What Makes a Good Educational App? (Part 5)

Part V: Peer collaboration & shareability

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The penultimate installation in our 6-part blog series will focus on an educational app being “share-able” or open to peer collaboration.

If you missed Part 1, click HERE.

If you missed Part 2, click HERE.

If you missed Part 3, click HERE.

If you missed Part 4, click HERE.

As mentioned in the previous blog, a running theme that has been underlying the essential elements of a quality educational app is the subjectivity of an app. In the first blog of the series, it was briefly mentioned that in order to engage fully there has to be an opportunity for the user to not only feel a sense of individuality but also as though they are improving well in relation to peers.

This brings us nicely to our 5th key element: the app must give the user a sense of social activity and sharing.

From an anthropological perspective, like other primates, we are an intensely social species. For several years, we have depended on unity to survive through the ages as communities that eventually evolved into countries and nations.

In the modern world, communities are now virtual. Because of the reach of the different mediums available to communicate with people, there are no limits to distance in keeping in contact with others. Whereas before if a close companion went far enough the ties in the relationship are strained or even severed, now through the use of various channels we can maintain visibility with friends and family.

As this increasing level of interaction has come about, it has permeated the different aspects of our lives. Education and learning are no different. The growing inclusion of technology into the classroom has meant schools no longer have limited access to information and resources. This means that for an educational app to be considered quality, it has to offer some form of peer-to-peer collaboration.

Research has offered several benefits for technological collaboration in education, including:

The luxury of time & space: As mentioned previously, the range of reach that technology brings means that learners do not have to be within close proximity to collaborate. Past collaboration before the convenience of social sharing meant collaboration could only happen as long as the library was open or as long as learners were together. Technology nullifies this disadvantage.
Increased achievement: The opportunity for students to collaborate with and/or compare to peers means the introduction of new ideas. These ideas may conflict with their particular perspective on a topic but it helps to push new ideas and progression for all parties involved.
Motivation: In comparing/collaborating, learners are introduced to other individuals with varying levels of intelligence. This can be a motivational factor in collaboration, when the users encourages each other to keep going, but similarly as a stimulus to improve themselves when comparing to peers of a similar or higher achievement level (in gamification terms).

Therefore, an educational app should give users the chance to socialise among peers in order to progress, whether that is through collaboration or comparison. There is an abundance of social media and learners of the modern day are natives of the virtual community. Technology in education cannot expect users to flock to it, if it does not serve them through communion of ideas and progression.

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