How Can You Teach 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 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 Math ‘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. Organization matters, too

If your device has enough storage, use folders to create different categories of apps–assessment-based, knowledge-based, content-based, etc. Or they could be separated by content area, teacher-focused versus student-focused, and so on.

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. Empower students

Create a system that lets students find and test new apps while coming up with ideas for using existing apps in new, interesting, and effective ways.

6. 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.

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

Watch out–and plan for–the differences.

8. Be patient

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

9. Apps can support self-directed learning

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

10. 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.

11. 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 Goodnotes 7.

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

12. Prioritize platform-agnostic apps

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.

13. The cloud is getting smarter

For most apps, there is an entirely seamless mobile experience, where you can pick up on one device exactly where you left off on another. In addition to other benefits, this makes asynchronous learning available. One changes leads to another.

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

You’ll save yourself many grey hairs.

15. 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.”

16. Use apps and books to complement one another

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

17. 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.

18. Digital notetaking alone makes an iPad (or another tablet) worth using on a daily basis

This isn’t really a tip but more of a point of emphasis: a good PDF reader (we like PDF Pro) and a good note-taking app alone (Goodnotes 7, for example) make tablets worth using in your classroom (or for yourself as a teacher).

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