Is there a split in the field?
I have been thinking a lot lately about the question “What do educators want to see in apps for use in education?”. I have thought about what I want, I have asked others via Twitter and also in person what they want. I have read online reviews, had conversations, discussions, been to EdCamps, and yet I still wonder…
As educators we are on a road which is headed in a direction we probably agree on – we all want our students to learn and grow and to be their best selves. We know our road is not straight and it sometimes meanders, twists, turns, and sometimes seems to disappear into a bog or some fog. Other times our road is deeply rutted with few places to pull over and check the map to see if we are still headed in the right direction and sometimes the road stretches out before us showing us the clear direction we are headed.
When I was a little girl and my family went on numerous road trips in the family station wagon. My brother and I would sit in the back seat of the car, each gazing out our own window, watching the world fly by. We each made it to the destination, but each of us had a different view and experience. It was virtually impossible for me to see what was out my window AND what was out my brother’s window as we sped down the highway at 65 mph. When we would talk about the day sitting in our tent each night we would argue over what we saw and what our reality was for the day. We could ONLY see it the way we saw it, if I saw a deer on the side of the road I expected that he would have seen the same thing. If he SAID he saw a moose on the side of the road and I had not seen one, I would claim he was making things up. Our realities were different even though we were in the same car, on the same road at the same time. We drove our parents crazy!
In education today it seems as if we are all in cars heading down a highway toward some educational goals or destination and yet we have very different views. The “birth” of mobile devices (tablets and smart phones) has offered us a different car to look out of as we drive toward education goals and destinations.
As I asked educators what they want in apps for education, it became clear that there were at least two windows in this car… two views of how apps can be useful to us as we race down this road of education. One view is that apps need to provide tools and resources which react to students’ accomplishments and/or mistakes and adjust to the students. These apps would track student actions and responses and record and share data about the students to the teachers, and maybe also the parents and the students themselves. Apps such as these would customize the learning for the users while providing information and guidance to them and their teachers. These apps would be deliverers of information and content. Related to these apps could be apps for educators to use to manage the classroom and the learning. These apps would provide record keeping, point structures and the like. This “window view” is structured, logical, content-rich, and highly “data driven”.
Out the window on the opposite side of the car is a very different view. In this view apps for education need to be creative and productive in nature. They would allow for exploration and discovery as well as progression and learning. These apps are open-ended and often are content-free or content-neutral tools. These apps provide a platform, tool, media or venue for creation of materials, refinement of ideas or products or audiences for these products. The best of these apps allow for collaboration on ideas, work, and products as well as the sharing of these projects and products.
We could argue late into the night about what is “the” reality, but each of us has our own window, our own view of the world and our own sense of reality.
So who is driving this car? If we reach a fork in the road, which way will we turn? Will the views out the windows influence which way we will turn?
If app developers are driving the car, we need to be clear as to our views and realities. If the one who is loudest about the views out their window is the one who most determines the direction the car turns, who will yell the loudest? What is your view? What will you tell the driver?
I look forward to your ideas and thoughts from your window seat.
Tellagami is a free app for creating short animated “scenes”. It is simple to use and requires no sign up or registration.
Tellagami is a supremely simple app which does one thing well – create short, one-character, animated audio scenes. It is a simplified version of the web-based Xtranormal, in fact, it is created by the same creator. But this is so simplified as to be usable by the youngest learners and the least comfortable iPod, iPad, or iPhone user.
The app starts with an opening screen which couldn’t be much simpler:
You can customize your character’s gender, skin tone (3 choices), eye color (5 colors), head size (regular to bobblehead), and some hair and clothing choices. While some may want more choices, I think the small number of choices means students (and teachers) will move more quickly to the message instead of spending all day perfecting your character.
You can choose a background from those offered by the app, or you can use images from your device’s camera or photo roll. You can do some simple placement of the character and resize the character to fit the background, and then you are ready to create the spoken message.
Your Tellagami can speak 450 characters via a selection of 11 different voices or 30 seconds of recorded sound. I found the voice choices for the text-to-speech to be a nice selection and the fidelity of the voices to be superb.
Your Gami is saved as a .mov file. Next you will want to share your Gami with others.
For output, you can save your “Gamis” to the photoroll of your device or share them directly to Facebook, twitter, SMS text or via email. The email arrives with a link to your Gami on the Tellagami website (see here: https://tellagami.com/gami/N2CZ18/) This has no identifying information (remember no registration or log in) and also provides embed codes for the Gami. Since this gives you a link, you can also create a QRCode or Chirp to this Gami as well.
This is a rather simple app, but with 30 seconds of voice (recorded or text to voice) this could be used for a number of quick spoken messages. As a writing prompt with a photo you import from your photo roll (as shown above), as a quiz by displaying an image from a science experiment, primary document, or map with a spoken question, or even as homework reminder on your website. Perhaps students could create math problems for their peers to solve, vocabulary explanations, or even a mini monologue in a language class. The ease of creating these and sharing them, all without registration, means this easy tool could be used for a lot of online or projected uses.
Free (when posted on 2/23/2013)
Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.
History Today is a free app which provides new content for each day, including videos, images, quotes, events from history and more. It is a rich collection of multiple media for social studies classes.
History Today is an iOS app which does a good job of bringing interesting media to classroom discussion and research in history. There is a compilation video for most days (which comes via a youTube link) and the usual list of births, deaths, and other events for each day. Additionally, there is a great collection of “History Images” which link current news items with historical facts and stories. For example, sibling rivalry in the Super Bowl and other sibling rivalries in history, or the Pope’s resignation and information on the Pope throughout history.
Please note, this app does have small advertisements on the bottom of most screens. I wish it didn’t, and I would be willing to pay a small price for this app to be ad-free, but that is not a choice I can make. Fortunately it is targeted for middle and high school students and, as such, advertisements are a little more palatable.
The highly engaging videos and the interesting stories which tie the present and the past would make good use of the beginning of a period quick discussion, focus activity or even writing prompt. Some articles or media would provide impetus for further research. Some students would enjoy exploring this app on their own as well. Students I shared the app with were interested int he music and art history portions of the app.
Free (when posted on 2/16/2013)
iOS app is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.