Posts Tagged ‘apps’

Apps are the foundation of all mobile platforms.  The explosion in the use of mobile devices, especially smart phones, is the direct result of two factors.  The first factor is the design and manufacture of hand held devices that are small, yet powerful enough to act as mini computers.  The second is the design and development of applications that run on these devices that allow users to access information and accomplish tasks on the go.  With regards to learning, the discussion around the use of mobile devices has often been around app use and the use of mobile devices as a device of consumption.  There are endless learning apps available in app stores that focus on information access or reinforcement of skill through consumption.  While using apps specifically, and mobile devices in general, in this way has a place, when we focus the use of mobile devices to develop skills, we need to use mobile devices differently.

The discussion in education circles regarding inquiry based learning and knowledge construction applies when discussing mobile learning.  It is only by using mobile devices to collaboratively interact with others, construct knowledge and publish learning that mobile use begins to move to a new and higher level. Using apps on mobile devices to reinforce learning at the end of the learning cycle is not a transformative use of the technology. Transformative use includes using apps to learn and develop new skills at the beginning and throughout the learning process.

It is difficult to provide examples using specific apps due to the various platforms available. However, if we use social networking sites and apps as an example, one can see how mobile devices can be used by students to discuss questions, formulate solutions to inquiries, and to collaborate. It could be discussions using Twitter, collaborating on presentations using Google docs and sharing presenting findings on a blog or wiki. The crucial part is the apps, like devices themselves, are tools to learning thus play a subservient role. We need to focus on expectations and learning skills first and then find apps that support the learning. We should not be getting apps because “it’s a great way to reinforce math skills” but because it “help students develop math skills”. Apps, like devices, need to provide students with the ability to engage in learning in ways that are impossible without them. Apps that replicate flash cards do not support higher level learning. Apps that allow students to communicate, collaborate, share ideas and construct knowledge with others across distances and time do support higher level learning.

What are your thoughts here? What specific examples do you have of apps that support higher level learning?


Educase has a “7 Things You Should Know About…” series concerning technology and it’s uses and impacts to education. Clicking the image above will bring you to their document about mobile learning apps.

In discussing the use of mobile devices, it is easy to forget that the educational and productive power of mobile devices comes through the integration of the devices with other tools. The mobile device, after all, is a hardware tool that makes certain tasks possible but the actualization of those tasks ultimately depends on the use of software or web tools. Let’s take a look at some ways the hardware and software, including web software and apps, can come together to actualize learning outcomes. I realize that when I make reference to apps, it tends to imply the use of an iPhone or iPod Touch. In fact, all the ideas mentioned below are possible on an iPod Touch with free or very inexpensive apps – the links provided all point to the iTunes store.  That having been said, this reality is changing quickly with the likes of Palm, RIM and Microsoft also developing a marketplace and vendor space for apps that will increase and improve the availability of learning app for students.

iPhone and WritingMobile Devices and Literacy

  • Differentiating reading activities by allowing students to listen to audio books
  • Accessing digital texts on their mobile devices so that students can read wherever they find themselves
  • Connect to the internet, through either WiFi or other means, to express ideas on a blog post (i.e. through the WordPress app) or to collaborate with peers through a wiki

Mobile Devices and Numeracy

  • For younger children, the utilization of apps that provide drill and practice or flash cards to develop basic mathematical skill
  • Use of calculators of various forms: regular calculator, scientific calculator or graphing calculator
  • Even publishers such as Pearson have apps that help students learn important concerns such as this app for the study of Algebra

Mobile Devices and Science

Mobile Devices and Social Studies

  • Utilize mapping software such as Google Earth or Google maps to identify important locations of cities or monuments and then access the street view feature in Google Maps to see actual images of location in question
  • Accessing historical maps or apps of historical artwork for the study of historical ideology and patterns of thought
  • Reading historical literature such including fiction and non-fiction texts

Mobile Devices and International Languages

  • There are a plethora of apps that deal with the study of various languages that are both free and come with a cost – a simple search will provide an extremely wide variety of choice

Many argue that mobile devices are a distraction and I agree.  While others may argue that this distraction is not productive, I would argue that by harnessing the tools in the right way using the right apps, the distraction will be away from mundane paper and pencil tasks and toward more exciting, multi-sensory learning.