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August 17, 2015

Back to School: Do’s and Don’ts of mobile tech for students

These useful tips will help you become an academic star.

It’s mid-August and already, a hint of autumn is in the air. Along with shorter days and cooling temperatures, it’s time for some of you (or your kids) to head back to school.

It’s a perfect time to talk about the perennial issue of what students should and should not do when using tech in class. This topic is even more important now that mobile gadgets are becoming ubiquitous.

For example, smartphones such those in the Microsoft Lumia family and tablets, like Surface, are as necessary for many students as textbooks and backpacks. In the United States alone, about 85 percent of Millennials (ages 18-34) own a smartphone while 73 percent of American teens use one.

But while these gadgets are a staple of everyday life, their use in the classroom can still raise teachers’ eyebrows. Follow these common-sense tips from educators, including college professor Stephen Brown, vice-chair of the biology department at Los Angeles Mission College in California, to make the most of your classroom experience.

Let’s start with how you should use mobile tech in the classroom.

Use your smartphone and tablet to help you learn. Mobile gadgets can be learning tools, education experts say. Here are just a few ways:

Do record classroom lectures and take text notes via OneNote. Recording a professor’s talk and jotting down notes on your Lumia with OneNote means you can access the notes and audio on your PC and other devices.


Do take pictures. Stephen often makes important points on a classroom whiteboard to illustrate his lectures. Often, his students take images of the whiteboard with their smartphones.

What’s even more interesting is that in his biology lab, he lets students take smartphone photos of their microscope work. They put their smartphones’ camera lens flush with a microscope’s eyepiece to get the full field of view.

“I tell them, listen, there’s no better record of what you saw than a good photograph,” Stephen said. “If you can get a good photo of the characteristics [of a cell that] you need to record, you can do that.”

Do download the teacher’s notes and extra resources on your Lumia so they’re always handy. Instead of relying solely on a textbook, Stephen creates comprehensive lab notes, which he posts as PDFs on the class website.

He also supplements his lectures with PowerPoint presentations, which he makes available to students. Students can then download these notes onto their tablets, smartphones, or PCs.

And now, for the don’ts:

Don’t use social media in class. Your phone’s beeps, buzzes, and vibrations don’t just distract you; they distract your classmates and teacher as well.

Don’t text, call, or play online games in class. Your friends can wait to hear from you, and really, you can put away “Overkill 3” for just a couple of hours. If you absolutely must take a phone call, step outside the classroom and keep the call brief.

Don’t use tech as a crutch. Stephen asks his students to place their smartphones face down on their desks before they take tests. Using a mobile gadget to give you extra help on exams ultimately doesn’t work, he says.

“If you cheat your way through a test, you’re going to fail the next class,” Stephen said. “Just do the work. It pays off in the long run.”


Related: Win a Back To School survival kit, here.


Do you have any tips on using your Lumia or other mobile-tech gadgets to learn more effectively? Let us know in the comments section below.