What are the best apps for education? What can their selection tell us about the evolution of technology?
Last Thursday the Future Trends Forum ran an experiment. We didn’t host a guest, as we usually do. Instead, we hosted an “Appy Hour”, a session where we invited participants to simply share their favorite mobile app for learning. (The idea came up during the June 7th Forum discussion. Kudos to the community for thinking of it!)
The experiment turned out to be… a wild success. People jumped onto video to share app after app. Discussion flowed freely.
This wasn’t done programmatically. I didn’t pick or preload ready to go speakers. Several days before the event I fired off a mass email, as is customary for each Forum. When I started the session I introduced the topic then simply opened the floor to volunteers. This was very ad hoc and organic.
Here’s the video recording. Below it is my summary, including a list of nearly two dozen apps:
Here’s the app list in alphabetical order. I’ve added the person or people who volunteered it as best I could:
Calm – a tool for helping users meditate. (thanks to Patrice and Cari Jiminez)
Chalk (iTunes) – an augmented reality app which lets users draw on the real world within a videoconference. It could be used in many situations. (thanks to Renee Franzwa) . Renee also cited a 2017 EdSurge article about AR apps.
Desmos – a free math app that replaces graphing calculators. (thanks to Maria Anderson)
Fabulous – helps users build good habits and fix up bad ones. (thanks to Rachael Larson)
Flipgrid – a kind of video-based discussion tool. (thanks to Mary Talbut and Rita-Marie Conrad)
Forest – encourages you to not spend so much time on the phone. (thanks to Maria Anderson)
Goose Chase – a scavenger hunt app. (thanks to Mary Talbut)
Inoreader – another good RSS reader. (Bryan)
iScanner – a very good scanner. (thanks to Maria Anderson)
Lingro to Go – a language learning app with a key focus: how to use language in the right moment. (thanks to Cari Jiminez)
Nearpod – for classroom presentation and interactive exercises. (thanks to Mary Talbut)
Newsmeister – a news quiz tool. (thanks to Tim Holmgren, who helped develop it)
Scuttytree – an AI/chat tool that helps students form study groups. (thanks to Rod Murray)
Shared grocery lists – an app category very useful for multi-person households.(thanks to Maria Anderson)
Smart Kapp – a note-taking app that lets you send content to multiple devices. (thanks to Mike Welker)
Tripit – a travel planner that creates itineries. (thanks to Maria Anderson)
Once we covered the majority of those apps, Rita-Marie then asked us to get meta, wondering how we can best keep up with the deluge of apps? In response Cari Jimenez suggested three apps for keeping up with apps and information: Product Hunt, Flipboard, and EdSearch. Maria mentioned her vacation habit of downloading a raft of apps all at once, then sifting through them in free time.
I took a step back and wondered about themes which emerged across this range of apps and through our discussion. They included:
- the wide range of app types. We shared apps for education (on several levels), personal productivity, and mental health aids.
- access. Many people were interested in low cost or free apps.
- practical pedagogy. Some saw their apps as supplementing a preexisting curriculum (i.e., Desmos, Algebra by Hand, Lingro to Go). Others were standalone learning tools (Vamos a aprender náhuatl).
- ease of use counted for a lot. We paid attention to improved interfaces and especially to good design.
- gamification. Many apps used game features, such as points and competition.
What do you think of our list? And what do you make of our experiment?
My thanks to Maria Andersen and Rita-Marie Conrad for offering the Appy Hour idea.