Defining an Educational App with Jayne Clare of Teachers with Apps
Mobile Apps today are becoming more and more educational oriented. How do you find those that are better than the rest? EFactor asked Jayne Clare of “Teachers with Apps” to let us know their approach to selecting the best apps.
1. What is the definition of an educational app?
JC: We use a holistic approach. One of the first things we look at is the user-friendliness of the app. We also look at whether the content and target audience is aligned. Then we dive in, get an overall feel for the app and assess how complicated, or in depth, it may be. Is it developmentally age appropriate? Does it accomplish what it set out to do? At that point, we give it a thumbs up, a thumbs down, or put it into the maybe category to be revisited at another time. It didn’t take us long to realize the importance of handing the app over to a child… usually with little or no instructions, then we back away and observe. We ultimately end up using a Rubric to decide if an app is strong enough to make the cut.
2. What's the difference between an effective app vs. an ineffective one?
JC: It is imperative to let kids/students explore an app on their own and find the ins and outs of it independently. You learn so much about an app by observing a child using it; they always find something you hadn’t noticed. You quickly learn its potential or its shortcomings. Just observing how different children interact with an app is an indicator. We ask them about their experience and what they think they’ve learned. With older students, we sometimes ask them to write something open-ended about the app. An ineffective app is hard to pin down, an app that a creative teacher uses to engage students in the class may not have the same effect as in the home. What really hurts an app is when it is slow to load, crashes often, and has very limited interactions. A great app will harness the power of the device and engage the learner.
3. What do you look for in the apps that you recommend to parents?
JC: We recommend apps that are high quality, user-friendly from the start, have an extended shelf-life, contain interactivity that complements the content, not competes with it, and we examine the connection to curriculum. Just like a book, apps that appeal to one child may not interest another. We try to avoid anything that is specifically gender oriented; in some cases, an app with the fairy princess may have equal learning opportunities to that with the monster truck. Know your child.
Don’t have too many apps on your device. Stick to quality choices and avoid the traps of too much nonsense or too much game-play. Remember the importance of approving what apps your kids play with. What apps are downloaded should ultimately be the adult’s responsibility.
4. How are educational apps helping teachers and students?
JC: If used correctly apps are a wonderful tool to engage kids, give them ownership, individualize learning, and provide different options for the same assignment. Teachers using technology effectively will broaden their student's horizons and inspire learning. Apps have the ability to continue the learning process off campus, they extend learning and allow students to move at their own pace. Whether we like it or not this is the future, a digitally connected lifestyle is all that our children know. The sooner we as adults, embrace the concept and run with it all the better for the kids. Another option is to hand over the device and let the children teach you.
This interview appeared in EFactor and was written by Claire Vela - What are your favorite education apps and why? Let us know by tweeting at @EFactorglobal. You can find Jayne Clare at www.teacherswithapps.com and on Twitter @TeachersApps