Working as an e-learning adviser, it may be expected that I should be asked ‘Which apps should I buy?’ A perfectly reasonable question coming from someone new to mobile technology to someone who has been researching and working with it for some time. However, the question takes me back to my earliest days as an adviser, when I was working with modern languages teachers. The phone would ring and a teacher would say “Hello, I’m from XYZ school in Never Never land – We’ve got a budget to buy software and I’m just wondering what we should buy?” I can’t blame the teacher for asking the question – it came from the days of e-learning credits where schools had money thrown at them and just wanted to be able to buy software. However, it rarely came with any thinking about what was the purpose of the software. I would probe for an answer: which languages are you working with? Which age group? Which skills are you looking to help pupils with? How does your curriculum work – when and how do pupils have access to computers? (The inquisition continued until I was able to find something for the school to spend their money on…and I was reminded of my dad saying ‘That money’s burning a hole in your pocket’.)
So, back to the ‘app’ question. Which apps should you buy? Well, what are you teaching? What are the pupils learning? Is an app the cover-all pill that a pupil can take to digest this chunk of learning? Will you be using the app for the whole class or is this something that the pupils will use on their own / in groups? ….
I don’t want to knock apps completely – there are some very good ones, some which pupils enjoy and no doubt will learn from effectively, but until we have a clear idea about what we are teaching and what pupils are learning and how, buying an app as a sticking plaster isn’t going to work.
After sharing this post with Joe Dale, he suggested the following sites which give tools for evaluating apps:
You may want to add a link to Silvia Tolisano’s app evaluation blog post – http://langwitches.org/blog/2012/05/27/evaluating-apps-with-transformative-use-of-the-ipad-in-mind and Tony Vincent’s http://learninginhand.com/blog/ways-to-evaluate-educational-apps.htm
Both very useful, adding some substance to the ‘Which app?’ debate.