PedagogyRandom thoughtTech-Integration

Enough About Asking ‘Which Apps’?

Writing this I know I may initiate uncomfortable feelings, angst and anger against me. BUT, hear me out!

Being an active member on a variety of social media platforms, and reading and contributing to people’s posts or questions, it strikes me as an odd area we are in. Many teachers these days understand the importance of technology integration, using technology to enhance/transform the learning taking place in their classroom. It seems to be at the expense of GOOD pedagogy though.

Please stay with me…

Often we see a desperate teacher crying out “which are good apps for this…” or “I want a good free app to help my students do this…”

I feel that technology in education isn’t and shouldn’t be app driven. It has to start with good pedagogy. What can the device do to transform the learning taking place, is the fundamental question any teacher who is lucky enough to have technology in the classroom should be asking from the get-go.

Thinking about what you are teaching and how technology can benefit the delivery or understanding of the students is the point I’m trying to make. Looking at this video (the SAMR model explained) is a good starting point for any teacher wishing to integrate technology in a more meaningful way.

Technology should not drive the curriculum; good pedagogy should. Technology is a partner which enhances and transforms the learning that is taking place through good pedagogy. The SAMR Model with Ruben Puentedura (seen below) examines how an educator can assess their integration on tasks when designing or after implementation.

Without going through each stage in detail, when I see a teacher asking for an app that does X or Y, they are essentially working in the Substitution or Augmentation stages of the SAMR model. While this is ok (there are no bad stages), it is thought that higher level thinking happens in the Modification and Redefinition stages of the SAMR model.

Ok, so do I use apps? OF COURSE I DO! But, I use apps that specifically transform the learning in a new area. What I try to do is examine the task to see how it can be modified or redefined to encourage technology use.

As an example, using the App BookCreator – a BRILLIANT app on the iPad (and other devices) that allows students to create interactive books which can be viewed in the app or exported to iBooks or other apps. The natural and perfectly great idea to use this app would be to allow the students to create a book from a piece of writing (which I have done many times too, and will continue to do so). The extension on an activity like this might be allowing the students to create videos highlighting the writing process explaining how they wrote, showing and highlighting the text features from their writing and then creating a book about the process. Or, creating a comic-book based on their writing, so they are using their writing in a new way and having to understand a different genre to write in. In both scenarios the students have hand-written and use the ‘traditional’ ways of writing, and the technology has come into play at the end to show their work.

Now an app like this can be used in this or many other ways, it is not a standalone app that can be just given to students in the hope they learn something through osmosis. It is an app that sits in the Augmentation/Modification levels (depending on how it is used of course).

My point in all this is that apps aren’t all bad, but the importance lays in how we use them. I disagree with apps that are simply ‘practice’ apps. While they can be useful at times, in an environment where learning is taking place, apps should allow students to operate at a higher level of thinking through producing and creating content. These apps are always my first choice. Look at what you’re doing WELL in the classroom without tech and see how technology can transform that learning and take it to a higher place.

If you made it all the way here, thank you for reading, please feel free to comment and add your 2 cents worth!




2 thoughts on “Enough About Asking ‘Which Apps’?

    1. Totally agree with you. It’s always a best to have diversity in learning. While I might be considered a technologist etc, I don’t think anyone would ever advocate for 100% time on devices, or always having a book in your hand. Enjoying life is enjoying the diversity that is all around us. I wrote this, as many teachers/educators feel that there is a magic app that does everything. Rather than looking at what they are doing first.

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