Choosing the right Apps unlocks the potential of the iPad to build creative and innovative learning opportunities that match the learning needs of students.
It is difficult to evaluate an App's educational value without looking at it. Fortunately there are options to help you make that decision.
  1. Take advantage of sites like this but be aware that whilst there are numerous sites listing apps, most seem to be a contest to create the biggest mega list. The apps categorised on this site have all been tested thoroughly and reviewed by experienced educators. The focus here is on quality rather than quantity. For every app listed on this site many others have been tested and rejected.
  2. Read the reviews and look at the screen shots on the iTunes App store - be aware that whilst the the store has an Education category it is merely an organisational listing, the apps listed on it have not undergone any scrutiny for their educational value and are there merely because the creator nominated them into that category.
  3. If possible, download a lite or demo version of the app, otherwise purchase one copy of the app to evaluate on one iPad. If it does not measure up to your selection criteria then you have only wasted a small amount of money.
  4. The effective use of any new technology will involve a pedagogical shift. Teachers need to decide which specific pedagogy will enable them to achieve the desired outcomes.
  5. Students are coming to school with new skills, with brain patterns rewired by technology immersion at home.
  6. Teachers need to critically assess "What am I teaching?" as well as "How and why am I teaching it?"

There is an important differentiation between a "good" App and the "good" use of an App. No matter how innovative or creative a piece of technology is, unless its use is embedded in good pedagogy it will only produce superficial results.

Apps exist at varying points on the following continuum :
passive-creative-continuum.gif

In terms of educational Apps, at one end are those that take the user along a "learning path" according to a particular response. At the opposite end are Apps that start with a blank canvas and allow the user to set their own directions and construct their own learning path.
"Good" Apps can exist at any point on the continuum but as a general guide the following are the features of apps at the opposite ends.
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Passive
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Creative

  • Instructive
  • Drill and Practice
  • Lower order skills
  • Game like and fun oriented......
  • Low cognitive functions
  • Large % of all apps in iTunes

  • Constructive
  • Open Ended
  • Flexible and manipulable
  • Start with a blank page
  • High Cognitive involvement......
  • Small % of all apps in iTunes

A "good" App needs to :

  • Fit into your pedagogy
  • Reflect curriculum framework
  • Match the learning needs of your students
  • Work within your classroom learning environment
  • Engage your students
  • Produce desired outcomes

Consider the following to ascertain the educational value of any App:
  • Curriculum link - how strongly does the App fit into your teaching and learning program?
  • Relevance - how closely does the App match the needs of your students and learning environment?
  • Flexibilty - does the App support multiple uses over time?
  • Creative - how much is the final product of the App reflected by student input?
  • User friendly - what level of instruction is required to be able to use the App?
  • Motivation - does the App sustain user interest?
  • Assessment - what will be the resultant increase in student performance?

The Apps on the following pages have been categorised as :
I - very directed or purely for information
I-M - mostly instructive but allows for some response to user input
M - fairly even mix of instruction and creativity, produces a predetermined outcome
M-C - mostly creative but within a framework, allows for varied output
C - very open ended allowing full user control of the content created, usually starts with a black page