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There’s an app for that

by The We Inspire Futures Team

Today, teachers know that almost every student, whether they are in kindergarten or high school, owns a cellphone. Some educators might see these devices as distractions in the classroom, but as they are only becoming more popular, one professional is urging teachers to stop hating and start embracing. Dean Shareski, community manager of the Canadian Discovery Educator Network and Huffington Post blogger, says smartphones might just be the future of education.

The rise of the cellphone

Today, there is a large focus on using the latest technology in the classroom, from tablets to the newest laptops. Many principals would love to receive the funding necessary to buy all their students a tablet, but this is not always possible. Additionally, since technology is evolving so quickly, even if schools purchase 100 tablets, there is a good chance they will be outdated in as little as five years.

While Shareski said mobile products like tablets and laptops can be very useful in the classroom, he also advised principals and teachers to look to another device, one that most students already own – the cellphone. Shareski feels they have huge potential, especially since the rise of smartphones gives students access to educational apps and a huge range of information on the internet.

“The smartphone has the most penetration of any device,” Shareski said. “A recent fact I found said there are more cellphones on Earth than toothbrushes. Scary perhaps, but important to take notice.”

An ‘endless’ list of education apps

One of the best things about smartphones is the endless number of apps that can be downloaded, which Shareski said really allows students to customize their education. Although most laptops and computers run on the same software programs, he said almost no two smartphones are alike, as the software that is installed on them really depends on the user’s  references.
Another benefit of apps is that they can be cost effective. Shareski mentioned that in that past, schools purchased scientific calculators from companies like Texas Instruments for around $100. Today, schools that use iPads or iPods can download an app with the same functionality for a mere 99 cents.

In terms of which apps teachers can use as classroom resources, Shareski said the options are endless. However, he urged educators to check out websites like www.iear.org, or educational Apps Review. On this website, teachers can browse through reviews of academic apps written by fellow educators who have tested them out in the classroom. But aren’t cellphones distracting?

While the number of academic apps continues to grow, there is still a tendency for some teachers to view cellphones as more of a distraction than a learning tool. However, according to Shareski, ”Distractions are a classroom management issue, not a technology issue.” He explained that cellphones are not going away anytime soon, so rather than see the harm they can cause students, teachers should be thinking about how they can use them positively, especially if they have the resources to do so.


Dean Shareski is the community manager of the Canadian Discovery Education Network (DEN) and a Huffington Post blogger with a true passion for integrating technology into the classroom. Prior to joining DEN, Shareski taught grades 1-8 and served as a digital learning consultant for the Prairie South School Division in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. In the past 20 years, he has travelled across Canada and the U.S. to speak at workshops and seminars that help educators effectively use digital media in their classrooms.

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