Sunday, 10 February 2013

The Power of Apps

In a recent article in Edutopia entitled ”How the iPad Can Transform Classrooms”, Ben Johnson raises awareness of the difference between using mobile devices as a way to teach students versus the mobile device as a tool to learn for students.
The lesson planning questions I hope my teachers will learn to ask will change from “How can I teach this content?” to, “How can I get students to learn this content?” I hope they will answer this question with open-ended learning activities rather than saying, “I have an app for that.”
Johnson calls for the paradigm shift in seeing mobile devices as a TOOL TO THINK WITH:
Sure there may be some useful apps that help the student gain the skills, knowledge or insight into the subject, and a teacher might want the class to do it together, but focusing solely on the apps, or student control, limits the true potential of the iPad — “a tool to think with.”
Tolisano, in her Langwitches blog, states the level of disconnect between the teacher and curricular outcomes and the pedagogical relationship that needs to be in place for an app to be a match to use in a classroom or with an individual learner.
A disconnect often reveals itself through requests for app recommendations, such as questions such like:
  • “What app could I use to help my students practice their mathematics facts?”
  • “What app would you recommend to help my students read?”
  • “I want to use iPads in my Science class. What app is good for that?”
The power of mobile devices is not its entertainment value or to be a replacement for quality instruction. Mobile devices do not teach students, not do the devices help students acquire understanding of a concept or skill. To be blunt, the app will not help students understand a concept they are already having difficulty mastering. Tolisano encourages eductors to look at the difference of using an app to automate and substitute a task versus informate and transform in her post Enhancement-Automating-Transforming-Informating).

The questions, therefore, should focus on:
  • The value an app can bring to a learner (and being able to articulate the value). It is not a direct replacement of a task traditionally accomplished without the mobile device
  • The connection from the app to curriculum content (and being able to demonstrate the depth of that connection)
  • The possibilities the app can bring to create, communicate, critically think, and collaborate
  • The flexibility of the app to personalize and differentiate to meet students' individual needs, and
  • The ability of the app to be used as evidence of learning

As school-embedded literacy support, I wanted to incorporate technology into reading. The apps chosen foster a deepening of practiced skills and concepts.

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