Dwayne Hodgson

A Portfolio

The work and adventures of Dwayne Hodgson,
+ Learning Designer & Facilitator at learningcycle.ca
+ Storyteller & Photographer @ thataway.ca

35 Ways to Use an iPhone for Learning

Hello. My name is Dwayne ("Hi, Dwayne!), and I'm an iPhone addict. There. I've said it. I feel much better.

I've had my iPhone for a eight months now, and I must admit that having the Internet in your back pocket is really cool. 

And with the proliferation of third-party "apps"s (now numbering over 200,000), I find that whenever I want to do something with my phone, someone has already built an application that does that.

"Need a recipe for chick peas, mayonnaise, and rhubarb? I've got an app for that! Flat tire on my bike? No worries! There's an App for that! "

It's waaaaay better than a Swiss Army Knife (except, of course, for when you need to open a bottle of wine....).

"But Can a Smartphone Really Help Facilitate Learning?"

There has been a lot of interest expressed in the potential for "mobile learning (mLearning)" via smartphones. While that may well be the way of the future (along with internet-chips-in-your-brain, cold fusion, and flying cars...), I'm more curious about the potential for using my iPhone right now to facilitate learning in face-to-face workshops.

"Wait a second!" you say, "Aren't we supposed to ask learners to turn their cell phones off at a workshop?"

Well, yes, that's been my practice too...but given that for many young people a cell phone is virtually an extension of their brain, they may just ignore that instruction anyway. So.... bear with me as we consider some ways to harness that "generative theme" energy by using  smart-phones as part of a live, in-person learning experience.

"Stand Back!!! He's Going to Brainstorm...."

Here's a quick, caffeine-fueled brainstorm of 35 Ways to Use an iPhone in a Workshop. (NB: Some of these ideas work if only the facilitator has a smartphone, while others would require some or all of the participants to have their own phones).  

  1. It's a Clock: If there is no clock in your workshop venue it can be hard for you and the participants to stay on time. But no more! The Clock app provides a large, coloured LED display that you can read from across the room. More When for your Where!
  2. It's a Timer: Use your smartphone's built-in timer to remind small groups when they need to come back. That way it's the phone, not you, who is the bad guy.
  3. It's a Camera: Take a photo of the participants' charts to include in the course report as a record of their learning. Take photos of the participants (with their permission, of course) to include in a celebratory end-of-workshop slide show.
  4. It's a Photobooth: Ask the participants to take their photo to include with their contact details in a follow-up course report along with their contact details.
  5. It's a Phone (say, I almost forgot!): Send out your cell number to your workshop participants in your pre-course LNRA. That way they can call or text you if they're going to be late, can't find the venue or want to know what you take in your coffee....
  6. Call a Friend: Use the Skype App to contact a "guest speaker" for an interview. Plug in a pair of speakers so that everyone can hear.
  7. Make a Video: The video camera on an iPhone works quite well in good light. Use it to make a video record of dynamic group activities like songs, drama's, group sculptures, practice teaching sessions. You can embed these on the course report or post them on YouTube. 
  8. Video-Blog It: Ask the participants to shoot a short (1-minute), personal reflection on their learning or their understanding of the topic. Transfer these to a laptop and compile them into a short video.
  9. Find Your Lunch: Use the built-in Google Map function or the Around Me App to find the nearest Thai restaurant for lunch, the closest photocopy shop, a massage therapist for after the workshop....Great if you're facilitating in a strange city. 
  10. Twitter It: Share highlights and "A-Ha! moments of your workshop via Twitter for folks who can't make it, or as marketing to a wider audience for another course. Appoint one of the participants as a designated Twitterist (Twitterati? Twit?) to do it for you!
  11. Muzak It!: Hook up your smartphone to a pair of portable speakers. Play some music between tasks to time the breaks. Choose quiet instrumental music or music related to the theme of your sessions.
  12. Rock It!: Pump up the volume and the energy of a group by playing some more boisterous music during an active group task. If you want to give them four minutes to complete the task, pick a four minute song. (NB: Use this sparingly as some people are distracted by loud music).
  13. Hum-Dinger-it!: Play 5-second clips of songs on your phone with titles that relate to key concepts your topic. The first team to "hit" the buzzer and guess the concept correctly wins (Thanks, Anouk & Sarah!). 
  14. Say it with Twitter: Invite the participants to tweet a summary of their understanding of a topic or question in 144 characters or less. Ask them to send it @your Twitter feed that is projected on a screen.
  15. Facebook It!: Use your phone to set up a Facebook Group online before the workshop ends. Use the group to stay in touch with your learners, share photos of the workshop and create a community of practice
  16. It's a Paper Weight: Open window causing your papers to blow around the room? No worries. There's an App for that. Just place your iPhone on top of the papers and you're good for up to a Category 2 Storm.
  17. Check the Weather: Use a weather app sure your paper weight is heavy enough given the short-term forecast. Also useful if you're planning an outside "walk-and-talk" learning task. 
  18. TXT IT: Ask ur lrnrs 2 wrt thr id's in a txt msg + snd it 2 u. f u cnt read dis, gt a teen 2 hlp u. lol :-). 
  19. Check Your Facts: Stumped by a good question during the workshop? Respond to your learners' emergent learning needs by Googling the answer or checking on the Wikipedia App. You don't have to wait until the course report anymore. Or ask your learners to research a topic on their phones and report back to the group. 
  20. Need More Coffee?: For some of us, coffee is THE safety issue in a workshop. No joe? Learn slow. Create the perfect (and calorie free) latte with the "Make Coffee" app. Your pocket barista to the rescue.
  21. Watch It: No budget for a AV equipment? No worries. There's an App for that! Invite your learners to watch a video clip on their YouTube app (or equivalent video app). Email your powerpoint slides so that they can watch it on their phones (and have a copy for later).
  22. Catch the News: Most major newspapers and networks have an App for the iPhone now. How about doing a warm up. For example, "Use your phones to find a news article that concerns you....Share it with your neighbour. We'll hear a sample of your articles and reasons in the group."
  23. Blog it! You can use a phone to post a blog about your workshop. Or invite your learners to blog about their most significant learning during your time together.  
  24. Imag(in)e It! Apps like Art Gallery, Cool Iris, Heritage Fotopedia put gazaillions of photos and artwork at your finger tips. Invite the participants to find an image related to the topic that speaks to them.
  25. Take a Memo: Use the Voice Memo function to record a quick audio reflection from each participant on their personal learning. Run them together into a podcast.
  26. Add it Up!: Invite the participants to do create a household budget or analyze their carbon footprint on an app
  27. Read it! Send a short reading via email for them to reflect on. Or point them to a website with the text.
  28. Monitor Your Airtime: Use a Chess-Clock app to record how much time you spend talking vs. your participants. How much do we really bring out our learners' voices....? 
  29. Mind Map It: Use one of the many mind mapping apps available and summarize the groups' input. Better yet, have them create a mind map on their phones and send it to you.
  30. Word Cloud it: Invite the participant to create a Word Cloud of key text as a way of graphically illustrating the frequency of terms in a document. Very informative.
  31. Shave It: Forgot to shave this morning? No worries! There's an App for that! The Razor app will keep you looking sharp and clean.
  32. Brainstorm It: Ask your participants to record their group's answer on their smartphone's brainstorming app  or mind-map and send them to your laptop to project on the screen. 
  33. Super-Man It: Use the Google Earth app and invite them to "fly" to any part of the world that they'd like to "see", check out the topography, look at photos of key sites. 
  34. Network With It: Using the Bump app, two participants can "bump" fists with their iPhones and exchange contact information.
  35. GeoCache It: Send your participants on a (topic-relevant!) scavenger hunt to find a hidden object using their geocache app

Of course, I realize that not everyone has a smartphone, never mind an iPhone, and it is important to structure learning tasks that are inclusive of everyone.  But as more and more people have phones and the newer phones are only getting more sophisticated, it may not be long before a smartphone becomes as much a part of the learning experience as Post-its -- Say, there's an app for those, too!

What would you add to the list? Post your ideas below.... or Call me on my cell!