BYOD and Finding Apps for Education

Mobile is the big thing in computers, and apps is the big thing in software for those mobile devices, but educators and schools are still behind these trends.

That's not surprising. It took longer to get computers and then the Internet into classrooms than all the prognosticators were saying 25 years ago.

Students, especially at the higher levels, are bringing their own devices to class. That's enough of a trend in itself that a search on BYOD will turn up lots of results. As is often the case with technology, the business world has already been dealing with BYOD issues (such as usage policies) before schools gave it any serious thought. BYOD has a Wikipedia entry too, so it's official.

Students bringing their own technology (smartphones, tablets, and laptops) is moving down from higher ed to K-12 education. The model has always been that schools provided the technology that students would need. Some of that tech "funding" is being passed on to students and parents without schools even asking via the BYOD trend. This has also reduced a school's responsibility for support and upgrades.

But one thing that hasn't changed much in 25 years is deciding what software should be used. Schools or teachers still have most of the control over content and oftentimes that also means the software.

In 1990, there may have been dozens of software titles in an academic area and it was difficult to preview, review and test them. With the rise of apps on mobile devices, there are hundreds or thousands of titles to sift through to find ones with good educational uses.

Most educators don't have the time to go through the process. More and more, textbook companies drive adoption by bundling software with textbooks.  Hopefully, educators can begin to use the filters, curation and recommendations of peers aided by sites (and even apps) and contribute their own reviews for others.

I find many more sites with a K-12 focus rather than higher ed, so far. Here are a few samples:

IEAR- I Education Apps Review - reviews on apps, schools spreadsheets of Apps, student reviews

SNapps4Kids these reviews have an embedded list of skills that are addressed in the app (very important in K-12's world of objectives and assessment

Scoop it- Recommended Educational App Lists  - on this site you can join or just look at the reviews

Apps in Education - a blog that includes apps for music, math, English, special needs and more

App Advice is interesting because it is a website and also an app itself. The appadvice app is $1.99.

Have you found other reliable sources?

Get a Free Elite Education

Udemy, the company that allows any us to create and sell courses through its online platform, also has "The Faculty Project." This part of their site is devoted to courses by professors from some of the country's elite institutions.

Udemy is a for-profit, but The Faculty Project offerings from Colgate, Duke University, Stanford University, Northwestern University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Virginia, Dartmouth College and Vassar College are free.

Obviously, their goals with the project are to get you in with a free course in the hope that you will pay for another course, and those top schools help elevate the brand.

Some of the courses seem to be a collection of informational lectures, which is not my idea of a good online "course" but you can certainly learn from them. There have been mentions online of plans to administer quizzes and grades/badges. You don't submit work and you don't get feedback. its anticipated droves of students, which may number in the tens or hundreds of thousands.

It might be worthwhile for other colleges to look at their courses as a model for developing quality courses on a budget. Udemy says it is developing the Faculty Project courses at $500 apiece.


Technologies in Education Forum

The Technologies in Education Forum was held on May 22, 2012 sponsored by The Atlantic Magazine.  The forum focused mainly on the ways in which technology is affecting primary and secondary age students, but there was a discussion on job training for the future. 

4 info bits presented at the forum:

- A 2011 poll showed that 50% of individuals prefer a less effective in-person teacher compared to a more effective online teacher.

- 40% of US children between the ages of 3-5 (important developmental ages) do not attend pre-school or kindergarten.

- The state of California decides the number of new jail beds to create based on the reading scores of its 3rd grade students.

- Almost every job that pays a livable wage requires STEM knowledge.

- Microsoft (a panel participant) has 5,000 job openings; of which ½ require STEM skills.  The STEM related jobs have a starting salary of $100,000.


Technologies in Education Forum: http://events.theatlantic.com/technologies-education/2012/

Change the Equation: http://www.changetheequation.org/sites/default/files/CTEq_VitalSigns_Supply%20%282%29.pdf

American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen: http://www.americangraduate.org/


Technologies on the Horizon That Will Impact Higher Education

Every year I read the the NMC Horizon Report to see what they predict will be the technologies that will have an impact in higher education. The 2012 report was released jointly by NMC and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative.

The report looks at technologies that will have an impact in the next five years (near term, mid-term, and longer term). They also examine "critical challenges" facing education.

The near-term technologies are mobile apps and tablet computing which are changing the nature of computing for end users and developers. The larger suites of integrated software are being replaced by free and cheap apps that focus on doing one or a few things well and integrate with other apps easily. And, though I agree that mobile computing, tablets (iPads etc.) are influencing teaching and learning, I don't see any clear impact yet.

Two technologies that are more mid-term (2 or 3 years from having a major impact) are game-based learning and learning analytics.

"Learning analytics" may have more of an impact on the administration and decision-making levels than directly in the classroom. The term usually refers to both traditional strategies used in student retention, and newer methods of aggregating data from many sources to get a picture of how learning is happening and what is working best. If you have read previous reports, you know that long-term items, like learning analytics, often move closer in time if they grab traction in schools. Learning analytics, for example, seems to have benefited from some funded initiatives in the past few years.

Game-based learning has been on the list for a few years, but I don't feel like it has gotten any closer to making an impact. At one time, virtual worlds was a somewhat related technology, and that has almost dropped off the educational planet the past two years. Both technologies are ones that offer the possibility of using collaboration, problem solving, communication, critical thinking, and digital literacy. But the results have not been all that impressive. Online social games have certainly been big the past few years, but their application or any transference to learning is still lacking.

If you're writing your proposals for grants and conferences, you might want to get a jump on those technologies that are still four or five years out. Two to look into are gesture-based computing and the "Internet of Things."

Gesture-based computing fits right into gaming and mobile devices. Think of Wii games and swiping that smartphone or tablet.  The ideas driving its use in education is that it can transcend linguistic and cultural limitations. Watch a two year-old play with an iPad and you realize that not relying on language or any specific language might be a major plus. These devices also encourage interaction and just plain old play as a way to explore and learn. That is certainly true with younger students, but not lost on older and adult learners. Android and Apple smart phones and tablets, the Microsoft Surface, ActivPanel, Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Kinect systems, are all playing with these ideas.



Internet of Things

The "Internet of Things" is further out there in years and in my ability to explain exactly what it means, or might one day mean, to education. It is about the evolution of smart objects which are interconnected items in ways that make the line between the physical object and digital information very blurry or invisible.

You should look into IPv6 and how it is used in small devices with unique identifiers. You probably know a bit about RFID devices that are used in stores to track products, purchases and inventory. They store data and they can send that information to external devices via the Internet. We can already use them in schools to do similar things like tracking attendance, research subjects, and equipment. But how it might be used for learning is about as blurry as the line it is erasing.

Which brings us to challenges. In brief, these are the five technology-oriented challenges facing higher education according to the report.

1) Economic pressures from new education models, forcing traditional institutions to control costs while maintaining services;

2) The need for new forms of scholarly corroboration as traditional peer review and approval become more and more difficult to apply in light of new methods of dissemination;

3) The growing importance of digital literacy and lack of digital literacy preparation among faculty;

4) Traditional institutional barriers to the adoption of new technologies; and

5) Technological upheavals that are putting libraries "under tremendous pressure to evolve new ways of supporting and curating scholarship."

In my educational world, economics is very important, but the barriers of 3 and 4 are much tougher to overcome.


Curating the Web


Sipping from the fire hose that is the Web gets harder every day because of the amount of information that is available. You probably have your own methods of filtering or curating the Web for yourself. Perhaps, following this blog and others is one of those ways that you use other "trusted" sources to do some filtering for you.

I find that even on a site like twitter, where the messages are short or abbreviated, I follow about 400 people. If I leave my twitter page open and unobserved or a an hour, there will be about a hundred posts. That's more than I have time to sift through or read. One thing I do is create lists on twitter so that I can focus my attention on a topic. When I look at my public list for educational technology, I am seeing 90 people, and my list for environmental tweets only has 25. That makes it more manageable. If you trust my curation, you can follow my public lists. (I also use private lists for my family and friends.)

There are many sites where people intentionally curate the web around topics and save that information both for themselves and for others to use.  David Kapuler collected some sites (his blog is cyber-kap.blogspot.com) that I use, and others that are new to me.

Some of these sites could certainly be used by teachers to filter the web for their students and for certain assignments.

Pinterest
- coming on strong, this site offers a way of curating the visual web by pinning images on a virtual bulletin board. My own experiment with Pinterest is to try using it just for the poetry side of my life http://pinterest.com/poetsonline/ Teachers can easily use Pinterest or other sites here to create a curated list for an author, topic etc.

Bag the Web
has you put things into "bags" which you can embed into a site

MentorMob lets you create "playlists" that can contain different types of media such as video, articles, pictures, etc. Once these playlists are created, they can be rated and shared with others.

List.ly creates an interactive list that others can commenton and vote on.

Middlespot takes another approach where you can browse the web and stick sites onto a "dashboard," which can be edited and shared with others. (This site also has a paid account.)

Paper.li is a site I have used for awhile to publish an online "newspaper" from your own web content (twitter feed etc.). It's a kind of meta-curation since it further filters things like twitter which I have already filtered by lists. It automatically creates your newspaper and updates it on a scheduled basis. (It does not archive/save issues.) I have created one with my general interests http://paper.li/ronkowitz and another focused on poetry and writing http://paper.li/poetsonline The application also pushes a notice to twitter and Facebook when my daily issue is published.

Similar sites that I have not used are Searcheeze for text, video, images, articles turned into a digital magazine and Scoop.it which turns social media into a digital magazine.

Bundlr shares your curation as a grid or timeline

Storify promotes itself as a way to tell social stories by curating web content through video, photos, and text.



U of Minnesota Open Textbook Project


I have been an advocate for open textbooks. I think they are a good way to cut costs and put more textbooks in the hands of our students. But I'll admit that they are not widely used.

There are a number of possible reasons for that. They aren't easy to find, even though there are a number of sites that collect open and free titles. Instructors don't always trust that titles are "as good" as commercial textbooks. It also takes time to review titles for adoption.

The University of Minnesota has started its own online catalog of open books. In an effort to reduce costs for students, the College of Education and Human Development created the catalog to be reviewed by faculty members. The books are all released under a Creative Commons, or similar, license, and instructors can customize the books to fit their course needs.

Students can access free digital versions or purchase low-cost print copies of open textbooks. The university will pay its professors $500 each time they post an evaluation of one of those books, and professors who have already adopted open-source texts will also receive $500. (The money comes from donor funds.)

They hope to address faculty concerns about locating texts and having quality control over titles that have been peer-reviewed. They have almost a hundred books in the catalog.

Although it is encouraging that UM is working to get open textbooks used on campus, I find it discouraging that they need to duplicate the efforts of other repositories that are collecting textbooks and reviews on a larger scale.

What do you consider the most important criteria in choosing an open textbook for use in your teaching? Check my list and vote here.