Students working on art projects with hand-held devices by their side. Photos by JKloppenburg
At a recent staff meeting, a colleague announced a “We Are Silent” day put on by the student council in April where no talking for the entire school day would be encouraged to create awareness for all those around the world whose voices are not heard. Added to the “Silent Day” would be no use of devices, meaning no cell phone use. Immediately, one of the teachers blurted out “Oh, why can’t we have ‘no cell phone use’ every day!” This is not the first time I have heard negative remarks about devices in the classroom. The fact of the matter is BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is viewed by many teachers as a distraction and a major annoyance. Many classroom teachers would rather not deal with devices in their classrooms and instead would like to continue to trudge their whole class to a computer lab (where Netop can be used to monitor all computer screens) for Internet use. In his Blog post Inequity and BYOD, George Couros aptly points out, “Technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil; it shouldn’t be an event” (2013). An ordinary day in my art class will have students working in groups of six at large tables throughout the room. On the tables beside the students are their art tools (pencils, erasers, smudging tools etc.) and their cell phones or tablets. One student quickly brings up a YouTube video on how to shade noses, while another searches for just the right photograph showing the correct stance of a bird for their composition, and while yet another does a Google search for an artist mentioned in class with a similar style they choose to use. These students have technology as close to their fingertips as their pencils. Are there students that show off task behaviour and play games, such as Minecraft, instead of working on their art project? Absolutely, but as the teacher it is my job to engage that student and redirect his attention back to a project in art he can be inspired to work on (I did make a plan to view his creatively built house in Minecraft at the end of class). Instead of negatively viewing handheld devices, what we need is a complete attitude shift on adopting a BYOD model for all classrooms. This attitude shift for BYOD needs to begin with embracing digital technologies in learning (based on sound pedagogy and improved teacher training) and creating a district policy that addresses appropriate use and digital citizenship, equity of access and bandwidth.
The Alberta School Technology Board (2013) outlines what embracing digital technologies in learning based on sound pedagogy using BYOD can provide:
· a means for students to engage in inquiry learning
· opportunity for learners to collaborate with teachers and peers and to express themselves and their ideas most effectively
· a vehicle for personalized learning
· opportunities for student choice in the use of multimedia to explore, research, think, analyze, evaluate, communicate and express ideas in high quality products
· a platform for student voices
· access to digital content and digital learning environments that provide multiple pathways to learning
· connections locally and globally that add authenticity to school work
· platforms to attain high standards in digital citizenship
· opportunities for students to construct ideas, opinions arguments and evidence-based reasoning collaboratively
Along with embracing digital learning, educators need to look for ways to address appropriate use of hand-held devices by creating a positive culture of digital citizenship. An excerpt from the Red Deer Public School District Policy (Alberta, 2012) states “digital citizenship is the appropriate and responsible behaviour with regard to technology use. Digital citizenship should be practiced in every course, throughout the school and at home.” Educators, parents and students need to build awareness for the importance of digital citizenship and reinforce the concepts at home as well as throughout their school lives.
While digital citizenship is an essential piece of digital learning, the challenge for a great many educators to shift their attitude about BYOD rests in the equity of access. I must agree with George Couros (2013) when he speculates that some groups see a negative spotlight shone on those students who are without or have a lesser device and that alone is their reason not to even try to attempt a BYOD policy. As Couros (2013) points out, it may well be a legitimate concern for some, but what we need to look at is our current practises we have in our schools to date. Students share class cameras, check out video recorders from the library and are even able to sign out a laptop from administrators, so why couldn’t schools have hand-held devices for borrowed use or lease for the year? In my art class of twenty-five students, I would say fewer than three students come to class without a hand-held device. Certainly, funding for those students to get connected to the world should be worth every effort from our districts.
If school districts could shift their attitudes and invest in digital learning by funding hand-held devices, addressing the bandwidth capabilities must be an equally important investment. The Albert Technology Board (2012) goes so far as to state “If the BYOD model is to be a success, the technological infrastructure must be configured and enhanced to meet the needs of the personally owned devices on a scale probably not seen in the school authority in the past” (Alberta, 2013). Last year, the experience of having a class of iPads on loan from my district to teach digital art lessons only to have a few of them able to hold a wireless connection meant the endeavor ended in frustration and an aborted lesson. Districts need serious upgrades to their wireless service to support a BYOD policy.
Even though challenges such as unifying digital learning, increasing digital citizenship awareness, addressing equity of access and upgrading bandwidth exist, overcoming them can begin with a simple attitude shift towards moving forward with technology and making it as accessible as a pencil (Couros 2013). If putting a device in the hand of every student can enrich their learning to such a great extent, then districts need to follow Alberta’s lead and shift their attitudes and create a working model for successful BYOD implementation that teachers, students and parents can embrace.
Alberta Technology Board. (2013) Bring your Own Device. A Guide for Schools Retrieved from https://education.alberta.ca/media/6749210/byod%20guide%20revised%202012-09-05.pdf
Couros, G. (2013) Inequity and BYOD Retrieved from http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/9885?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
Image taken from http://metropolitanorganizing.com
Developing an Evaluation Rubric for Selection of Mobile Apps
Created by Sonny Dhaliwal, Jean Kloppenburg and Justin Mark
What is the overall driving force when selecting an app?
What should be considered in the “big picture” regardless of the type of device or operating system?
In discussing and sharing our thoughts around this question, we realized that we all felt the same way but chose to take a different approach. Instead of compiling one large intro and possibly losing the voice of the individual, we have decided to display all three.
As educators our first priority, aka the “big picture” is meeting the needs of our students. We have learning outcomes and student needs and someway, somehow we build connections, as long as these connections are made does it really matter what process we take, app or not. Too often technology is looked to as the solution, it is only a tool. Before introducing new technology to our students whether it is a device, software or an app we need to ensure that it is based on good pedagogy and have a clear idea of how it will be used. If we do not go through this process we can end up using technology for the sake of technology. The cool factor always helps, but should not be the driving force. What we should be looking at is how effectively it can deliver the intended learning outcome. There are many parts necessary in order for an app to be effective, including but not limited to: engagement, feedback quality, curriculum correlation, skill level, cost. If the app passes through all of these filters then it can be used as an option for students to use. Remember to provide as many options as possible, an app is not necessarily everyone’s preferred medium.
Common criteria for app use mostly concentrate on the technical aspects of reliability, stability, fast loads, consistency and absence of advertisements. Walker (2011) states: “When evaluating apps for educational use, technical criteria are only the bare minimum; practitioners need to take a more focused look at the educational benefits the app offers”. In Langwitches Blog, a reader asked: “I want to use iPads in my Science class. What app is good for that?” The reply given sums up what should be the driving force when selecting an app:
“I am not comfortable with the level of disconnect between the teacher (who knows her/his students best) and the curriculum related skills and objectives and pedagogical relationship that needs to be in place for an app to be a match to use in a classroom or with an individual learner.” (Langwitches, 2012)
As Langwitches Blog(2011) points out, teachers need to be equipped with the curiosity and knowledge of:
· the value an app can bring to a learner (and being able to articulate the value)
· the connection from the app to curriculum content (and being able to demonstrate the depth of that connection)
· the possibilities the app can bring in order to amplify (exposing work to new literacies)
· the difference of using an app to automate and substitute a task versus inform and transform
· how to evaluate apps for their transformative potential.
The driving force behind choosing an app needs to be, first and foremost, related to the learning objectives. If my students need to understand and demonstrate their understanding of the exposure triangle in photography, they can create a narrated video using Videolicious or analyze the relationship with the use of Popplet. The apps are available for students to enhance their learning and hopefully create a transformation and amplification to their learning along the way.
My take on the overall driving force of app selection is that the app must meet the learning outcome that you are hoping to achieve. When I was selecting apps for an iPod project that I was working on 3 years ago, I started with the prescribed learning outcomes and I selected apps that supported learning outcomes. The problem I encountered was that most apps focused on ROTE memory task to memorize vocabulary, while I put some value on this, it only represents a small aspect of the curriculum. In addition at that time we were struggling with Wifi and cost was another limiting factor. I had a group of students help me evaluate the apps and help design lessons for each app. Some of the most enduring apps were the tools like a Collins Dictionary app and a verb conjugating app that we found for free. As I’ve moved more toward an inquiry model in my practice I find I am much less prescriptive with apps and I often have students choose apps that help them achieve the learning goals that they are trying to achieve. It must be noted that this approach may change based on grade level as I tend to give my senior students more freedom than my junior ones. In an 8-12 program, I spend more time with the junior students teaching them how to use certain tools, and apps. In the readings one of the problems I was encountering was that there seemed to be a higher value placed on top of the Blooms Taxonomy pyramid, and a devaluation of memorization. In the Cantwell presentation, “Evaluation of Apps”, the question is posed, “is the app built on quality pedagogical principles?” (Cantwell) I would argue that this depends on your curriculum needs? In some cases there may be a need for lower skills like memorization on Blooms Taxonomy for example memorization of times tables, which I still believe is considered an essential skill even in 21st century learning models. I think this is a fundamental problem with many of the app evaluating rubrics, as they work on the principle that a single app should meet multiple higher learning functions, when maybe it would be more valuable to evaluate a group of apps that are each specialized in focusing on specific learning outcomes. For instance in the Jeanette Van Houten article, (2011, January 01). iEvaluate Apps for Special Needs. I disagreed with her Rubric, specifically the criteria - “Under types of Skills Practiced” it characterized Flashcard drill as “Weak” I think this type of assessment is missing the point, while many like to value problem based and simulation based learning over memorization some apps might specifically target memorization as a skill, for example a math game that focused on memorization of times tables. I think the point is that, it is very difficult for one app to fit all learning tasks and that’s the point. Teachers should seek to employ a variety of apps with different pedagogical purposes in order to meet the learning requirements of the curriculum and their students. Regardless any reflection of an App which evaluates its educational value is useful, but at the same time we may want to specifically evaluate each app based on the specific learning outcome we hope for it to achieve.
According to Harry Walker (2011),” Defining what makes an app “good” varies depending on the audience.” Curriculum Focus is at the top of our importance list in our evaluation rubric because we are evaluating apps for educational use. The use of an app should support our student audience with strong connections to the skills and concepts being addressed. Walker points out that there are many quality apps for math and literacy, but locating higher thinking level apps for science and social studies are harder to find (2011). Putting an emphasis on the curriculum connection will enable rubric users to rate the app first based on the strength of the skills reinforced that match the intended concept.
Age and Grade Level
Many apps have age and grade levels attached to them and others have none at all. It is important to be aware of not only the age appropriateness of the app but also the clarity of the directions for use. An app may be too easy or too difficult for the intended age group. If instructions are confusing or unclear it can lead to frustration and disengagement from the learners. As an educator, I first choose an app that fits my learning outcomes and concepts then my next decision is making sure it is the proper age and grade level.
While this category may be somewhat subjective to the user and may depend on grade level we feel it is an important category to consider when evaluating apps. If apps are prone to crashing or instability this may be a limiting factor in employing them with students. While all apps may require some level of instruction to get started, some are much easier to use than others. In addition some apps are much more sophisticated and may have more functions and features to learn than others. Some apps may include built in tutorials, and help functions or may provide an intro tutorial to get students acclimated to the program. In conclusion while this can be a subjective rating, some programs are notoriously difficult for the user while others are presented in a way that makes it seem almost seamless for the user, and this needs to be taken into account when considering apps for students.
In a perfect world where school districts possessed unlimited budgets and resources, perhaps this category would be unnecessary. While this category doesn’t address the learning outcomes we felt it was still necessary to include as it represents a pragmatic reality when choosing educational apps. We have organized our cost rubric from free to $5.99 and up on the extreme. While free is usually preferable given the economic realities of department budgets in most schools in BC, sometimes free means limited functions or embedded and annoying advertisement.
We choose to incorporate Student Engagement in our rubric because we felt that the likelihood of an activity to be successful would greatly diminish without it. There could be an app that perfectly aligns with the intended learning outcomes but if there are frustrations and distractions, these would be obstacles in the ability of a student comprehending the learning outcomes. Den Delimarsky does an excellent job of highlighting some of these which include Stability, Load times, Hangups, Ads and functionality. No matter what type of activity we are attempting we want students to “buy in”, be motivated which will help with taking ownership and all of this is intertwined with engagement.
We choose to incorporate Thinking Skills in our rubric because pedagogy should be driving all of our classroom activities. The time to complete an activity, the learning outcomes, HOTS skill level all need to be in alignment. The app needs to be able to meet or exceed the blooms taxonomy level needed or else the concept is only being superficially covered. Students need to be able to take the knowledge and understanding and apply it in critical and creative ways.
Differentiation is at the bottom of our list and I’m not sure it applies is necessary requirement for all apps, however it is still worth considering. In her blog post 7 Essential criteria for evaluating mobile educational applications. Mayra Villar, when considering differentiation or as she titles it personalization, writes:
The possibility of adjusting content and settings to meet specific needs
of the learner does not only guarantee engagement throughout the learning
process but also contributes to the acquisition of new knowledge and shows
the learner how to apply it to real-life situations.
Differentiation as stated above is a key component of meeting the specific needs of the learner and allowing the learner to not outgrow the app as quickly. This should be considered when evaluated an app and may apply to using the app for multi grade levels.
App Evaluation Rubric
PDF File with selected evaluated apps included
Cantwell, K. (n.d.). Evaluation of apps. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1arPb0STMDosbKNX-gncwKJkBFqFfhoghcqZeJryPzfs/edit#slide=id.g15a3d4
Delimarsky, D. (2011, January 12). What makes an app a good app – 7 pointers. Retrieved March 13, 2014 from http://dotnet.dzone.com/articles/what-makes-app-good-app-10
Langwitches Blog. ( 2012, May 27) Evaluating Apps with Transformative Use of the iPad in Mind. Retrieved from http://langwitches.org/blog/2012/05/27/evaluating-apps-with-transformative-use-of-the-ipad-in-mind/
Pronovost, R. (2012, February 16). Technology for Technology’s Sake. Education Week Teacher. Retrieved March 13, 2014 from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_ahead/2012/02/technology_for_technologys_sake.html
Reed, J. (n.d.). What makes a good educational ipad app. Retrieved March 13, 2014 from http://www.drjonathanreed.co.uk/wordpress/2011/05/what-makes-a-good-educational-ipad-app/
Villar, M. A. (2012, December 06). 7 Essential criteria for evaluating mobile educational applications.
Schrock,K .(2013). Critical Evaluation of Mobile Apps. Retrieved from http://www.ipads4teaching.net/critical-eval-of-apps.html
Vincent, T. (2012, March 4) Ways to Evaluate Educational Apps. Retrieved March 13, 2014 from http://learninginhand.com/blog/ways-to-evaluate-educational-apps.html
Walker, H. (2011). Evaluating the Effectiveness of Apps for Mobile Devices. Retrieved from http://gpsk12.org/PD/iPads/HarryWalkerEvaluating.pdf
“Mobile is a strategy more than a technology” states Connie Malamed in her blog post It’s not elearning on a Phone . Malamed gears her blog post to industry, but many of her mobile strategies can be applied to educational learning (Malamed,2012). My experience and interest with mobile learning in the past has focused on the technology not the learning strategies. As an educator, I have not implemented mobile learning within my teaching mostly due to the barriers and myths associated with its use. In “Mobile Learning” by JISC inFoNet, some of the myths outlined with mobile learning include: screens are too small for learning, mobile devices are too distracting to be used for learning, devices are unreliable and can be lost, broken or stolen, no consistent standards, students already know how to learn using their mobile devices, content is not as secure as desktops, student with disabilities can’t use mobile devices, and mobile learning is too expensive. While I can certainly identify with many of these myths (most are simply addressed in Malamed’s post), the main barriers to the use of mobile learning in my teaching are Wi-Fi coverage, attitude, access to resources and cost (the Wi-Fi access has been down all year, overcoming district policy on cell phone bans is an issue, class sets of iPads are costly and unavailable, and not every student can BYOD (Bring our Own Device). Because these barriers seem impassable at the start, many educators, including myself, dismiss mobile learning experiences entirely. The time has come for educators to move beyond the myths and barriers concerning technology associated with mobile learning and begin to explore aspects of mobile learning that focus on Pedagogy, Strategy and Implementation.
In terms of pedagogy, Koole’s Framework for the Rational Analysis of Mobile Education (FRAME) model best suits my perception of mobile learning. Koole’s FRAME Model illustrates how mobile learning is a combination of the interactions between learners, their devices, and other people (JISC, 2014). According to Koole( as cited in JISC 2014), “Mobile learning provides enhanced collaboration among learners, access to information, and a deeper contextualization of learning.” In Koole’s FRAME model, the Device aspect relates to the technical characteristics of the mobile device, the Learner aspect relates to the personal characteristics of the learner and the Social aspect relates to the social environment in which the learning takes place (Kumar). To adopt mobile learning, Koole provides a checklist (Koole as cited in JISC, 2014) which includes questions such as:
Along with addressing the pedagogy behind mobile learning, applying strategies to assist in mobile learning can increase the success of implementation. The “Infokit” in "Mobile Learning" , offer ways to jumpstart mobile learning initiatives by:
· Creating website friendly interfaces for mobile use
· Provide a mobile friendly font to an existing RSS feed(content allowed to syndicate to other places than existing website)
· Set up social media accounts for course updates and relevant news items
· Use mobile-friendly apps or versions tailored to mobile devices(Most popular learning platforms such as are Moodle, Blackboard and Microsoft Sharepoint have online solutions )
Malamed (2012) offers added strategies with the use of: mini-lessons and brief activities, performance support using reference apps and social media channels, digital polls, surveys and questionnaires to get opinions, feedback and evaluations, multimedia recording and playback capabilities of mobile devices to generate content from which others can learn and increase motivation with gamification of the classroom. Being knowledgeable of strategies for use with mobile learning can increase success for implementation.
The best site for implementing mobile learning initiatives can be found at Gary Woodil’s mLearning Road Map . (JISC, 2014)
Mobile learning is fast approaching as the “vehicle for exploring the changing nature of learning in a connected age”(JISC, 2014) If educators can be willing to look past the myths and barriers to mobile learning and focus on Pedagogy, Strategy and Implementation, mobile learning initiatives will be more successful in creating change within our educational programs .
JISC (2014) Mobile Learning. Available at http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/infokits/mobile-learning/
Malamed, C. 2012 It’s not elearning on a Phone. Available at http://theelearningcoach.com/mobile/its-not-elearning-on-a-phone/
Kumar, S. Jamatia, B Mobile Device Intervention for Student Support Services in Distance Education Context – FRAME Model Perspective Available at http://www.eurodl.org/?article=447