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TOOLS FOR LEARNING: Mobile Learning has Gone App-Happy!: Trends and Tactics in Mobile Learning

By Victor Rivero - Posted Sep 1, 2014
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Welcome to the app-happy world of education and learning! According to Pew Internet Project’s research related to mobile technology, as of January 2014, 90% of American adults have a cellphone, 58% have a smartphone, 32% own an e-reader, and 42% own a tablet computer. As of May 2013, 63% of adult cell owners use their phones to go online.

According to Cisco estimates, by 2016, there will be 10 billion mobile internet devices in use globally, or 1.4 devices per person on the planet. By association, children in the same household also have access to all of this technology and are quite savvy about using it themselves.

With the FCC recently approving $2 billion in spending split between 2 years to deliver more Wi-Fi to schools and libraries, modernized Wi-Fi and high-speed internet will finally bring school connectivity up-to-speed. And students taking advantage of mobile learning will have an even easier time. But where will all those devices and all that robust broadband capacity lead them? To learning apps, of course.

Believe it or not, it’s only been 7 years since Apple’s iPhone and App Store came online, and more than 25 billion apps have already been downloaded. According to some estimates, there are more than 40,000 apps specifically for learning and education, a number that has surely mushroomed to vastly more than a single teacher or student could possibly keep track of.

Of the share of available apps on Apple Store, by category, Games tops the list with a 19.06% share, followed by Education apps at 10.6%, followed by Business, Lifestyle, Entertainment at 8.4%, 8.1%, and 7.8%, respectively. By 2014, Gartner predicts about 1 billion smartphones—or double the number of PCs—will be sold.

Trends are pointing to more mobile devices, more apps, and the potential for more learning. In the mad rush forward, there are some groups taking an orderly approach, among them, organizations that curate, rate, aggregate, and organize all these apps into some semblance of sanity. Rather than unleashing a top-20 style list of the “best educational apps” out there among the tens of thousands to choose from, we opted for what we hope is a more thoughtful approach and provide you here with some of the best aggregators of apps and tools that will assist you in narrowing your search and actually finding the quality results you may be looking for.

Graphite. From aptly named Common Sense Media comes a site presumably named in honor of the substance within an old-fashioned yellow wooden tool used to physically check items off your list. Well, the search is over, and this platform helps educators find the best apps, games and websites for their classroom.

edshelf. A discovery engine of websites, mobile apps, desktop programs, and electronic products for teaching and learning, here’s another great place to start in your search for mobile learning apps with featured tools, featured collections, and recently added tools. The categorical listing tells the story, with hundreds from which to choose and peruse.

Balefire Labs. An app evaluation platform founded by an educator, this site seeks to search out only the best apps that have real instructional value for your student or child. Clear, consistent, and transparent review evaluation using research-based criteria makes this site a confidence-inspiring platform for serious educators.

edSurge. On a weekly basis, edtech industry news site edSurge delivers its educator-specific INSTRUCT newsletter with a section on “S’Cool Tools” in which it calls attention to nearly a half-dozen edtech tools educators have found. The tools are tested and given the edSurge seal of approval.

EdTech Digest. This award-winning online publication—run by yours truly, your Tools for Learning author!—regularly shares cool tools, interviews and trends in education technology, offering up 200-word clips of some of the more notable tools and apps out there to make mobile learning fun and easy.

eduClipper. A learning community all about exploring, learning, creating, and sharing your best work, educators will love this Pinterest-style collaboration and sharing hub founded by educator and educational technologist Adam Bellow. Created to help teachers and administrators make more informed decisions about technology purchases, this well-organized site makes sense of countless resources and provides unbiased reviews from educator-reviewers using a common rubric for each category and for paid versions, ensuring the buyer is aware of all available options.

Learning List. This instructional materials review service is a helpful tool for schools and districts, a sort of “Consumer Reports meets Angie’s List” for K–12 instructional materials and online courses featuring three different types of reviews and providing multiple perspectives about each product.

TBR eLearning Initiative. With 45 institutions and a combined enrollment of 190,000 students, six state universities, 13 community colleges, and 26 technology centers, the TBR app bank promises not to be merely a dumping ground, but a curated collection that truly helps educators find the apps that will be right for their needs.

Internet@Schools. Yes, this very publication and website! From veteran educators come some very helpful product reviews that each include a ratings report card, pricing, audience level, format, a concise description, comments about content and features, installation or access, product support, and specific reviewer recommendations. Worth a good look!

We hope this leads you closer to your goal of going app-happy without feeling app-crazy. Though you might feel, as the popular Pharrell Williams song says, “like a room without a roof” when you’re wading through all the educational apps and tools out there that would assist you in improving and enhancing your efforts in the mobile learning arena, perhaps you will clap along if you feel like happiness, and at least a bit of what these sites have to offer, is the truth. Have fun and good luck.

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