When will I get my school-issued iPhone?

I’d love to streamline the attendance/homework checking/gradebook procedures. It always seems pointless to me to have to write down homework grades and attendance, then reenter it on the computer. Some of today’s teachers are already using smart-phone applications for such tasks.


One slick app from gradepad.com

From an article on NEA.org by Tim Walker,

It was only a few years ago that cell phones were being banished from classrooms. As far as school districts were concerned, these devices’ reputation as tools for student distraction, mischief, and even harassment easily outweighed any possible benefits in the learning process.

Banning them was—and, in many districts, still is—the easy call to make, but as cell phones have become more sophisticated, powerful, and even more entrenched in students’ daily lives, a growing number of schools have decided to open the door to what are, essentially, mobile computers.

“Educators can’t afford to be behind the 8-ball anymore,” says Mike Pennington, who teaches world history at Chardon Middle School in Chardon, Ohio, and blogs about classroom technology at Teachers for Tomorrow, a website he co-founded with colleague Garth Holman. “Schools need to embrace mobile technology and mobile learning. Students live in this world. These devices belong in the classroom.”

According to some estimates, smart phones, and to a lesser extent tablets like the iPad, will be in the hands of every student in the United States within five years. And as more schools embrace mobile learning, the number of education apps—mobile applications that run on your smart phone—are skyrocketing.


The article goes on to mention a handful of apps that have classroom potential, including the one above, GradePad. I also liked the looks of Attendance. And one of the commenters mentions that similar apps are available for Android users as well (here). This is all very cool, in my opinion.

In fact, I have a dream…

I can imagine a time in the not-to-distant future when I walk around the room at the beginning of the period checking homework and taking attendance from a mobile device. I’d be able to see the seating chart, do random name calling, see student photos, and control my computer. If students were issued similar devices, I could have them post their work on the board, using their mobile device as a slate to operate the front board. And students would use their devices as calculators and text books as well, perhaps. All my grades, attendance data, student data, and seating charts would be synced with the network and with our online grade reporting system.

We have Promethean (“smart”) boards in the front of our classrooms, and that’s been nice. But I think having mobile devices in the classroom would be far more advantageous, revolutionizing the way we teach more than smart boards ever did.

Most of what I’ve said is already technically possible–the hardware already exists. One hurdle will be cost, of course. But the cost could be significantly offset if there was no need to purchase hard-cover textbooks (very expensive) or smart boards (also very expensive). Another hurdle will be getting networks, software, and network administrators to cooperate. For instance, our district uses multiple vendors and some of our key data systems aren’t linked, like they should be. Allowing mobile devices to connect to the school network and the internet, providing district-approved  & purchased software, and syncing the whole system with existing data systems would be a sizable task.

Three cheers for the future! 🙂

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