Don’t be content with content

Double entendre aside, education needs to be mindful about the uses of technology. What is it being used for? A theme in this discussion thread is content versus creation. There are many ways to slice this, but one of the most obvious and prevalent ones is the usage of mobile apps. An argument can be made to define multiple categories of apps — both overarching and specific categories. However, content versus creation is a pretty solid division. While there is overlap, we still need to consider and evaluate mobile apps in light of their purpose before rushing to download them.

Play with the app. As a teacher or adult, play with the app. Test it out and find its strengths and weaknesses. Let a kid play with it and get his/her feedback. Can it be used for multiple subjects? Does it meet an instructional need, or is it just a time-filler? Games aren’t all bad, but some are better than others for conveying an important concept students need to learn (not to mention how it is designed). Is it just delivering content, or does it provide a learner the means to create something that represents his/her understanding and learning process?

Apps seem to have great appeal in terms of entertainment value. They can certainly snag the attention of a learner, but after a few uses, where will that learner be? Engagement isn’t just the attention-getting aspect of something, but a deeper relevance that “something” has to what the learner finds meaningful and valuable. For more on that, read up on Phillip Schlechty and his thinking about engagement in his book Engaging Students: The Next Level of Working on the Work. We need to get their attention, and apps can help with that, but if that’s all the app does, then we’ve missed the mark. We also need to look at how these apps can deepen student understanding and help them with creation (both individual and collaborative).

So, what are some examples? To repeat the recommendations of so many others, I would suggest playing with Educreations and/or ShowMe. These are very similar apps, so you wouldn’t end up needing both, but they allow for the simple creation of slides with audio narration. The slides can include pictures, text, and your own writing/doodling. For the younger ones (EC-2), check out Sock Puppets. I laugh out loud when I hear my voice sound like a chipmunk! Oh, and if you think it’s too simple, let a kid create with it and you’ll find the possibilities are beyond your scope of thinking. Allow the students to create and think on their own. Simple apps can sometimes be the most versatile and strongest in terms of creation. Go on and create!

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