I’ve been mentioning to a few people recently how much I value my iPhone as a teacher’s tool. Most people these days seem to own one and would even say that they could no longer live without it in their personal lives. But few teachers seem to have thought about how it could be used in a professional capacity.
Here is how I use mine:
This is the main application that gets a workout on my iPhone. It is basically a note taking/filing system that is a gift for teachers. You can record audio, take photos, or make notes on the run, and then save them to a particular folder within the application. That’s not all, because within a few seconds Evernote on you iPhone has transferred those notes onto your PC, and onto another account it makes for you in ‘the cloud’. I make a folder for each different student in my class, as well as a personal folder. Another teacher at our school doesn’t make folders but prefers to ‘tag’ each file with the relevant student name and sort her files that way. Either way is great. Here’s what I do with Evernote:
1. Make short notes when I observe something about a particular student in class, either on my phone or directly onto my laptop.
2. Record students reading and save those recordings to their file.
3. Take photos of student’s writing, annotate it with my observations, and save it to their file.
4. Take all notes from parent teacher interviews on the program and save it to their file.
5. Take notes from each student’s early years Maths and English interviews and keep it in their file.
6. Keep a record of test results in each student’s file.
By report time, for every student, I have copies of writing, all observational notes, and recordings of them reading from different dates throughout the semester in one easy to access file on my computer, on my iPhone, and in ‘the cloud’.
An additional feature of Evernote is that it makes all text that you take a photo of ‘searchable’. That is, if you take a photo of piece of student work, and they’ve written their name on the top, you can find that piece of work later by typing in their name in the search window.
I have purchased a scanner app called ‘Scanner Pro’ and the quality of it is quite remarkable. It’s cost was relatively steep ($8) but I’ve been impressed. The application scans an image using the iPhone’s camera, uses advanced ‘algorithms’ to sharpen the image and make it look incredibly sharp, and then converts the image to a PDF. It then automatically sends it to an account of your choice. For example, you can sync it up with your Evernote account, or your email account, or just to save into your iPhone’s hard drive. How would you use a scanner? I’ve found it useful for a few things:
1. Those really annoying times when someone emails a form to you that you have to sign and then send back. This use to mean you have to print the form, fill it out and sign it, and then use snail mail or a fax machine to get it back to the sender. Now I simply print it, sign it, iPhone scan it, and have it sent to my email account or directly back to the sender.
2. If I’m flipping through a book and I see a worksheet I like I can just scan it there and then and it is instantly saved to my computer as a PDF file for use later on.
3. I can scan student work and send it to be stored on their file in Evernote.
DISPLAYING STUDENT WORK: Once again, using the iPhone’s camera, or the scanner application, if I see something that a student has written that can be used to make a teaching point to the class, I can take a photo of it, have it sent to my computer (via Evernote, email, or the good old fashioned way of plugging in and opening iPhoto) and displayed up on the Interactive Whiteboard, all within 1 or 2 minutes. Anything can be captured and displayed this way. Taking video of students working or sorting out a problem can be a great thing to show to the class later on and have a discussion about. A teacher at my school secretly recorded students during their reading groups, and then showed it back to them on the Interactive Whiteboard at the end of the session. They had a fantastic discussion about how effectively the students were (or weren’t) working, and all took away something to improve on for next time.
Airmouse is a cool little application that lets you control your computer remotely using your iPhone. Your iPhone screen becomes a mouse, or, with a little shake, a keyboard. This means you can control your Interactive Whiteboard from anywhere in the classroom. It runs off the WiFi network so distance from your computer isn’t an issue.
Never again will I go on an excursion or sporting afternoon without the awesome Pocket Weather application. It gives you details of the day’s weather straight from the Bureau of Meteorology, and even better, up to the minute radar images so that you know exactly where any rain is at that point in time and which way it is heading within a 200 km radius of where you are. Fantastic stuff!
This is another application that is a life saver for me. I have about 30 different Web 2.0 accounts, most of which demand different passwords and usernames when I sign up. Password keeper keeps all your passwords and usernames in the one place on your iPhone. The one catch? You have to make one more password to keep all the information locked up!
CALENDAR and NOTES:
I encourage staff to bring their iPhone’s to staff meetings, just as I do, so that any important notes or calendar dates can be directly noted onto their phone, which in turn automatically updates on their PC the next time they plug it in. Writing things on paper is not only old fashioned, its an inefficient and relatively disorganised way to maintain all your important information. These days, rather than scribbling everything down quickly on paper and then trying to find where on earth you wrote it later on, you have the option of making notes digitally, tagging them or putting them in a logical spot in an organised filing system, and even attaching alerts to them if you think you might forget something that needs to be done on a certain date. This is a much smarter way to operate in a profession where there are 100 different things going on at once, and you are saving a heap of paper at the same time!
So there you go. Those are the main ways I use my iPhone as a teacher. There are new applications being added every day, and with them, new opportunities for teachers to enhance and improve the way they do things in the classroom and the staffroom.