Mobile Technology Finding a Place in the Classroom

Morgan Sims80By Morgan Sims

Many of us remember the days when monochrome-screened Macintosh Classic computers were used in classrooms. We played the old school games like “Oregon Trail” and “Where in the World Is Carmen San Diego.” Times have changed and schools are responding. No longer are kids reprimanded for having gadgets in view. In fact, teachers and students are reaping the benefits of mobile technology. Here are some of the ways we are seeing a new face of technology in the learning environment.

Teachers’ Trusty Toolbox of Goods

Student using iPad in school. Image via Flickr by Flickingerbrad.

Student using iPad in school. Image via Flickr by Flickingerbrad.

There are several platforms, apps, and websites that are designed with mobile technology in mind. Taking care of the teacher, these resources help build lesson plans, virtually tutor students, provide file organization, and much more. The following tools are easy and helpful with educational planning in today’s world.

  • Notability is an app specifically for note taking. Teachers are constant thinkers and planners. They’re always jotting ideas down on napkins and sticky notes when that light bulb goes off. Notability lets users take notes and annotate PDF files with Dropbox and Google Drive Sync. It’s a multi-functional app that keeps teachers organized and ready to seize the day.



  • MOBL21 allows teachers to design lesson plans, create study guides, and even construct flashcards for students. Students can access anything their teacher makes “public” from their smartphones or PCs. Recognized and accredited by school systems nationwide, it’s a platform educators can expect to see a lot from in the coming years.


  • Educreations Interactive White Board turns your iPad into a recordable whiteboard. Teachers can create engaging and interactive tutorials by simply touching, tapping, and recording their voices to their iPad. Then, by using the ELMO system or similar device, they can present the video to their class.
Educreations Interactive White Board.

Educreations Interactive White Board.

Though these tools provide assistance outside of the classroom, it’s equally important that teachers use mobile technology in the classroom. Since schools are responding to the new age of tech, they’re seeing how crucial Internet service providers are with supplying quality, high-speed connections. High speed connections are vital in the classroom since teachers must quickly move from topic to topic to keep students engaged. Even a few minutes of download time can lose a child’s attention.

Schools Find Mobile Technology a Valuable Resource

While school districts and teachers used to fight against the rising trend of students carrying their cell phones and mobile devices with them at all times, some have begun to use it as a viable educational resource to enhance the learning experience. Here are a couple of examples of how mobile technology has specifically enhanced classroom experiences:

  • Matt Cook’s fifth grade classroom at Trinity Meadows Intermediate School in Keller, Texas, has found mobile technology to be a wonderful resource for students. With the financial support of corporate sponsors, along with moral support from parents and the district school board, each student in Cook’s class carries a cell phone to document their work, collaborate on projects and to communicate with their teacher. The devices are not voice or text enabled, but Cook says they find other ways to enhance their learning. “As a teacher, I use GoManage to push out applications and files to the phones as the kids wireless sync. We also use Gaggle for e-mail communications with the kids. It is safe and filtered.”1
  • The Beaufort School District in Beaufort, South Carolina, has recently expanded their iPad program to include some 8,400 tablet devices to be used by its middle and high school students. They say the program has “increased student engagement in learning and familiarized students with mobile technology that they will use in college and in their careers.”2

Students’ New Age Learning Aids and Games

Students using iPads in school. Image via Flickr by flickingerbrad.

Students using iPads in school. Image via Flickr by flickingerbrad.

Teachers aren’t the only ones having fun with mobile technology. Students are having a good time with it too. There’s nothing better than disguising learning with fun, interactive apps. Here are a few educational applications kids are using.

  • Stack the States is an app that teaches students about U.S. geography with a playful cartoon theme.
Stack the States.

Stack the States.

  • BrainPop/BrainPop Jr. is used in thousands of classrooms and is available by traditional website as well as a mobile app. Covering every subject and grade level, this diverse teacher’s assistant can keep kids learning at home too.


  • Shakespeare is an app that provides all of Shakespeare’s greatest works along with concordance for easy referencing.


  • Storykit is for the budding writer. With high stakes writing tests, Storykit is essential for elementary school students.


With hundreds of educational apps, kids are staying busy and learning on mobile devices. The level of connectivity is at an all-time high, and we can only hope that technology continues to aid and benefit teachers and students.
1 Cara Bafile, “Mobile Technology Goes to School,” Education World, 2009.
2 Ken Hawkins, “Beaufort School District calls iPad program a success, will bring total to 8,400,” The Digital, 22 May 2013.

9 Responses

  1. […] By Morgan Sims Many of us remember the days when monochrome-screened Macintosh Classic computers were used in classrooms. We played the old school games like "Oregon Trail" and "Where in the World …  […]

  2. I am at another conference, the ESRI conference which I will write about . It was a distinct pleasure to find this article and a message from Harry in my mail box.

    I am old enough that I helped try out Carmen Sandiego and thank goodness we have new ways of working, but for the kids back in the day , it was exciting and new. I loved this article. I put it out on my Scoop-it. I learned more from this article than I did at ISTE about mobile because I could not attend the mobile workshops that I wanted to.

    I feel better about my work on line now.

    • Hi Bonnie! Thanks so much for reading! So glad you enjoyed it. As a recent college graduate having my iPhone be a tool in many of my courses was so convenient and helpful. I think technology can absolutely help younger students stay engaged, and make life easier for teachers! Thanks again!

  3. […] View article: Mobile Technology Finding a Place in the Classroom | Educational &#8230… […]

    • I liked this article. The writer probably did not know that we teachers who started the game revolution did what is now called STEAM in integrating resources into the classroom. I got so good at it I was hired on the last interaction of Oregon Trail to make it more integrated in subject. In my classroom while doing Oregon Trail back in the day , we did each a quilt pattern, a stack cake, a review of rocks and minerals ( with help from the Smithsonian, review of recipes used by the Pioneers, the music teacher taught us the songs, the real ones, not the cleaned up one, and we studied the mortality along the trail. We noted that School teachers went for free, and we learned what a spider ( skillet ) was and of the demise of certain birds that were then in large supply across the US. Then came Laser Disks from the National Geographic and we were able to see the verticals and the high mountains , on a trip across America. Thanks to Frank Wilthrow and his ideas, each child in my class did a separate trail other than the Oregon trail .. there are many, and the children researched them . We did have a visual a map at the front of the class that was 8 maps in one. Other than that we then went to the zoo to see the animals, and to the Smithsonian to view the contraptions, including the hand cart that people used to move west. The kids were not so much impressed by the portable toilets.. Medicine, What school was like, and the hazards of the trail were interesting. Yes we studied the Native American groups that they encountered and learned what happened at the encounters… again , Smithsonian resources and workshops.
      I only got in trouble once when the girls refused to put on their shoes as back in the day shoes were kind of important things for special occasions

      Where in the World Carmen Sandiego

      That one got me a job teaching at the Smithsonian in a summer camp. We did the maps, connected some other games to it , one game that was transporting goods across the USA and we all had our own individual atlases and maps from the National Geographic. We had truck drivers sending us postcards and Flat Stanley was circulating and we profiled the cities that we learned about. It was when I learned that some kids who were supposed to NOT like learning were fascinated with this game that I became a gamer of sorts. Of course NECC and NASA had other projects, such as Marsville, and Mars City Alpha which was not really a game but a project based learning initiative. No need to feel sorry for us as pioneers in Space study. We had poster, maps, and all sorts of teacher professional development from NASA. We built, explored robotics, all manner of things about flight and there was a song, ” Mission Control Do You Hear Us?” Some astronauts even came to my class. We went to the White House with a team of Young Astronauts. I think the most exciting thing was
      analyzing and thinking about the problems, which brings me to another thing that was not talked about

      Now we have Citizen Science. Back in the day we had National Geographic Kids Network. Boy did the kids and groups make us work on that one. We had a research scientist who helped us to analyze the data whether it was on Acid Rain, Water, Food, or Trash. We used one project and then taught it to the learning community. The citizen science in KidsNetwork, led my kids to complain about the school lunches and the nutritional value of them, and to create a table where if there was a piece of fruit that one did not want it was placed on a table rather than being thrown away.

      The biggest and coolest projects were the Kidsnetwork projects. We worked in teams, we corresponded with our scientist, we learned to graphs, and write and worked on topics that most thought most kids would not like.

      In working with Microsoft, we in a team were teachers who worked with schools all over the country. Road Ahead. In one of our schools there was a lemonade stand game , but we ramped it up to the Hot Dod Stand game. Dr. James Comer had a project around breads and food and so we made the project , after study into a real store for one day when we actually sold hot dogs ( in California -Whiskey Gulch – that ‘s the poor neighborhood near Stanford) it worked too.Might not today based on the content, but we sold, the teacher sold hot dogs, corn dogs, and taco dogs. It was a business enterprise .. she got a scholarship to Stanford from that project and how the kids took to it. ( Sorry Mrs. Obama).

      There was also a project on farming. A game. Parents in my community made it real, I thought the kids would kill each other with the shovels, buckets, spades and implements that we had, but a parent turned over an acre of the school backyard and the kids and I learned a lot. We had the game as a similes, and parents and the 4-H as helpers. We also raised chickens, see ( Chickscope) and studies Bugs , see ( Bugscope) and had a worm garden, if you call it that ( we
      were able to supply big nightcrawlers to the local fishermen and to get the interest of the government. We made duck stamps, and fished the Tidal Basin and meanwhile our crops came up. I had never seen some of the vegetables we raised. We had corn, beans, squash, peas, and some exotic veggies . This project backed into a project for the Fish and Game Service, they partnered with us and the Smithsonian , let me teach this project with some portions of it to be done by gardeners. Imagine the power of a garden on the mall and the kids being able to access the resources of the Colombian Quincentenary
      . Remember that art, when Spaghetti met Tomato. We had a ball working and thinking about the Seeds of Change.

      To me the games were but a part of the curriculum but some times the driving part. I stayed up many a night learning to be better than the kids on Amazon Trail, and some game about Oceans. It didn’t hurt me, It helped me to see, and understand different learning styles,

      Finally there was the Jason Project, there were games embedded in it but there was real science. Again, we tackled the Amazon .. rather the jungles of the world. We had movies, songs, fruits, flowers, and help from the National Wildlife Society. THere was also a project on
      Illegal trade.. Suitcases for Survival. We learned a lot, we taught other kids and we had real implements that were brought to our classroom by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National zoo. So don’t feel bad for us old timers. We had permission to be innovative, to use our imaginations, and to improvise. The things that I did not know were taught by the art teacher, the PE teacher and other school resource people.

      Think Shakespeare. We did that too. but that’s another story we made up our OWN game.

  4. I do not desire to rain on anyone’s parade. Every technology has potential usefulness. Tablets with gesture-based interfaces have captured the imagination of very many people, some of them educators. My grandchildren both have iPads and do so much with them that it staggers the imagination. They’re just four and six years of age. Yet, the iPad is not an educational panacea, and neither is any other technology.

    Consumer technology must come under special scrutiny. How well does it adapt to education? How easy is it for education to adopt?

    With the iPad, we have a tool with much greater cost than alternatives, more than twice that of a Chromebook, for example. In some settings, the extra cost may be worth it. I see it as being especially useful in K-3, but would see similar value for an Android tablet. Keyboards and mice don’t work so well at the lowest grades, not that students cannot master them, just that keyboards are rather unnecessary at that level and that gestures are easier to master than a mouse is.

    As the grade level advances, these tablets retain value, but alternatives that cost less can deliver more. I’m typing this on a MacBook Pro. I would be hard-pressed to do so on an iPad.

    School districts are experimenting with all sorts of devices. One is standardizing on Chromebooks. Another has chosen iPads. Yet another is selecting a low-cost Android tablet. Some stick to low-cost laptops but are considering alternatives.

    I don’t really see the rush, the extreme hurry exhibited by districts to buy expensive iPads, and forgo other expenditures to do so, when this development in computing devices is still playing itself out. The next great device could be announced tomorrow and could put iPads on the shelf until Apple manages to come out with a newer model. Manufacturers are scrambling to entice consumers to their particular device, while almost entirely ignoring the problems that schools face.

    When a school chooses widespread adoption of a consumer or business product, it’s taking a risk. Often, it’s bowing to parental pressures at the same time. While we should applaud schools for overcoming traditional education inertia, we should also realize that some of these new things are just fads or early examples of an incompletely developed new technology.

    The fact that so many districts are going in so many directions indicates strongly that we don’t know where these trends will end. Until we do, I think that wholesale adoption of iPads by high schools is a mistake. My specialty is science. I have yet to see a great science app for high school on an iPad. Mostly, they’re just games, animations, and other ordinary stuff.

    My disclaimer here is that I run a company that puts out an online science application that I consider to be great and am currently porting to the Chromebook, iPad, and Android tablets. Vendors have to cover all bases eventually. I’d rather not have to spend all of this money on fads, but major customers are demanding it. The result will be higher prices.

  5. […] There are several platforms, apps, and websites that are designed with mobile technology in mind. Taking care of the teacher, these resources help build lesson plans, virtually tutor students, provide file organization, and much more. The following tools are easy and helpful with educational planning in today’s world.” To read further please click this link: […]

    • I reviewed all of the great links in the article and I will disseminate them to the people who are subscribed to my pages.

      You gave me a gift. I have never ever used a whiteboard. Well actually
      I saw some of the first ones and Chris Dede and Seymour Papert demonstrated them for me..and we used them when I was a Christa McAuliffe Educator. I always wanted one.

      Somehow ,we , you the newbie and me the older teacher kind of agree in ideational scaffolding about mobile devices.

      When a school does a wholesale adoption, there are perks to gain with training and the attention that the school gets from the company.

      I doubt that there is a school that has only one kind of computer, though Ipads might be the tool of the moment, the cloud , use of it in education , lets us manage a lot of tools.
      I was at the ESRI conference this last week. A woman complained that children coming to the San Diego Zoo were using phones. She objected. I thought , you know I have been going on field trips with kids all my life. It works well when a phone or a tablet is used to capture the moment. So many kids in the moment of the trip don’t remember what the purpose of the journey is. Even E-rate allows teachers to purchase smart phones to capture data , etc.

      Thank you for the resources. Lovely article.

  6. […] There are several platforms, apps, and websites that are designed with mobile technology in mind. Taking care of the teacher, these resources help build lesson plans, virtually tutor students, provide file organization, and …  […]

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