Posted in Cell Phone Apps, Getting Organized, Getting Started, High School, Teaching

Tools Not Toys: Getting started on educational cell phone use

The beginning of this year school year
I set out to find some apps that I could use in my classroom
And I don’t teach Elementary
I teach High School
And I don’t teach the sweet little freshmen
I teach Seniors 🙂
(cringe, right? It’s actually really fun)
The biggest problem I found is this:
There is almost no such thing as a”High School app”
(go ahead, trying searching for that, few to none exist in any official form)
There are TONS and TONS and then TONS again
Of “Elementary School level apps”
There are games and sites and things galore
And all super super cutesy!
(Big hearts and smiley faces and emoticons here)
But really, Seniors don’t do cute
I mean they kinda do? Sometimes?
(they won’t it admit it but they will)
But really, after researching pages and pages of Cute Cute Apps
I came to the conclusion that High School doesn’t need High School Apps
They need Grown-Up Apps that they should start learning how to use already
The goal is not to teach them about surviving High School
(Although that will be part of it)
The goal is to teach them how to survive college, a job and LIFE

I came up with two types of Apps:
Serious Educational Tools Apps and
Fun Games with Hidden Educational Goals Apps 🙂

High school kids I decided, needed three things:
1. Ways to use their phones in the Adult world to work and to study better
2. Games and fun things to do on their phone that will make them smarter and more prepared instead of well…the opposite effect that most social media has.
3. Ways to use their phone well in a way that will BENEFIT them in the end and they need to learn to make it do that, not just use it waste time and get into trouble
Those were my basic goals when I chose what we would use

Once I had this in hand, my basic problem was this:
What now?
How do you teach kids to use their cell phones in class without it being a disaster?
How do you teach kids to WORK and now just PLAY with their phones?
Where do you even start?

So below are the problems I ran into and mostly how I fixed them:

1. We have to Download what???
Hand out A list of “Things to Download” from Day 1!
Lots of kids in and out, lots of craziness at the beginning of the year
And lots of questions
So make a list and tell them: please have this downloaded by tomorrow!
There were lots of raised eyebrows, lots of surprise even
And a lot of hesitation and responses like “okay…I guess?”
Games can be downloaded as they go and uninstalled when we are done
But the stuff we use constantly, they need all those ASAP
At the end of the list of “Apps to Download”
The last thing to do was to make a Folder on their phone and put all these things in the same folder so they had easy access.
They did it, but I think most of them probably thought I was nuts 🙂
Now at the end of the year, kids use their phones constantly to hand in work
And now it’s all more instinctual than anything

2. A Wifi Connection:
We were promised this at our school this year
YAY!
But ya…didn’t really happen completely
It kinda did in some areas of school
But not in mine 😦 Would have been nice…
This caused some problems as the year went on (see C and E below)

3. Data Usage Negotiating: What do we need???
A. For some kids it doesn’t matter: they have unlimited data, they use it however much they want, and whatever
B.  Some kids have limited Data, so they can’t do the assignment there but they can do it at home later (which has Wifi) and turn it in that afternoon (something to warn about and plan for)
C. Some kids have a phone that could log on to WiFi and work fine if such a thing existed… but alas…
D. Some kids don’t have phones or data: I had ONE kid in my CP class and ONE kid in my General that didn’t have a phone and now at the end of the year, I have one kid that has never gotten a phone.(out of about 100 kids) To me the whole “But what if they don’t have a phone?!?!” argument is pretty much void these days as most kids own the best phone money can buy.
BUT, even if they don’t, most apps are accessible from a normal computer (one of my kids had to do this for awhile because his phone got ruined and didn’t get replaced for about a month) but now the question is whether they have a computer with internet at home? Maybe, maybe not. I would say in general this is not a problem and I just worked out the work on an individual basis
E. Data Overload: I would say that number one “complaint” I have had this year about my class is the amount of Data the kids use (mostly by parents who call to whine that THEY cannot use any Data because their kid is using it all for “educational purposes.”LOL) I think much of this would be solved by the Wifi actually working, but other than that, YES, using Apps uses more Data than…doing nothing. Again, I would say nothing to really be done about it other than try to provide WiFi? I don’t have a solution to this one, guilty as charged 😦 🙂

4. Space on their Phone: I think one of the other “First” conversations we have to have is “what you should delete to make room” talk.  Most kids have tons of pictures, videos and etc etc on their phone and are like “I can’t download that, I don’t have room” to which I answer, “Well, go ahead and just delete Snapchat and I’m sure you’ll have room!” They roll their eyes and smile because the message came through: you have room, you just have a  bunch of crap on there and I need you to download something educational, get your priorities straight!” 🙂 It’s a hard thing and I even had a kid tell me he deleted Google Classroom because he was “making room” for all his Snapchat storage (Ya, guess what his grade is, haha)

5. Backing Up your Info Already!!! This conversation topic inevitably follows next and includes a talk about things like Google Drive and Dropbox where MAYBE (I dunno, you know, you could think about it) you should be backing up all those pics and videos instead of just keeping them on your phone waiting to get ruined when you ruin yet another phone…???
I dunno, think about it….
And if you did, which would be SMART of you….
you would have room for what you can really use on your phone :)|

6. HOW-TO: You’d be surprised what kids really DON’T know how to do with their phones.  They know all the social media stuff, sure. But outside of that? It can be scary.  So a few basic lessons that they will need to do all that needs to be done with their phones:
*how to take screenshots,
*attaching files (docs, pics, screenshots),
*FINDING where their documents are :),
*Taking GOOD (readable) pictures of documents,
*using apps to type assignments (on their phones vs. a computer),
*How to edit/make comments on a document on their phone
*How to share documents with each other (peer reviews, turning in work)

7. iPhone vs. Android: When I was choosing Apps I realized that despite that it makes sense, and despite that you would think they always would, there are Apps that are only for one type of phone.  Major Apps will have both “versions” but smaller ones will not.  Mostly this was frustrating when choosing Game Apps because I’d find a KILLER AMAZING game and ya…only for Android or only for iPhones. Why would you only make ONE VeRsIoN??? I don’t get it but it’s true. Make sure you TEST and CHECK that your Apps work for both types of phones.

8. TOOLS NOT TOYS!!!! Inevitably, I give a speech about this and even have a handout if I remember right: Use your high tech computer for your BENEFIT not just as a very expensive TOY! All of these things we learn are supposed to HELP you—help with homework, help with doing things faster, doing things easier, becoming better, learning, growing and being a better student! That is what I want them to learn about—their “education” in how to use technology to waste time and pass on meaningless non-stop information is fully complete!! Let’s use phones as TOOLS, the Toy portion is when you get home! haha

Stay Tuned for Part 2:
Educational Apps we can’t live without

and Part 3: Educational Game Apps for High School

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