Why Handhelds?

Once summarily dismissed by educators, mobile devices (and other handheld devices) are garnering serious consideration as tools worthy of classroom use for several reasons.

  1. Digital culture: Technology is pervasive in modern culture and a staple of youth social interaction. To remove a cell phone from a teenager today is in many ways to disconnect her from her friends and social life and disrupt her daily routines.
  2. Mobile computing trend of future: As handheld devices become increasingly powerful their utility increases. “Smart” phones that can access the Web are expected to be the norm in a few short years.
  3. Flexibility of handhelds: Along with power comes flexibility as cell carriers continue to add features and programs.
  4. Portability, ease of use: Cell phones, iPods, and even iPads can go just about anywhere easily.
  5. Great apps options and growing: And there are many free and low-cost apps that can provide useful applications for the device.
  6. Great possibilities for integration with Web 2.0: There are many free or low cost websites that can work with a cell phone or other handhelpd device to create a slideshow, podcast, photo gallery, video, and more.

Cell Phone Research
The research below was conducted by the Pew Research Center and provides in depth insight into cell phone use by teens. Often, district and school policy limits cell phone use in classrooms and the research conducted by the Pew Research Center can provide the data necessary to begin a conversation around exploring cell phone use for academic purposes in the classroom.

Classroom Applications for Cell Phones and Other Mobile Devices

Devices as Classroom Response Systems / Clickers
The easiest and quickest way to begin using mobile devices in a classroom is by turning student mobile devices, iPods touches, iPads, or tablets into classroom response systems. Through text messaging, students can respond to polls to begin classroom discussion or as a quick formative assessment. Polleverywhere is the best online platform to begin using mobile devices as classroom response systems. With a computer, LCD projector, and student text messaging, a classroom can instantly be transformed as students become engaged in discussion by voting on classroom polls. For iPod Touches, iPhones, and iPads, there are student response apps such as eClicker which allow for quick polling as long as all of the devices are on the same Wi-Fi network.

The video below, created by Greg Kulowiec of EdTechTeacher, provides a great tutorial for getting started with Polleverywhere.

Digital Cameras: Nearly all mobile devices have high quality cameras that can be used for a number of classroom applications. Pictures that students take with their mobile devices can then be shared via text message or email to submit, record or share their work. Below are specific classroom applications for digital pictures:

  • Homework: Students take pictures of their homework and text message or email that image to a teacher. The image can then be projected in class and the student who submitted the image can begin class discussion. This application works well for individual math problems, images, political cartoons and drawings.
  • Presentations: Students can take pictures with their mobile devices that they can then use for projects and presentations. Once the images are captured they can be text messaged, synched, or emailed to a computer account or picture storage site (Picasaweb or Flickr) to be used in a presentation.
  • Classroom Notes: Students can be assigned to take pictures of class notes from their own notebook or from a chalk board / white board. Once the picture is captured, the student can text message or email the image to either their own or a teacher’s email account. The images can then be used in a presentation for review or for students who were absent from class.

Cell Phone Podcasting with Google Voice
The most basic function of a cell phone is the ability to make phone calls. This basic function, when used in conjunction with Google Voice, can turn student cell phone calls into podcasts. Below are specific applications for cell phone calls & podcasting. Before getting started created podcasts with mobile devices and Google Voice, visit the Podcast page and an introduction to Google Voice.

What is Google Voice? Google Voice is free with a google account. Create a unique phone number through google that students can call. Calls placed to a google voice account are stored in an email-like inbox that can then be downloaded as an mp3 file, or embedded.

  • Oral Homework: Instead of a written homework assignment, have students call your Google Voice account to submit oral homework. As the messages enter your Google Voice inbox, you can both listen to and download the messages to be used in a podcast or presentation.
  • Oral Presentations: As a supplement to a paper or project, students can call either their own or a teacher Google Voice account to create an audio file of an oral presentation.
  • Interviews: When students need to interview someone for a project they can conduct their interview with their cell phone while it is calling their Google Voice account. By using the cell phone as a microphone or recording device, the interview will appear in the Google Voice account. The call can be downloaded for editing (Garageband or Audacity) to be shared with the class.

iPods & iPads

Apple iPhoneAlong with Cell Phones, iPods and iPads have enormous potential for classroom use. With traditional iPods, students can quickly and easily record podcasts by attaching a Belkin voice recorderor using the built in voice memo recorder. Newer iPods have a built in camera that allows students to record video to create movies. The iPod Touch is essentailly a mini handheld computer, as it can connect to the internet through a Wi-Fi connection. The 4th generation iPod Touch also has a built in camera and video camera, as well as a voice recorder, allowing students to capture images for presentation, audio for podcasts and video for movies.

In addition to the potential applications listed above for all mobile devices, iPods and iPads have even more potential for the classroom.

By attaching a Belkin TuneTalk, or a Griffin iTalk Pro, an iPod becomes a recording/podcasting device (newer models actually have built-in microphones as do iPhones and iPads). Audio will be recorded on the device as a voice memo, and when it is synched to a computer with iTunes, the voice memos will be pulled into iTunes. The voice memo files can then be imported into an audio editing program (Garageband or Audacity) to edit the files and create a podcast. Teachers can also record class lectures, discussion and presentations using this method to share with other educators, absent students or parents.

This is an unbelievable resource for both teachers and high school students in upper level classes. Hundred of universities from around the world have uploaded lectures and resources from every major academic field that can be downloaded and used. These lectures could be used as supplemental material for students, or devices can be set up around the room with different lectures as listening stations. Multiple students can listen to the content from one iPod by using a headphone splitter, plugging into a set of speakers, or using the internal speakers on newer models.

Listening/Viewing Stations
With only a few iPods or iPads, a classroom can be transformed to include listening or viewing stations. Any video or aduio resource that is on YouTube can be downloaded and converted using Zamzar into a file format that can be played back on an iPod, or use the YouTube app on iPod Touches or iPads. If using Zamzar, simply find the content on YouTube, paste the URL into the search box on Zamzar and enter an email address where the file will be sent. Once the file is converted and arrives in your email inbox, it can be downloaded, dragged into iTunes and synched to class iPods.

iPod Touch/iPad & Google Docs
With an iPod Touch or iPad and a Wi-Fi connection, students can created and edit a Google document from their Google Docs account. This allows students to begin working on a document on one device and then continue to work on the same document at a later time on another device or computer by logging into their Google Docs account. When using an iPod Touch or iPad with Google Docs the mobile version has some limitations such as not being able to easily share the document with collaborators.

Editing Google Docs on a Mobile Device

On an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, students can access thousands of eBooks and load them into the iBooks app. From there, students have access to a variety of notetaking and annotation tools. These devices also can run either the Nook or Kindle app, allowing them even more access to eBooks.

iPod/iPad Tools & Resources

Below are various guides and resources to getting started with using iPods or iPads in the classroom. We also have tons of resources on edtechteacher.org for iPad Apps.

Video Tutorials on Handhelds

Cell Phones in School (ASCD Edge)

The Google Presentation below, from blogger Tom Barrett, gives a great set of suggestions for how to integrate the iPad into your curriculum.

How to Integrate Handhelds

Handhelds can be integrated in history and social studies classes in a variety of ways. Below is a list of potential activities.

  • Oral History Project
  • Poetry Slam
  • Oral quiz
  • Virtual science symposium
  • News broadcast
  • Digital Image Storybooks
  • PSAs
  • Geotagging
  • Rock Identification
  • Geo_Insects
  • Photo-mapping
  • Telenova
  • Mobile business campaign
  • Art gallery
  • Math ringtone raps or jingles
  • Who am I?
  • Science Activism (w/ Reactee)
  • Mobile Homework help blog
  • Election simulation