Smart devices are flexible and powerful enough to boost pretty much any industry that implements them, but their current — and, more importantly, future — role within education is perhaps the most natural and promising fit of all. Students and educators armed with tablets and smartphones can access a staggering amount of information via online services ranging from commercial search engines to headier academic sources, and they can do it anywhere with a WiFi or cell phone signal. But the real magic behind this new breed of mobile learning (aka mLearning), is the software found on these revolutionary devices.
Seeing as how there’s an app for almost every aspect of your life, profession or anything else you can imagine, it’s fair to say mobile software has had a pretty big impact on society. As good as apps are now, they’ll see an exponential increase in quality within the next several years, especially for educators. Why? Because soon, the people designing our apps will have literally grown up with smart devices. It’s an accepted fact that problem-solving personalities gravitate to fields like software development.
Just imagine dev houses full of resentful students bound and determined to replace the excruciating whiteboard and paper textbook learning experience with mobile solutions. The following apps are a great example of the potential of EdTech. I know I’m thrilled to see what the next generation of mLearning app designers bring us, and if you’re a fan of technology, a believer in the power of education, or both, you should be, too. Here’s a look at the best of today’s mLearning offerings.
Teacher’s Assistant Pro 2 — Unlike general-purpose classroom assistants, the second installment of the Teacher’s Assistant Pro series is all about dealing with poorly behaved students. This app allows teachers to track infractions, then act on them in a number of ways: email the offender’s parents, take a picture to store alongside the notes, send scary-sounding warnings to a select group of troublemakers. Teacher’s Assistant Pro 2 can do all that, and then some. It’s iOS-only for now, which is a definite bummer, but its makers promise an Android version in the near future.
Socrative — Some apps are built on concepts so cool, you don’t even have to work in the mobile industry to realize how impressive they truly are. By all accounts, Socrative is one of them. With Socrative, teachers in a properly equipped classroom can use their tablet as a “command center” of sorts, broadcasting interactive events like quizzes and games directly to students, who then complete the tasks on their own devices. The potential convenience benefits are huge — no more wasted time passing out papers, and real-time monitoring and analytics tools make interaction more interesting and personable, even with a screen in front of everyone’s face. Every teacher with students old enough to carry a tablet should at least check out this mLearning phenom.
Common Core — There’s teaching, and then there’s dealing with all the other stuff that comes along with teaching, like following the rules and standards set by each state. Common Core represent both. This app allows parents and teachers to easily read and understand the core standards of their school system. Users can quickly find standards by subject, grade, and subject category. Currently, the app includes Math standards K-12 and Language Arts standards K-12, and has drawn high praise from education professionals for its organization, depth of content and wide variety of search parameters. The latter is especially important when you need to find a specific item from a very large document in a hurry. And, perhaps best of all, it’s totally free.
Evernote Peek — If you’ve got all the prerequisite stuff (an iPad, a smart cover and an Evernote account), Peek beautifully converts your smart cover into a custom flash-card display, a staple of high school and university study sessions since the advent of notecards. Each time you close and reopen the cover, a new question appears. Better yet, you can make your own flash cards or select pre-made versions from various publishers, giving you total control of the content you study.
Barefoot World Atlas — With puzzles, trivia, games and a cool exploration feature, this app was designed to get students of all ages interested in geography and the cultural differences between the US and other countries. It also landed on Time’s list of Top 25 iPad Apps for Kids. That’s just one of the numerous rave reviews Barefoot World Atlas has received across the Internet. It’s definitely worth the $4.99 pricetag, as long as you have an iOS device.
Frog Dissection — I laughed the first time I saw this app mentioned, until I saw it in action. As the product promises, it simulates a “full dissection,” with all the tools you’d need to slice a real-life dead frog open. Several reviews have praised the app’s accurate frog physiology, and even PETA applauded the software for saving the lives of thousands of frogs. It doesn’t look pleasant, but if you can’t stand the smell of formaldehyde or the slippery feel of frog organs, it’s a lot better than the alternative!
iSource — The iSource series of apps helps with the most frustrating part of the paper-writing experience, formatting. iSource shows you exactly what you need to know when it comes time to cite EVERY source you mention during your research. You can even plug in the info and let the app write the citation for you. Yes, it’s iOS only, but it’s also the best-regarded citation app online.
eduPad — From toddlers to college applicants, eduPad creates educational apps capable of boosting the cognitive abilities of students of all ages. The impressively diverse range of subjects includes math, language, health, foreign languages and more. Practically the only thing it doesn’t teach is PE. And if that’s not enough to win you over, eduPad also works with or without an internet connection, rewards students with badges and ensures their exercises are compliant with US Common Core State Standards. Like a lot of apps these days, the initial download is free, but in-app purchases are required to make the most of your mobile education. Like the old saying goes, you can’t put a price on a quality education.
Whatever your role in the world of education, there are plenty of apps out there to make your life easier — and a bunch more to look forward to. Happy downloading, and learning!
See how Mutual Mobile & Pearson Education reignited excitement about learning.