Tech expert says better apps come from sharing, not presenting

apps-learning-FETCThere’s a growing movement among educators to go beyond naming “cool” apps; a backlash against the often-overwhelming lists of ‘100 Greatest Education Apps Ever!’ Instead, educators want apps that truly make a difference in the classroom—and the best resource? Their own know-how.

“Too often I was asked to lead professional development [PD] sessions where I’d have to list a bunch of apps specific to, say, administrators or to science teachers. And it would take me forever and I honestly didn’t have any better idea than they did,” explained Jamie Averbeck, tech integration coach for Wisconsin’s Ashwaubenon School District, during the 2014 Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando.

“I thought: Why am I doing this? Why am I finding apps when teachers and administrators can do it themselves and probably better find what they’re looking for?” he mused.

(Next page: 5 ways to get better apps, app PD)

Ashwaubenon currently has 400 district-owned iPads used mostly in K-2, and approximately 50 BYOD devices in grades 9-12 in one-to-one initiatives.

Teachers can download free apps with their district apple ID, and paid apps are purchased by the grade level “app facilitator,” using the Apple Education Volume Purchase Program.

To help educators in his district, as well as strengthen the design of the district’s PD, Averbeck discussed five ways to find more useful apps for their needs:

1. Change the focus of professional development from “What is the best app for…” to “How can [blank] app improve my classroom?”

“The old way of looking at apps was always a list, rarely vetted, of something like ‘The best classroom apps,’” said Averbeck. “But it should really be specific apps tailored to your classroom goals, your students and your knowledge base.”

2. Flip finding apps onto your staff. Share; don’t present!

“We’re constantly in the process of making our teachers more of a guide for student learning rather than a simple presenter; yet, that’s still how we conduct our PD for educators, and that needs to change,” emphasized Averbeck. “Run PD that is about how to find and where…not what.”

To help teachers find apps, Averbeck recommends using well-known and respected app-aggregating and vetting sites, which include:

(Next page: Methods 3-5)

3. Promote sharing with Speed APPing and Crowdsourcing.

“Think of Speed APPing like speed dating,” explained Averbeck: “Pick a partner; be ready to share an app; spend one minute telling your partner as much as you can about that app; then at the end of the minute, it will be your partner’s turn to share.”

In 30 minutes staff will learn about 15 different apps, all vetted by their peers, noted Averbeck.

Educators also can crowdsource apps using Google docs. For the live form, click For the Spreadsheet, click

4. Focus on the student, not the app.

“Part of choosing a good app means knowing when it’s used as a tool and when it’s used as a pacifier,” said Averbeck. “Sure, plopping your younger kids in front of a trusted and engaging app is great, but if it’s the same app and the same tech every day, and you start to rely on it simply to get your students quiet, it’s probably time to switch things up and re-evaluate your lesson.”

Another way to focus on students is by identifying apps as an intervention or enrichment tool, organizing the apps into folders (e.g. by skill, by difficulty or by student), and to use assessments after pre- and post-app usage in formal and informal settings, Averbeck explained.

5. Find time for your educators.

According to Averbeck, it’s critical that educators are provided with time during the day to promote better app implementation.

“Teachers need time to find the apps, plan their lesson, integrate the app into the lesson, differentiate for students, create assessments, and review the app,” he concluded. “Once teachers get to this level and have this time they are self-sufficient app finders and can begin to bring apps they’ve vetted to professional development sessions.”

For more information on apps and PD, find Averbeck on Twitter @AverbeckTech or @ashwaubtech.

Sign up for our K-12 newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Meris Stansbury

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at

Comments are closed.

eSchool News uses cookies to improve your experience. Visit our Privacy Policy for more information.