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Apps in the Classroom: Should we be Fighting Phone use?

Daniel Wilson, Teacher of Creative Digital Media, Ashton under-lyne Sixth Form College

In the 2018 classroom the smartphone has become a point of near constant contention. Depending on who is asked phones can be described as a barrier to learning or an exceptional T and L tool.

Possibly the only universal statement we can make is that the smartphone has altered the education landscape. The question worth asking is on what side of the fence are you on? And why?

I myself teach full time and as such I am privy to the effects of smartphones on young people. My personal experiences are very much a mixed bag.

For every learning success I have had through the use of student’s smart devices I have also had the soul destroying experience of being ignored by someone scrolling through social media or playing on games.

The instant gratification and enjoyment that can be gained through smart devices can be tempting for our students and can definitely have a negative effect on learning.

However when you look at the statistics it is clear to see that these devices are a part of cultural change and human behaviour.

The education sector may be behind on this social curve, however there are simple and effective ways we can incorporate these devices into our session time; which can also yield outstanding results.

The statistics highlight the wholesale nature of these changes. In 2017 it was found that 96% of 14-18 year olds were in possession of a smart device.

Generation Z (born between 1994 and 2010) on average engage with 3 smart devices a day, normally a computer, tablet and smartphone, however smart watches are a growing market.

Around 30% of people in this age group are connected to the internet for at least 10 hours a day.

Smartphones are not fidget spinners, they are in our classroom for good.

An entry level route to the use of smartphones in session can be camera use. My students are used to the task of taking pictures of the whiteboard to document homework, revision tasks or notes for the next lesson.

However the education market is flooded with innovative, easy to implement apps that can improve your sessions. The phone can become your friend.


Instagram has quickly become one of the most popular social media formats worldwide. Instagram is particularly popular with young social media users. Instagram can be used as an outstanding tool for rote learning allowing your students to quickly access content.

The phone app allows for one click upload, with features for uploading photos, videos and polls. Once your learners have followed your account you can present them with images, facts, exam questions and other tidbits to aid learning.


My favourite assessment tool! Kahoot is an interactive quizzing app which allows students to answer questions via their smartphone. Questions are displayed on the board, with each answer assigned a colour.

These colours appear as buttons on learner’s phones. They are then rewarded points for both selecting the right answer and for the speed in which they do so, creating outstanding competition.

Upbeat music is played throughout the quiz, really helping to stimulate and create energy. Assessment data is generated instantly allowing you as a teacher to track and assess individuals, checking for holes.

Excellent used a starter to sharpen up, or a plenary to assess. Give it a go.


Studious whilst perhaps not as fun as Kahoot, or as social as Instagram, is an outstanding tool for organisation and study.

As homework diaries and planners have become less contemporary for young users, we can incorporate phone or tablet use to help our learners structure their learning time.

Studious allows learners to create individual sections for each of their subjects. They can then set dates and times to undertake specific tasks (homework, revision), Studious will then set a push notification to reminder the student that it is time to work.


As much as we try to incorporate innovation and technology in our sessions, there will always be a need for some form of note making.

As a student I was guilty of note taking on scraps of paper that would end up in the bottom of my bag, never to be seen.

Evernote, a note taking platform used widely in the corporate sector can eliminate this problem. Evernote can be used on tablet or smartphone and allows you to take notes via type or stylus.

However where the technology really comes into play is within the built in functions. With a camera enabled you can upload images to Evernote, where you can annotate, highlight, zoom and select. You can upload video content both that you have created or found on the internet. You can also record audio to embed into your notes, allowing learners to revisit session time.

Evernote really helps to make notes come to life.

Although it is easy to lament the hindrances caused by phone use in our sessions, with a change of outlook and a few handy tips you could really reap the benefits of the smartphones in our student’s pockets.

Daniel Wilson, Teacher of Creative Digital Media,  Ashton under-lyne Sixth Form College

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