How teachers can assess the usefulness of educational apps

For many teachers, time is their most valuable asset and any time spent off task i.e. away from teaching, must be spent on developing skill sets that enable more time.

Technology has proven in commoditised industries to do just that: save time and increase productivity. However, technology in education, although in its infancy, has yet to demonstrate its full potential.

Currently, the majority of teachers acquire their digital skill set by default for use in the classroom. They purchase their own mobile devices (tablet or smartphone) then through a variety of techniques, such as use of the internet, trial and error and help from friends, gain some confidence in the use of the device and content. However this may be ok at the outset, but what happens when a professional learner with a responsibility for teaching others, needs to progress?

With the form factor of smartphones and tablets unlikely to change significantly over the next few years, the biggest innovation and change is going to come in the delivery of content, specifically packaged software i.e. apps.

Currently there are over 250,000 apps found under the Education category in the major stores. However, the content is heavily weighted towards technical structure, rather than that of integrated learning systems, continual assessment, adaptive activities and analytics. We are still in an era of pre package, however we are starting to see the introduction of apps that are adaptive and show a basic understanding in regards to the pathways of learning. A good example of this is the language app ‘Duolingo’ that employs the learning techniques of spaced repetition and mastery learning.

Before choosing any app for the classroom we would recommend that as a teacher that you work your way back from your expected outcomes and are crystal clear on what success looks like. If an app is to be used for a reward at the end of a lesson then ensure that it is fun, but if it is to acquire domain knowledge, then the best apps are those that map the national curriculum.

Justin Smith

Founder and CEO of Educational App Store

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