Getting the best apps for your students means using resources that vet apps specifically for learning
Mobile apps are quickly redefining how the world interacts with information, and education apps are no exception, as they are quickly becoming the classroom’s number one learning resource. But there’s more to picking an app than browsing random lists online, thanks to a number of new education app resources that use educator reviews, algorithms and university research.
From lists that rate how safe different apps are for students of a certain age, to lists that use sophisticated algorithms that use educator reviews of apps, many sites today are helping educators go beyond a quick browse of iTunes or Google Play.
“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.
According to Malia Hoffmann, assistant professor at Concordia University (Calif.), as of fall 2013, there were more than 1 million apps for Apple and 1.1 million apps for Android, she said during her session at FETC.
“These numbers are overwhelming, and outside of hearing word-of-mouth suggestions, or looking at third-party source recommendations online, there was a lack of research-based rubrics to help educators evaluate these apps for their schools,” explained Hoffmann. “Which is why, based on well-known research on learning principles, my colleagues and I developed four rubrics.”
Both Averbeck and Hoffman’s resources are listed below.
Do you have a favorite resource you use to choose your apps? What do you think makes a good app? Do you ever feel overwhelmed in the amount of app choices available? Leave your comments in the section provided below, or eMail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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[App resources listed in alphabetical order]
2. App Evaluation: Based on research on mobile design principles and instructional strategies, three assistant professors at multiple universities developed four rubrics for educators to formally evaluate mobile applications:
- Cross-content rubric: This rubric is the most general of the rubrics, enabling educators to evaluate any number of apps on a wide variety of subjects or for diverse educational purposes.
- Special education rubric: Slightly different in that the rubric focuses more on certain criteria, the special education rubric can also be used for general education, too.
- Student evaluation rubric: Educators may still need to tailor the language of this rubric for students, but the rubric uses slightly broken-down language to ask students what they think of the mobile apps they’re using in school.
- Math rubric: “There’s a ton of math language we used in this rubric and it’s great for the multitude of math apps now available on the market,” said one professor.
3. Appolicious: This site includes Apple app, android apps and general education apps, and is a mobile app discovery service that licenses algorithmic-based app search and recommendation technology to third parties including Samsung. Algorithms are based on proprietary app metadata, generated through social graph and app ownership, user-generated content, and editorial content and classification. Members of the Appolicious community share, review, and curate lists of apps that are most relevant to them.
4. APPitic: A directory of apps for education by Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) to help educators transform teaching and learning. These apps have been tested in a variety of different grade levels, instructional strategies and classroom settings. App lists are often unique, and include apps for preschool, autism and special education, physical education, flipped learning, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and more.
5. Appysmarts: Provides vetted education apps for a variety of subjects and grade levels, with other important categorizations; such as “Free or discounted apps.” There’s also an apps review forum. This site provides users with recommendations through a complex rating and ranking criteria and a special algorithm to analyze and match the data.
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6. Ashwaubenon School District Tech Tips: Averbeck’s page designed to help educators with education technology also includes resources for apps. Two popular resources include the district’s:
- iPad App FB page, which includes resources like “10 apps for more organized project-based learning.”
- Google Apps FB page, which includes resources like “20 collaborative Google Apps activities.”
7. Common Sense Media’s educational apps list: Helps schools and families navigate online media. The site has a rating system of green, yellow and red for age-appropriate content. Learning ratings are also provided for each app. How CSM rates content.
8. Google Play for Education: Take a fresh approach to any subject with the teacher-approved apps, books and videos. Find content by grade, subject, or Common Core standard; distribute content instantly to classrooms, individuals or districts; buy paid apps via PO, with no credit card required.
9. IEAR.org: A community effort to grade educational apps. This community has over 500 educators, administrators and app developers. The site believes that there is a lot of potential power in bringing communities together, especially mobile learning communities. IEAR.org has over 30 volunteer “educator” app reviewers who are taking a closer look at the overall educational value of “educational apps”. Learn more.
10. Learning Exchange iPad Apps Review: A list of apps reviews by educators from the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta. Apps are categorized by name, review, subject category, age group and cost.
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