Educational app evaluation

Image: pain rating app

It’s pleasing to discover that the world has become very serious about rating mobile apps for educational purposes. There should be some solid reasons and explanations for using apps in an educational setting and there ought to be a well considered way now for rating apps because we have had mobile technology for quite some time . As an educator you need an approach to apps which will guide well thought out decisions about apps’ use. You also need a way to include learner opinion of apps because they are at the receiving end of it and need to be encouraged to be more than passive users. Education apps won’t improve unless we are all working together as a team and rating apps is a good way of identifying strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement. With some apps you have no choice . They are introduced into an educational environment and you are expected to use them. If you can then go though the process of rating them then there is solid evidence and data to help inform decisions for negotiations about the use of an app or to be able to contact developers and ask if they can work on certain aspects of the app. Those who work in technology usually like a challenge and so are very approachable if you can be clear about what you are asking. Digital teaching and learning is a constant improvement environment and way of being where clarity is important. There are some very helpful evaluation sites which show how you can go about rating apps:

Mobile app rating scale

App evaluation checklist

Ways to evaluate educational apps

I always involved students in app rating and it was a very helpful and interesting exercise for all of us:

The great iPad app review
There are also two useful pdfs to download if you click on the links:

Evaluating apps for Teaching and Learning

Rubric iPad Apps v0.4 Department of Education Western Australia

Technology trends 2017

Gartner is a big, American technology organisation which delivers technology research to global technology business leaders so they can  make informed decisions about key initiatives. It is one of the sites to keep an eye on if you want to see what the trends are and have some intelligent information to go on. It looks at different aspects of the impact of technology on our world and how it shapes it. It looks at the things which are changing and how they are being changed. What we don’t want to do is leave people out of this and people need communication and information. They need to know how to navigate the systems which are now in place. The information about how things are changing are getting to normal people as easily because so much is going on in the areas where the developments are occurring and so those who work there are used to it but hen it is not connecting with the larger population. The changes are quite quick and so what you thought was the way to do things isn’t any more. Much of the change is driven by big data and how we can analyse and use it but that then isn’t translating into everyday knowledge necessarily. More than ever we need to talk to each other , share information and share ways of doing something. We also need to be constantly aware that big changes are occurring and we need to look out for them and have some idea of how the world is now being landscaped. Communication is fundamental to that. Having grand new ways of doing things won’t help if people don’t know how to easily navigate them and don’t understand how the systems are now working. The video sums up the key changes very succinctly.

Usability

 

Is usability a science now? Certainly there is detailed analysis around usability in the design of apps, websites and technology in general. Does detailed analysis and data collection make it a science?  The fact the hue saturation can fatigue users is a fact we know now. If the colour on your sites or in your apps is too saturated then people will tire easily and maybe blame the app or website . Don Norman is the doyen of design and who people interact with it and he is worth listening to because he has spent his life in this area, researching about it and then sharing his ideas. He is widely acknowledged for expertise in the fields of design, usability engineering, and cognitive science. He looks at how people interact emotionally with design and how that plays an important role in what they can or can’t do with technology or will or won’t do. “It’s the real needs of people, what people think they need often isn’t right.”  We do need , at least, cognitive science to determine the best outcomes for people who use technology. We do need to understand how it can impact on others when we choose and select our designs for apps and websites. UserFocus UK  has an interesting discussion about whether usability is now a science or not. It comes to the conclusion :

“But I do think we can agree that as usability practitioners we should at least adopt a scientific way of thinking. By this, I mean we should approach our work with a self-critical and naturally sceptical mind set, and that our methods, whenever circumstances and budgets allow, should employ the scientific method of investigation.”

Usability at the least needs to be informed by science and if you are using technology to teach others then you need to understand the basic , underlying principles of UX and UI design and their emotional impact. That way you make informed choices about what to use and how you present your content.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 2017

Maslow's hierarchy of needs This revamped version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been making the rounds. I found this one on Twitter by Morten Øverbye. It’s something which has sparked some good discussion on his feed. Adding battery and wifi to the hierarchy of needs acknowledges we have become technology dependent. Does it mean we can’t be stable and secure without them? Is it a first world problem? To have battery there is a bold statement about how we have failed to address the basic requirement of a technology society. We are constantly interrupted by failing batteries, batteries which have a short life, places which don’t sell the batteries we need,waiting for the right battery to be delivered. It really is an implementation problem in our technology paradigm. As for wifi, yes, we are looking for that everywhere, but we also have mobile coverage which can alleviate the problem if we have the money to pay for it. Do we need batteries and wifi before food and water? I think not, but as someone points out , we might need our location services to find food and water. Interesting remodelled hierarchy to ponder and a sign we are changing as a society and that Maslow’s will need to be upgraded.

Writing , writing and writing

writing Image 10 Best Writing apps

Devices offer a diverse array for writing practice in all its varied forms. You can painfully type your way on a mini touch screen and embarrass yourself publicly in quite a spectacular way like I do if you wish or you can nimbly glide across a touch screen and insert images and sound as quick as lightning. Writing doesn’t have to just stare back at you. You can make it move, talk, connect to a website, a clip. You can add animation and annotations. One of the great experiences I discovered on my iPad was iPad magazines. I still read paper ones from time to time but an iPad magazine might include video clips, text reading, QR codes to go elsewhere on the Net, interviews. The whole thing just jumps into life. It means there are also a variety of tool where students can practise the art of writing, planning writing, publishing, multifaceted writing and a number of literacy skills. When there is a smorgasbord of how you can write and develop your writing then the chances of your writing well and being creative are probably quite high. Some of the “cooler” apps are paid for. It is important to research them well to see if they meet your needs or the needs of your classroom. Any app I plan to use in class I research first and then test it out with a couple of students if I plan to use it. They value participating in reviews. TeachThought has 15 e-book writing apps which seem to be paid but which do come tested, so to speak, and so you can look at them to see the sorts of things the e-book writing apps can do. I can see my students using some of these and loving it. There are also 10 best writing apps recommended on NextWeb. Some of these are free and some of them practise and utilise hand writing skills. My favourite writing app is Notability but I also like Documents Free. Now that I have seen all these other apps I want to try them out because each app creates a different impact. Bottom line? Don’t go anywhere without Evernote! Cross platform, cross device , always there and pretty comprehensive.

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