Apps and books are more similar than they might seem.

They each diffuse content, provide access to expertise, and allow the cataloging and consolidation of knowledge into accessible forms for learners to study.

And while there are important differences—apps can be constantly refreshed new information, while a book is what it is the moment it is published—there are some lessons to be learned with how we collect and categorize books.

They’ve moved into the world of formal didactic intent, with examples from Khan Academy, Learnist, Study Egg, and even TED talks moving from interesting bits of stuff to cohesive and logical learning sequences. By adding questions, opportunities for students to revisit questions, social dynamics, and elements of progress tracking and gamification, the gap between a formal learning environment and an app is becoming increasingly narrow, thus the rise of mobile learning pushes and iPad popularity in the classroom.

Another factor to consider is their sheer accessibility for most learners and educators. There are lots of apps.

Lots of them–millions in fact scattered across the Android “Google Play” store and Apple’s stunningly successful app store. And a huge number are free. This makes experimentation with their function key. If it’s not having the impact on learning in your classroom that you hoped it would, move on.

An app library can help ease the burden of this process, while also aiding in new app discovery.

Starting Your Collection

Social bookmarking sites like pinterest (while not marketed as a bookmarking site, that’s essentially what it is) can allow for app collections to be curated for future reference. Creating a category on pinterest for “Research apps” allows you to pin all the research tools and apps you can find in one very easy to use—and visualize—place. Start small and give it a shot.


A second option is edshelf.

edshelf allows users to create both functioning libraries of potential apps, and current databases of existing apps by category. These categories are where things start to get useful. Just as libraries separate books based on the decimal system, fiction and non-fiction, and so on, edshelf allows users to curate relevant apps and store them by whatever measure they choose.

  1. By Content Area (math, literature, social studies)
  2. By App Function (publishing, collaborating, designing)
  3. By Approximate Grade Level
  4. By Curriculum Style (Project-Based Learning, Challenge-Based Learning, Game-Based Learning, purely academic learning, etc.)
  5. By platform (iOS, Android, etc.)
  6. By Chronological Order/Release
  7. By App Popularity
  8. By Create vs Consume (drawing and making versus reading and viewing)
  9. By Popular Genres (News, Productivity, Finance, Science)
  10. By Other Niche


Starting your collection is just the beginning. Whichever approach you choose–social media, social bookmarking, or edshelf–in each case you are able to share apps, explore content, and comment on other collections. This helps you fill out your own lists while helping others discover that critical app they might be missing, and build momentum in pursuit of increasingly mobile learning.

Image attribution flickr user joevare