There are many things to consider before introducing new technology to your learners.
Educational Apps......Are They Worth the Trouble?
I know many of you must be saying, "Enough already!" when it comes to keeping up with all of the technological advances being introduced into today's classrooms. Incorportating SMARTBoards, laptops, educational software, electronic communication, and reporting into your teaching toolbox has already required a lot of work. Now, there is yet another technological advancement that has found its way into classrooms: educational apps. In this article, I'd like to share some reasons why I believe educational apps are worth incorporating into your teaching day, and to point you in the right direction to try them out.
Educational Apps...... Ask the Right Questions
First of all, not all educational apps are created equally. As with any new technology, some are much better than others. When thinking of educational apps, there are some questions worth considering:
- Is the app relevant to student learning and tied to a learning standard?
- Does the app promote critical thinking, or is it just old fashioned drill-and-practice?
- Does the app provide instant feedback to the user?
- Can students share their work with other devices, e-mail, and social networking sites?
- Is the app motivating and fun for pupils to use?
- Is the app age-appropriate and grade-appropriate for those who are using it?
By carefully considering each of these questions, you can quickly narrow down the long list of apps that are available to you. Just as in your traditional lesson planning, when choosing an app, you want to focus on acquiring the most effective materials to assist you in teaching a particular subject.
Although I was an elementary school teacher for 22 years, I am writing this article primarily for an audience of middle and high school teachers. I'm sure there are many excellent educational apps that can be used in the elementary grades, but from what I've gathered through my own reading, it seems like educational apps may be best utilized by older learners. In case you want to take a look into the brave new world of educational apps, I've linked the URL's of five excellent, FREE, educational app downloads you can take a look at. Four are learning-based iPad apps for your pupils, and one is an iPhone app that can help you easily communicate with your students and families.
Educational Apps to Check Out
iTunes U is, in essence, ibooks for textbooks - but much, much more. With iTunes U, students and teachers can download educational resources from around the globe, access podcasts from university professors, take part in a course on the American Revolution, or enjoy a ten-part multimedia course on writing plays.
Leaves, geography, and interacting with others are the highlights of this app. Users can take photographs of leaves with the tablet, and determine its species. Then, they interact with other people around the world who are studying leaves and, by accessing GPS, they build up a database of flora around the globe together.
For students of the foreign languages, this app is ideal! So far, apps are available for French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Chinese. The games and exercises are motivating and fun for beginning language learners. The teaching of basic vocabulary and conversational phrases is the focus.
If there was ever a need for an easier and more efficient way of doing something, it would be a better way of taking notes in a class or lecture. Along with providing an easy-to-use template for taking notes, an Evernote account can link with any mobile device; making the sending and sharing of notes quite simple. A valuable app for those in high school and college.
In this era of digital blogging, this app is valuable for teachers who struggle with keeping up with all of the communication that goes on each day. Sending out newsletters, posting assignments, suggesting reading material, and reminding parents of conference schedules can all be done with this app.
Science teachers, check out Creatures of Light. It is a brilliant app about bioluminescence. It includes so many interactive tasks, including placing a droplet of water on the iPad screen to enlarge the components of light behind it!