The Rise of Mobile Apps in Education

The Rise of Mobile Apps is an ongoing series by Raelyn Thompson, focused on the integration of mobile technology into our everyday lives. Read Part One here.

Apps influence more than just individual experience. Take, for example, the possible impact on schools. Textbooks, graphing calculators, and other needed school resources, which when all costs are combined, can total more than a thousand dollars; instead, all of these books and devices can be streamlined through the many mobile apps. No longer would children need to overburden their backpacks with heavy and old textbooks, their new tablets can further spur on their tech knowledge as well as simplify the learning process. The interactive nature of tablets often comes natural to many students who have grown up with electronic devices.

Textbooks are notorious for being out of date within a year or two, and through the $500 iPads, schools increase their investment through simple app updates. Instead of spending money on textbooks, graphing calculators, and other academic resources, schools are finding it much easier to spend a one-time fee that incorporates an ever-adapting technology.

The main issue with educational apps is the lack of control. Teachers cannot use their own computers to access a student device while it is in use. A teacher who wants students to use apps on mobile devices in class, must, in most cases, trust that the app is engaging enough to keep students on task, or that the teacher will be able to halt any misuse of the devices by monitoring the classroom. There is a great need for oversight capabilities in educational apps. However, since this is a relatively small issue, and simply needs physical supervision more than virtual supervision, there is little need for too much worry. Educational apps are a great asset to any learning plan, and bring the possibility of increased interactive learning.

The true beauty of educational apps is in accessibility. There are educational apps that help students with visual and hearing challenges, such as Assistive Chat. Assistive Chat is an “augmentative and alternative communications device that helps people with speech difficulties construct sentences with a natural-sounding voice.” This app is essentially a way for people with difficulties in speech to directly communicate to anyone in a simple device. By easing the trial of communication, this app directly affects the possibility of success in communication.

There are several other speech apps, such as Scene Speak, that further integrate other visual and verbal cues as well. Through Apple’s iTunes U, anyone can search or distribute educational courses, speeches and other events, which can be accessed by anyone, for free. Schools can decide whether to make its iTunes U content available to members of their educational community or the world at large. While these programs may not offer diplomas, many colleges offer content through iTunes U as a requirement for completion of a course. Through educational apps, students can participate in a more personalized learning experience, where it may be possible for no child, student, or those interested in learning to be left behind.

Check back soon for part three on the app's role in the banking industry.