put a slew of books on reserve to ensure that all of the students would have access to them. However, this also meant that the students could not check them out of the library to use at home. One of the students was lamenting how many photocopies she would have to make and I suggest that she use her iPhone to take pictures of the pages using an iPhone Scanner App (Genius Scan – PDF). She quickly downloaded it and was thrilled with what she could do with it – especially that she could sync it with her DropBox account. She then mentioned that I ought to write a blog post about the best iPhone Apps for students. So, due to a student request, here it is (PS – most of the time, there is an Android equivalent).
DropBox (Free) – DropBox is by far the single best and most useful application for students. It allows you to sync files across devices – invaluable if you’re always on the go. You get 2GB of storage for free (more than enough for documents). If you join from this link, you’ll get an extra 250MB for free.
Genius Scan + – PDF Scanner ($2.99) – this allows you to turn your iPhone into a pocket scanner and upload documents to DropBox, Evernote, and Google Docs! If you’re in the library a lot and paying your life savings to the copy machine, this can save your sanity and your checkbook. With PDFs, you can even annotate and highlight. There is a free version, but doesn’t have the same syncing option.
Evernote (Free and Paid Options) – Evernote allows you to organize all of your notes via a collective database. You can clip articles, record receipts, leave yourself voice notes, etc. It’s so flexible, that you can adapt it to practically any environment.
Instapaper ($4.99) – allows you to download and save websites for offline reading. So, if you have a lengthy Wikipedia article, to read, simply select to “Read it Later.”
Pages ($9.99) – Apple’s word processing application in iOS form. With the new release of iCloud, you can now access your documents on all of your devices. Great little device for carrying your projects with you, editing, and creating.
Numbers ($9.99) – Apple’s spreadsheet application in iOS form. With the new release of iCloud, you can now access your documents on all of your devices. Great little device for carrying your projects with you, editing, and creating.
Keynote ($9.99) – Apple’s presentation application in iOS form. With the new release of iCloud, you can now access your documents on all of your devices. Great little device for carrying your projects with you, editing, and creating.
Mindmeister (Free & Paid Plans) – Amazing mind-mapping software. Great for outlining and collaborating.
TED (Free) – Catalogue of Ted-X talks.
Google Translate (Free) – Great tool for quick, on-the-go translations. You can even speak phrases!
Merriam Webster Dictionary (Free) – America’s most popular dictionary, free!
Phone Drive + File Sharing ($1.99) – Use your iPhone/iPad as a USB/WiFi flash drive. Play, browse, share, organize, and use your files right on your iPhone or iPad. There is also a free version with fewer features.
Google Search (Free) – Take a picture on your phone and run it through google’s image search! Seriously! Download this application, take a photo of a work of art or a building, and search by the image! It’s amazing! You can also do traditional google searches and even voice searches!
I know that there are many more useful applications out there. Please help by sharing your favorite apps!
First, I’d like to credit Mind Shift for their informative “Educational Apps of the Month” posting this month. There are some real gems there and one that I want to highlight: Google Goggles. Google and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu California (one of my favorite museums of all time and listed in my article “Best Online & Interactive Museums“) have paired up to create this very cool identification app.
It plays off of the Face Recognition software that has become so famous with Facebook scandals. It is available for both iOS and Android devices. Click here to get the application (if you don’t already have it). You just take a photo of the artwork with your device (any art work) and it will then scan its library and pull up an information window.
It’s also not entirely reserved for Art Work. You can use Google Goggles to scan text, landmarks, wine labels, and more! I can’t wait to try this out! Remember, before you take photos in a museum confirm that it is permissible (and always turn off the flash!).