Use of mobile technology in the classroom is increasing at a remarkable rate and is the new normal at many schools.
Some teachers, however, are reluctant to incorporate into their teaching the variety of mobile apps and software available. Concerns range from fears of distraction to personal lack of knowledge on how the tech works, but these fears can be easily rectified, leading to a more inclusive and technologically advanced classroom that benefits students and teachers alike. Following are a few of the more prevalent concerns I've encountered - and my typical advice.
"I'm not up to date with mobile! Students know a lot more than I do."
Students' technological literacy is greater than ever, and they often know how to use and troubleshoot mobile devices when the adults in the room are unable to. Adopting an attitude of defeat is a self-fulfilling prophecy in the field of technology, though. Most mobile software that is available for use in the classroom has training available for the teacher to take, or can easily be mastered just by trying it out prior to releasing the technology for student use, so that the teacher is up-to-date and knowledgeable in the apps that they choose to use in the classroom. This way, teachers can be the go-to for students when they have questions about how to use the app, and can establish themselves as experienced technology users, turning this very issue from problem to opportunity. Some ed-tech apps can be set up and managed on a desktop by the teacher, and then used by the students on mobile devices, which is an interface that is often more comfortable and familiar to educators.
"Mobile devices are a distraction for kids! I need them focused in class."
Students’ lives are saturated with mobile technology, whether educators like it or not. They are interested in their mobile devices, regardless of whether your lesson incorporates it. Likewise, this should be an opportunity for teachers to embrace and channel the interests of their students by integrating mobile devices into the lesson. The mere existence of technology in the classroom is always going to appeal to students, so make the most of it and harness that appeal into your teaching! This way, teachers can get the best of both worlds – avoid conflict with students over prohibition of their favorite device, while getting students engaged in the lesson by allowing use of the technology that would otherwise be a distraction. We know that prohibition typically makes the banned item even more appealing, so a teacher who adopts and shows proper use of mobile devices can teach his or her students a valuable lesson on responsible use.
"I’m not sure how to tie it in to my classroom teaching experience."
This is what mobile educational technology is all about, and quite a few Ed-Tech providers have given this question a lot of thought. Teachers need not fret, then, as they are not required to invent the wheel, but only need to learn how to use it. With many applications, teachers can prepare specific assignments for students to complete, and students can carry them out using their mobile device. This allows teachers to use lessons and teaching material they’re comfortable with and have already developed, and upload it onto mobile software that will adapt it for use on devices like iPads, Chromebooks, and phones. The whole lesson works better when a teacher’s experience and student’s tech interest is married. It brings interest and variation into the learning experience because it uses something that students are excited to learn with. The mobile app becomes integral to the lesson structure, and will quickly become second nature for teachers and students to use. It’s also important to be adaptable – some mobile apps will work better for certain teaching styles than others, and the beauty of ed-tech is the ability to quickly change the specific app to better meet the classroom’s needs, so you can expect frequent updates and enhancements.
Mobile apps in the classroom are here to stay, and benefit teachers and students when they’re embraced and utilized. While it is normal to have some trepidation about how the specifics will play out, teachers will find that student engagement and learning outcomes benefit when lessons integrate traditional teaching methods with today’s educational technology.