High tech gadgets in the classroom are quickly becoming less of a novelty and more of a standard. From iPads to SMART boards to elective classes on coding and building websites, teachers now, more than ever, need to stay on top of what’s available in modern technology.
Even more importantly, they need to be able to utilize it in a productive manner. Having the right smartphone can make all the difference.
Picking a smartphone
Price: Teaching is not the most lucrative profession, so price is certainly going to be one of the big factors in picking out the right phone. But if you’re signing up for a new plan, oftentimes you can get a decent smartphone for free or a severely discounted price.
If you’re buying a phone mid-plan, however, it might be smart to look into buying a phone that’s just under top-of-the-line. For example, after the iPhone 5 came out, the price for new, used and refurbished iPhone 4S dropped significantly. If you’re deadest on an iPhone 5, a refurb model will save $50.
Prices for smartphones vary significantly according to carrier, plan and model so it’s typically better to pick the type of phone you like and then decide on whether you want to go with a plan, monthly payments or a less expensive model. Carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile can offer significant monthly savings over AT&T and Verizon, but the trade off is reception and coverage.
Also consider that teachers may want to invest in a tough case like the Otterbox to prevent breaking their investment amidst a busy day.
Storage: The number of apps you wish to use, the size of each, and whether or not you want to stream or store a lot of videos and images will help you decide how much storage space you’ll need on your phone. Additionally, the larger the memory, the faster your apps will tend to run. For comparison, the light to average user tends to need about 16GB of storage for all of their apps, videos and photos, but if you’re going to be using more interactive programs, you might want to consider a larger memory or a phone with the option of an external memory slot to add more storage later on.
Battery life: Teachers work an incredible number of hours during the school year, sometimes pulling 12 to 14 hours a day or more, so having a phone that can last for long periods of time without a fresh charge is important. The Razr Maxx HD claims to boast a 32 hour battery life, while the new HTC One has an excellent battery life of close to 17 hours of 3G talk time, followed by the Nexus 4 with just over 15 hours. The Samsung GS 3 comes in at 11.6 hours and the iPhone 5 falls at about 8 hours 3G talk time.
Useful apps for teachers
All smartphones come with their own native apps such as camera and video, and some function on a more interactive level than others. Because the Android phones are made by Google, pictures taken with the phone’s native camera, for example, can be shared directly with Picasa, making it incredibly easy to access photos and share photos taken during class. iPhones offer similar services through apps such as Pixelpipe HD.
As for video, both Android and iPhone have excellent streaming video apps that can be used to record presentations, science experiments, plays or anything you want to document in class. You can stream the videos live to your classroom website and save them afterward.
The ability to interact with a SMART board is also an important feature to look for in your smartphone. While it can be a bit of a chore to connect your smartphone to a SMART board, you can access app sites from your SMART board and control those sites interactively with your smartphone.
MindMeister, for example, is a great classroom tool that can be controlled via smartphone and accessed by both you and your students, allowing you to interact in real-time on projects, presentations and study sessions. Many of these apps are set up for quick access through Google (Android) or iTunes (iPhone), so a quick look at your favorite apps can help you determine what platform will serve you best.
Some popular teaching apps that work with both iPhone and Android phones are:
- CourseSmart: a subscriber-based service that allows users access to thousands of textbooks, this app works on most smartphones.
- Dropbox: an interactive document storage app that works between computers and smartphones, Dropbox allows access to important documents from almost any location.
- Edmondo: a social media program designed for students and teachers and created specifically for schools.
- Leadership Challenge Mobile: this tool offers articles, activities and inspiration for generating good leadership skills.
- The Chemical Touch: use this touch-activated app to explore periodic table chemical information and view color-coded information such as atomic mass.
Whether you’re looking for a smartphone for personal use or for optimizing your classroom time, the right smartphone can help you interact more effectively with your tech-savvy students and keep on top of the latest teaching trends. Just make sure you keep an eye out for the particular aspects and features, such as memory size and battery life, that are most important to you and your teaching lifestyle.
What are some ways that you’ve found to utilize your smartphone in class? As a teacher, what phone features have you found to be the most helpful in the class and everyday life?