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Introducing Mobile Technology Into Your Classroom: Structures and Routines

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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Michelle's picture
Early childhood teacher from SC

At the beginning of the school year, I was given (for use in my classroom) a set of 5 ipods and 1 ipad. I currently teach 4K and have been intimidated when I think about using them with my students. What are some suggestions for ways to use them in small groups?
Thanks! :)

valerie robinson's picture

I believe having the iPads in the rooms are great. This is a world full of technogly and every child needs to be exposed to this new intervative ways of doing things. It gives them the oppounity to explore and found answers that may have been challenging to them. I work in a pre-k classroom with and assistant we utilize IPad in our class doing small groups . The kid love to work on the IPad . While on the IPad they are working on skills that will enchance their knowledge. Sometimes , They fight over them so we have establised a schedule that will keep them in order. I wish we had IPads in every class so much could be accomplished with the IPad. And I do believe the learning structure will change. In my school we have 25 IPad for the entire school. Right now there is a two week schedule to use them. If we are going to make a change with technology we must move with the 21st century. The children deserve it. Great post

TenaciousMrD's picture
High School Social Studies Teacher

We are moving towards one to one with IPADs across the secondary schools in our district. I think this is an amazing idea and one that will greatly help our ability to teach and help our students. The possibilities are limitless in the amount you can do, and the amount your students can access using these tools. In class research, the way they take notes, and their seemingly endless access to resources are all ways students could potentially benefit.

I appreciate the idea of slowly changing lessons or activities one at a time to utilize this technology. I think many teachers are intimidated by this daunting task of switching to technology all at once, but if we break it down (similarly to how we ask our students to approach writing and planning) it'll become a realistic and usable tool.

Similar to anything we do in the classroom, having clear expectations of our students will make the transition go smoothly. Some advice I would have is to not focus on finding the app that will complete change the way you teach. Those apps are few and far between, and the truth is that they don't particularly exist. If you think of ways to use what you have and make it better, the usage of the apps will become a bit more clear. At least at the high school level, I think you have to look for broader content rather than something specific. You can then gear it towards what you need.

Great post, thank you!

Dyishcha Hale's picture
Dyishcha Hale
Pre-School Teacher in Newark, New Jersey

I am pre-school teacher and we are encouraged to use technology in the classroom. I found that this is an excellent addition to your lesson. Our world is shaped around technology and it is only growing, so I am all for technology in the classroom. Let us educate our students and open their minds to technology.

Missy's picture
2nd grade teacher from Albany, NY

I think your idea of choosing a few students to become experts on an app before introducing it to the whole class is a great idea. I teach 2nd grade and do not have any support teachers so having a few students who are "experts" who can help answer questions and problem solve when the others get stuck, would be so helpful. I find it interesting that when I began using computers in the classroom many of my 2nd grade students needed a significant amount of support to navigate their lap top, however, when I began using the iPads this year, they are much more independent. We have quite a few apps on our iPads but I am always looking for other great apps to use with 2nd grade students if anyone has any suggestions! Thanks for the great post.

Teacher Harry's picture
Teacher Harry
Teacher from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Thank you for sharing. I truly enjoyed the post. As I read it, it made me reflect on my current practice in my classroom. For the new school term, I will use your tip of substituting regular activities. I think that may have been a slight downfall for me as I attempted to integrate technology into my lesson. I believe that having system for monitoring the equipment is an excellent classroom management technique. It also teaches the students to be responsible. A life skill they will need to be an active citizen. Thank you again.

Candace Fleming's picture

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?

Lori Callister's picture
Lori Callister
WeAreTeachers Community staff person

Great post. We asked a first-grade teacher to go paperless in her classroom for two weeks - and blog her experience. Her experiences fit well with your suggestions, above. Read how she coped and what worked, and what didn't: We also plan to have a Twitter chat about this topic of going paperless, and the 1:1 initiatives - join us at 7 p.m. Eastern on April 22 using the hashtag #edubrawl

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