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Introducing Mobile Technology Into Your Classroom: Structures and Routines

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It can be intimidating to try something new in your classroom. This is especially true with technology. I believe that technology should make the work of teachers easier while creating an environment that excites and engages students. Even though I'm coming from an iPad classroom, these structures and routines are great for introducing all one-to-one devices.

Have a System (and Expectations!)

No matter what device you use, have a system. All of the iPads in my classroom's cart are labeled with a student name and number. Each slot is numbered, too. I expect each device to be placed in numerical order (odd on one side, even on the other) when my students return them. That way, I can quickly see which device is missing. When I taught a few groups of students with my one iPad cart, I kept class lists with each student's number taped to the top of my cart. When calling students to retrieve or put away their iPad, I often call out "all even" or "all odd," or give a range like "1-10." Students need to know that they are accountable for the well being of their device and that its wear and tear can be traced back to them. And something as simple as establishing a flow of traffic in your room for returning and picking up devices can lessen transition time between activities.

Be Clear and Consistent

Don't take it for granted that your students will know what you're thinking. If you fail to list expectations early, students will explore their device in ways you might not anticipate. I ask my fifth graders to stay away from their iPad's settings. This means that the background image won't be changed, font size and type will stay the same, and no devices will be given passwords. Be explicit about your expectations, and don't make assumptions. You might ask students to refrain from changing the look of a screen so that apps and icons stay in the same place. Just like many routines and structures in my classroom, I'll post a list of expectations for students to use as a reference.

Start Small

Choose two or three apps or programs to tackle at first. To avoid feeling overwhelmed by the abundance of choices, create a short list of "everyday applications." Start adding one or two new apps a week to build your base. Determine which students are your experts (or could easily become experts), and have them be the first to try out an app. Show them the ins and outs of an app during a free period. That way, when you introduce this new app to the class, you'll have three or four students who can help troubleshoot or answer quick questions for members of their group.

Substitute Regular Activities

Instead of trying something completely out of the ordinary from the get-go, replace one of your usual activities with technology. For example, have students type on virtual sticky notes instead of writing on paper ones. Students can send you an email in place of filling out an exit slip. Practice math facts using virtual flashcards. Use a camera to record a science presentation. Explore an atlas app instead of flipping thorough a textbook. Simple activities will build your confidence (and your students' confidence!) with using one-to-one technology in your classroom.

Are you in a one-to-one classroom? What are some challenges you've faced? What advice do you have to offer? Please share in the comments section below.

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Taylor's picture

I really like your post. Thanks. I often organize small groups and create flashcards for them with each lesson. They would study with Superflashcard app, this is flashcard app I use on my phone. They study every day, and then I will let them to play games on it to check their memory, and have another test. It's repeated frequently and I see it productive

Monica Burns's picture
Monica Burns
Educator, Consultant, ADE ,

Thank you! Here's a link to an article about using iPads in stations:

[quote]This is an excellent article! It is also extremely timely for me because I am at the initial stages of implementing mobile technology into my Reading classes. Do you have any suggestions on how to use the individuals tablets for small group instruction?[/quote]

Ike's picture

I'm a college student, your organization is impressive. Have you noticed in your experience with tech asissted learning any major differences in your students, if so would share that? I wonder about the psychological effect our tech systems are having on students in the long run, are you aquainted with any studies? Thank you for your post it is very informative

Brett's picture
Primary school teacher from Buffalo, Minnesota

I enjoyed reading your blog. I think you have some great strategies for teaching your students classroom routines when using mobile devices. I have not begun using this technology but I will in the near future. I am a teacher in Thailand and my new school is planning on altering the English program to integrate technology in the classroom. I hope you do not mind if I incorporate your routines into my classroom, I enjoy doing things in a well-organized manner, and your classroom procedures seem very well organized. I also think that your idea of integrating technology into everyday activities is a great way to engage the students, teach them how to transfer their skills into other areas, and connects the content to their lives.
It is especially important for me to make my expectations clear to my students and to begin early just as you mentioned. I imagine it must be difficult to track what all of your students are doing when you are trying to teach them to use a certain application, especially with large class sizes. Do you use any strategies such as cooperative learning, advance organizers, or communication games, to ensure that your students are following along and participating fully when teaching them to use a new application or when learning about new content?
As a teacher of English language learners it is also important for me to engage the students in communication activities when teaching them anything, by this I mean emphasizing dialogue over lecture. Additionally, I think it would be important to scaffold the content, by giving the students an example, then engaging in group discussion to ensure they understand, followed by collaborative activities with the iPads. Do you think this type of classroom could be used for teaching English language learners while developing their literacy and language skills at the same time?

Monica Burns's picture
Monica Burns
Educator, Consultant, ADE ,

Hi Brett, great questions! My students are hardly ever staring at their screens and most often in partners working together. For many apps I create activity sheets that require them to collaborate with members of their group. We have whole class discussions before and after an activity to make sure everyone is on task!

Brett's picture
Primary school teacher from Buffalo, Minnesota

Hello Monica,
It sounds like your students are engaged in a very effective, engaging, and motivating classroom. You seem to be doing great things for your students. Thank you for your insights and keep up the good work.

KT Hart's picture
KT Hart

Hi Brett,
If you are teaching young children, I have developed an app for kids to learn the phonemes of the alphabet. I was a teacher of ELL for 5 years in Madrid and I have tried this app with children here. It works well as an intro to English starting them off with a phonetic base to the language. The app is called I CAN ALPHABETICS. It is available on the AppStore and GooglePlay.

Brett's picture
Primary school teacher from Buffalo, Minnesota

I do teach young children. Thank you for the information, I will look into it. It is always nice to have more resources for my students to use and phonetics is something that many of my students struggle with.

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