June used to be the slow month. School got out. I’d grab a book and a cool beverage. Play some softball. Do a little life guarding at the pool. Drive to the mountains for a week. If you’re old enough, you probably remember that sort of summer.
June is a busy month for many educators. Conferences. End of the year professional learning. Curriculum alignment. Standards training. In my case, June is full of mobile devices training. Over the next six weeks or so, I get the chance to spend time with a variety of folks around the country, working with schools that have latched onto the idea of tablets, clouding computing, and educational apps.
But in the rush to get the latest shiny tools, I think it’s easy sometimes to forget that the end in mind is teaching and learning, not the gadgets. So today a few things to remember when using apps in the classroom:
1. Your mobile device isn’t a silver bullet.
It’s a teaching and learning tool. That’s it. It’s not solving world hunger. Or global warming. You don’t have to use it every day, with every lesson.
2. Choice is key.
It shouldn’t be about making sure that all the kids and teachers use the same tool. It used to be that a district would spend huge chunks of money every year purchasing software licenses for individual computers. And so every computer had to be the same. Today’s tech reality is different. It doesn’t have to be just Microsoft 360 or just Google Drive or just Apple iCloud.
What works best right now? For this content area? For this grade level? For this assignment? BYOD is the extreme version of this concept but it could be as simple as letting kids select their own favorite app when creating products.
3. You’ll need to adapt work flow, assessment design, and classroom management.
Using a mobile device shifts the focus away from instructor and content to learner and process. You can’t do things the same way. Some activities will take longer, others won’t be needed. More collaboration is possible.
I don’t have any money invested in the SAMR method. But I do like how it can help structure the thinking and planning of your lessons and units.
4. Apps aren’t silos. Mash ’em up.
Be careful not to get locked into the idea that apps are designed to work in isolation. Apple products are clearly designed to support one another. An edited photo from iPhoto opens in iMovie with music in the background created by Garageband.
But it’s not just Apple tools. Google Drive and Dropbox are hovering the background of almost every creation tool. PDFs edited in Evernote can be stored in iBooks. The Open in Another App option is your best friend, connecting tools with each other.
5. Don’t be afraid of device neutral tools.
More and more apps and tools are being designed to be device neutral. The newest buzz word is platform agnostic. These sorts of things are usually web-based apps or have syncing capabilities that let you access your stuff no matter what device you’re using.
Free apps aren’t necessarily the best apps. Many times they are supported with in-app purchases, have little tech support, or are just not well designed. It’s okay to spend a few coins on quality tools.