As an educator with a passionate interest in the potential of new technologies, it strikes me how learning opportunities have widened significantly in the last decade. In part, this has been due to the spread of knowledge enabled by tools like apps and Wikipedia, as well as intelligent voice recognition platforms, such as Siri, Google and Cortana, all of which make the learning process more interactive and engaging, helping with motivation and grasping new concepts.
Teachers likewise benefit from access to more intuitive content, being able to gather spontaneous feedback following each session and being well-placed to assess students on an ongoing basis.
Today, apps are one of the key tools for engaging, encouraging and motivating students to take part more frequently in classroom interactions. Here, we look at some of ways in which they can be integrated to achieve maximum results.
Effective teaching focuses more on the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ than it does on the ‘what’. Educational apps, when combined with appropriate input from teachers, therefore, should offer support in sparking curiosity and imagination. Strong engagement can also be triggered by posing provocative questions via the app after each session, encouraging students to do their own research - and to experiment, cementing learning with real-life experience.
Classroom interactions run smoother when information is effectively communicated - that is, when teachers start from a simple foundation, gradually work to increase clarity and eventually get their students to the point that they retain concepts in the long-term.
Prior to engaging an app, therefore, they should avoid assumptions on student's knowledge - or risk losing the attention of those with gaps in their understanding. The best classroom apps align with students' learning goals, providing personalised features that help them build their skills and competencies based on their current level.
Apps can also help teachers maintain engagement and motivation through integrating gaming strategies with traditional student learning goals. Motivation can be raised if - combined with lesson plans - apps can bridge real-world learning gaps within the four walls of the classroom, reducing the likelihood of distraction.
Learners, as mentioned previously, come with different skill levels, some needing more assistance than others. Apps can help by enabling teachers to cater for all abilities. User interfaces, for instance, can be customised, meaning complex ideas can be simplified to aid understanding.
It is, of course, important that learning goals are kept in mind when selecting apps to deploy. But there are lots of quality products out there, particularly on Apple's App Store, with iMovie, GarageBand and iPhoto, for example, helping fostering creativity, while the likes of pages and Numbers keep students productive. There are also several third party apps like Desk, Sketchbook and Scribble Press that encourage reflection, deep thinking and clear communication.
At hedgehog lab, we have years of experience in building cutting-edge apps - and are enthusiastic about what we see in the education sector with plenty of apps to enhance learning. Advancements in technology are not just engaging students, but providing rich experiences that were never before possible.