What’s Moving the Needle in Mobile Edtech?

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Source : www.edsurge.com
Auteur : Tony Wan
Date de l'info : 20 février 2015


Mobile is one of the biggest drivers of technology growth around the world. And with it comes the promise of learning anywhere, anytime at one’s fingertips.

But has mobile technology truly transformed the process of teaching and learning–or is it simply cramming what already exists onto a smaller screen?

Those were a few of the questions raised by EdSurge’s CEO, Betsy Corcoran at our February SF Edtech Meetup, where 130 attendees gathered to hear about the latest mobile trends from Julie Farago (Engineering Manager for Android and Play for Education at Google), Shauntel Poulson (Principal at NewSchools Venture Fund), Jacob Saperstein (Director of Innovation Policy and Social Investment, AT&T) and Stacey Wang (Director of Personalized Learning at Oakland Unified School District).

Mobile Masquerade

What mobile apps truly pass muster?

The Google Apps for Education store boasts “several thousand” apps, many of which have been vetted by teachers, says Farago. But not all apps are created equal. “There are definitely ‘dead losses’ in apps that are designed for phones but not tablets,” she explains, “and those that are web-first [but] have a real shoddy mobile interface.”

Developers often simply port existing web-based tools onto a mobile interface, shares Poulson. “Many people in education are still thinking about web-based products. Some are making them mobile responsive, but not mobile-first.”

In the pipeline of products that she reviews regularly, “we’re still seeing less than half of products which are mobile first,” says Poulson. And of the apps designed specifically for mobile, the majority deal with games and subject-specific content. The biggest area of growth, she observers, are home-to-school communication tools, while peer-to-peer collaboration apps are still scarce.

Transforming Teaching Practices, or Transferring Existing Ones?

Well-designed mobile apps can turn the dream of project-based learning into reality, says Farago. Not only can students capture and remix pictures and videos for projects, but “as a kid you can watch them, have other kids critique you [so] you can learn and get better. If that’s not 21st century learning skills, I don’t know what is.”

“What we’ve seen are big trends toward the ‘4C’s’–creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking–as well as a fifth C–classroom management,” Farago adds. “The apps that generally have been the most successful [in the app store] tend to be less about curriculum and more about in-classroom collaboration and 21st century skills.”

Wang says her district has recently taken up Remind, an app that facilitates communication between teachers, students and parents. “It’s not super exciting, but it solves for a real need. There’s been little parent-to-teacher communication.”

Giving parents real-time or same-day insights into their child’s learning is critical, adds Poulson. It means they no longer need to wait for teacher conferences or report cards.

“The apps disrupting education are the ones that making the black box of schools for families open up. And it’s not only about being able to send messages home about what’s happening during the school day, but having a two-way communication and dialogue,” says Poulson.

Another major change underway is rethinking how assessments and evaluations are done. “The lines between content and assessment are beginning to blur,” Poulson explains. “Even within a mobile game, you have a lot of built-in assessment happening” without the students knowing it.

Wang concurs: “It’s not just multiple choice anymore; there’s all kinds of different test questions, and how do we embed those in the game in a meaningful way?”

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