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5 ways to choose and use K-5 apps, mobile devices

How educators approach apps and mobile device use could make all the difference

mobile-appsStudents are typically not shy about showing their enthusiasm for using the latest mobile devices, and they’re eager to share apps with teachers and friends.

Sometimes, teachers are so excited by their students’ enthusiasm that they dive right into using mobile devices and apps without laying important ground rules that, when followed, yield lasting educational experiences.

Research has shown that there are three things necessary for success with mobile devices, said Liz Kolb, clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan: pedagogical structures, infrastructure and support, and hardware deployment and development.

(Next page: Choosing and using apps and mobile devices)

Kolb, during an edWeb presentation, outlined some of the key approaches that most benefit young students as they learn to use mobile devices and apps.

1. Provide structure around devices.

Often, Kolb said, teachers are so excited about wanting their students to be engaged that they immediately begin to use devices without creating structure for proper handling and use.

“Sometimes, the shiniest thing isn’t the best thing for our classroom,” she said, noting that introducing devices is in fact a critical step to prevent students from blindly jumping into device use.

2. Keep students’ prior knowledge in mind when introducing mobile devices and apps.

For instance, most grades K-2 students have likely used a parent’s device if the parent owns one, but those students don’t have their own devices, and probably do not have many rules focused on device use. Older students–those in grades 3-5–have used parent devices if available, some of them own their own devices, and they may have more rules about device use and have likely formed habits regarding how they use the devices.

3. Take proper steps when introducing mobile devices and apps.

Younger students might need a different approach than older students. A pre-device survey, in which teachers ask students how many of them have used the device before, and in what capacity, can help teachers lead up to a discussion about what rules students think might be appropriate for class use of the devices and apps or websites.

Teachers might give K-2 students a paper copy of their device to point out special keys, and some educators place colored stickers over certain keys to help students learn and use the keys.

Older students can begin with the actual devices as they learn how to use them, and should handle video tutorials about device and app use well.

Students do need consequences if they don’t follow classroom rules, but those consequences shouldn’t involve losing their technology priviliges, because that takes away their learning tool, Kolb said.

Instead, K-2 teachers might want to consider a “digital police” approach, in which a student is assigned to monitor whether students are adhering to classroom rules.

Using a “turn over” and “turn back” approach early and often ensures students know when to turn over their devices and pay attention to the teacher.

4. Use a variety of sources to locate apps and websites.

Every site has its benefits and drawbacks, so it is important to use different sites to get the most out of searches for apps and websites that students will find helpful and engaging.

These sources include, Graphite from Common Sense Media, APPitic, and more.

5. Use a reliable framework that best helps you evaluate the devices and apps. Kolb uses the Triple E Framework,which focuses on engagement, enhancement, and extension.

Engagement: Does the technology help students engage better in learning the content? Does the technology help students focus their attention on the content? Does the technology help move students from passive to active learning?

Enhancement: Does the technology help students meet the learning goals, and enhance the learning goals? Does the tecnhnology create a way to make it easier for the students to understand or interact with the content? Does the technology allow students to demonstrate an understanding of the content that they could not do with traditional tools?

Extension: Does the technology help students learn outside of the typical school day? Does the technology help students bridge their school learning with their everyday lives? Does the technology help students gain skills to become independent life-long learners?


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