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Smartphones for classroom engagement, assessment, and online study? What are your thoughts?

Having taught for more than 20 years, I recall faculty meetings and department policies that grappled with the issue of laptops in the classroom – facing a room of over 200 students with many faces looking at their screens rather than at me or my visuals – and little idea of what they were looking at or whether they were listening at all.   While there remains a sprinkling of open laptops in face-to-face classes, the not so new challenge is the always handy and not quite so visible Smartphone.   A challenge that can be turned into a teaching and learning asset both in and outside of a face-to-face class.  

We’re all familiar with the application and integration of mobile phones as student polling and assessment devices – like Macmillan’s adaptable and effective iClicker.   I’ve used a variety of polling approaches over the years to guide lectures, assess learning, and enhance engagement.  I also expose students to applicable online websites or resources as part of my classes, but rather than just showing them, I have students look things up or visit websites on their phones with a particular goal or question in mind - often followed by a polling question that reflects if they actually engaged with the material.   I’ve opened some classes by asking students to “google” a specific topic and then to look at relevant news stories.   For example, to open a class on obesity its interesting what’s being reported about prevalence, causes, implications, and interventions.   I have students share headlines and then often ask them if the news article referenced a new study.   I’ve also had students use their phones to complete certain online health risk assessments for themselves or a scenario I provide.   This provides context and can generate discussion.  These are only a few ideas!   Please share your approaches and thoughts with your colleagues by clicking on “Reply” below.  

Also, I found this recent article from Faculty Focus of interest with tips on how you might suggest students use their Smartphones as an effective study tool outside of class time.  For example, to encourage students to take advantage of tiny time slots to read course content throughout the week allowing more time to digest the information.  A good read!   Best!   Jamie

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