Using Mobile Devices in Class: Susan Gaer’s CATESOL 2014 Session

I was lucky enough to attend the CATESOL 2014 conference in sunny Santa Clara last week, where I enjoyed meeting old and new subscribers at the ESL Library booth! I was also fortunate to have had the chance to attend three amazing sessions (two on technology in the classroom and one on flipping the classroom), and I thought I’d share what I learned on our blog. Today I will summarize Susan Gaer‘s presentation on mobile devices in the classroom and share her wonderful suggestions for using text messages, photos, and online quizzes in class.

Text Messages

Have you thought about setting up a class texting system? Texting in and out of class with your students engages them and makes them feel like you care. Susan suggested trying Poll Everywhere in class. Teachers can ask a question and students can text their answers anonymously, which usually makes them feel comfortable. Turning their answers into a word cloud lets students see what their classmates thought.

Another suggestion was remind (also available as a free app) that teachers can use to send texts to students reminding them of various things, such as studying for a test or bringing something to class. The best part is that it’s one-way! Students can’t text you back, so you won’t be inundated with replies at all hours.


Get students more involved in writing and speaking activities by having them take a picture with their mobile device and writing a paragraph/essay or giving a speech about it. Susan also suggested using photos for vocabulary development—get students to illustrate idioms or vocabulary through photos, or send them on a photo hunt.

My favorite suggestion was Susan’s “I Spy” game, which she mentioned was a great way to teach vocabulary and get to know one another. Instructions:

  • Have each student take a close-up photo and a faraway photo of an object (the close-up should be of part of an object that’s not too obvious).
  • Get each student to show the class their close-up photo, and see if their classmates can guess what it is.
  • Students can then show the faraway photo and reveal the answer.

Quizzes / Game-Based Learning

Using online quiz and game creators with students is a fun way to engage students. Most of these sites and apps are free and easy to use, and Susan demonstrated three of her faves during her presentation: SocrativeKahoot!, and Quizlet.

Socrative is a free way to make quizzes that appear on your phone via the Internet. Students do the quiz on the phone, and all the answers show up on the website, which the teacher can display to the class. It allows students to make their own tests and be more involved in their learning. There are apps for teachers and students, and teachers can get reports on students’ test scores.

Kahoot! was a lot of fun to play during Susan’s session. This website allows students to make their own quizzes (or do yours) which will appear on their mobile devices. The best part is that it’s timed, which makes it more competitive and engaging. Susan reported that her students absolutely love playing Kahoot! in class. She’s found that her students learn faster this way. This popular site even has its own Facebook community where people can share the quizzes they’ve made.

Quizlet is a website and app where students can create their own flashcards. Creation often leads to better learning, in Susan’s opinion. There is a free version, but Susan mentioned it’s well worth paying the $15/yr for the extra features, such as putting in the students’ own pictures and recordings.

What’s your favorite app or website to use in the classroom? Share it with us in the comments below!


Sorry, comments for this entry are closed.