What Are The Best Tips For Teaching With Apps?

by Terry Heick

We’ve done tips in the past for teaching with tablets. This one is similar, so there is some overlap, but this has more to do with apps specifically. Below are 25 tips for teaching with apps.

25 Tips For Teaching With Apps

1. You’re going to need to adjust how you design learning experiences

If you’re going to use something important, interdependent, and new, you’re going to need some kind of model or framework to contextualize it. We’re working on such a model now, but this journal entry—while a bit dry—has some useful nuggets in it, especially coming to understand mobile learning as—first and foremost–a matter of time and space.

“Despite the rhetoric around m-learning virtually guaranteeing contextualized learning, very few of these scenarios rated highly in the scales for authenticity. Most activities involved either some form of contrived context (e.g. the high school Maths “apps” example) or activities that were merely providing a simulation of reality (such as the game – they were not participating in a real-life “governance” scenario).”

It is mobility and access that underscores learning through apps, and using this technology without adjusting the design of learning experiences could yield underwhelming results.

2. Discovery is critical

3. Curation matters, too

You can’t download everything at once. Create a pinterest board (or boards); use pocket; use your wishlist on the App Store. Or, better yet, create app ‘collections’ using social bookmarking tools.

4. Not everything that looks cool has a place in your classroom

Technology–like apps–should solve a problem. If it doesn’t, it’s probably creating one.

5. Design a system that lets students find and test apps

Because you can’t do it all. And even if you could, they should always do more than you, yes?

6. They’re only tools

Not magic.

7. Watch for apps that abuse in-app purchases

Some use in-app purchasing responsibly, while others create compelling apps that are otherwise broken without constantly milking your iTunes account.

8. You can buy iTunes or Google Play cards with cash almost anywhere

That way, you don’t have to add a credit card to your account and suffer the vulnerability.

9. Apps can automate, empower, disrupt, or confuse

Watch out–and plan for–the differences.

10. Be patient

Adjustments will be necessary if the app is sufficiently effective–give it time.

11. Then again…

Don’t hesitate to delete an app if your teacher-senses tell you it’s meh.

12. Amazon has a free app of the day program for Android

Set up an account and check it daily. A lot of duds, but over the last year, we’ve downloaded probably 30 keepers.

13. Apple has a weekly free app

It’s not daily, but it’s better than nothing.

14. Apps can support self-directed learning

Heutagogy is the new pedagogy. Haven’t you heard? And mobile technology can make it work.

15. Adaptive learning apps are “apps 2.0”

Adaptive learning algorithms are the next stage of teaching and learning with apps. An “adaptive learning algorithm” is simply a function built-in to the app that allows it to learn from user input, and revise itself accordingly. This has the potential to personalize learning in terms of content, sequence, pace, or complexity.

16. Use apps that work together

Evernote works with Penultimate, which can be tied to dropbox; Flipboard, twitter, and pocket can all function seamlessly, as can iBooks, pdfs, and pdf markup apps like iAnnotate pdf.

Microsoft OneDrive can backup your photostream on the iPad, while Google Drive can obviously work closely with the entire Google ecology.

17. Microsoft’s Windows Phone and related tablets are rapidly improving

In fact, the new Surface 3 or even the Asus VivoTab Note 8 could make a great mobile learning device. They’re not on the level of Apple or Android in terms of app selection and ecology, but they deserve a look.

18. If you’re using Android devices…

…use the widgets! This is their defining characteristic aside from the Google ecology.

19. Some apps are platform agnostic

This means if you switch from one operating system–like iOS–to another–like Windows Tablets or Android–you’re stuff comes with you.

Two examples? Amazon’s Kindle books and Microsoft’s Office Suite. Two notable apps that don’t? Apple’s iTunes and iBooks.

Consider this before you dump a bunch of money into one or the other. They add up over time.

20. The cloud is getting smarter

We’re getting very close to an entirely seamless mobile experience, where you can pick up on one device exactly where you left off on another. This is game-changing.

21. Establish a system for handling password and log-in issues

You’ll save yourself many grey hairs.

22. Have a simple way of communicating edtech expectations to students

Even something as simple as a colored chart, where green means “mobile devices can be out and used,” to yellow, which could mean “you can only use mobile devices for these itemized actions,” to red, which could mean “put them away.”

23. Most apps are more “engaging” than most books

At least at first glance. So use them together–have the app front-load the book, or vice-versa.

24. Use an RSS feed to vet apps

Add app review sites to an RSS feed and skim through it daily, sending the stuff that is worth a second look to your pocket account or school email.

25. Digital notetaking is worth a look

Even on crude touchscreens like the iPad, palm rejection software, handwriting recognition, and other features have made tablets–especially smaller ones like the Nexus 7 and iPad Mini–excellent personal devices for teachers and students alike. (Notes Plus for iPad isn’t bad, while Microsoft’s OneNote is ideal for Windows tablets; not sure for Android–haven’t used enough.)

25 Tips For Teaching With Apps; image attribution flickr user jennydowning