The Subtle Art of Persuasive Design

child smartphone

Image by Andi Graf from Pixabay

Tech companies use “persuasive design” to get us hooked. Some psychologists say it’s unethical. Children are particularly susceptible to "hidden manipulation techniques," but lots of adults are also taken in by its use, especially in social media and advertising on the Internet. by companies like Facebook and Twitter. 

It is in front of our faces when we are getting notifications on our phone and even when that next episode or video on Netflix or YouTube loads itself as soon as we finish one.

Back in the 1970s, there were plenty of articles and theses written about the dangers of too much television affecting children. Kids have 10 times the amount of screen time now compared to just 2011. Of course, now we are talking about more screens than just the family TV set. They spend an average of 400 minutes using technology, according to Common Sense Media.

Media companies have been using behavioral science for decades to create products that we want to use more and more. Remember how the tobacco companies were sued for the ways they hooked people on cigarettes? Big tech uses persuasive technology which is a fairly new field of research based on studying how technology changes the way humans think and act.

Using persuasive design techniques, companies incorporate this research into games and apps. As soon as a child begins to move on to Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft apps, they have been pre-conditioned for specific behaviors. 

Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has warned that algorithms pushing us to catastrophic results, though critics will say that Apple itself is not free from using persuasive design.

Social media companies are being targeted for deliberately addicting users to their products for financial gain. Some design features, such as infinite scroll, are features that are seen as highly habit-forming. Along with features that may appear as a "plus", like notifications, they keep us on our devices and looking at advertising and clicking longer. They encourage the "fear of missing out" (FOMO).

The infinite scroll was a feature designed by Aza Raskin when he was working for Humanized - a computer user-interface consultancy. He now questions its use.

He is not alone. Leah Pearlman, co-inventor of Facebook's Like button, said she had become hooked on Facebook because she had begun basing her sense of self-worth on the number of "likes" she had. But Ms Pearlman said she had not intended the Like button to be addictive, and she also believes that social media use has many benefits for lots of people.

Defenders of persuasive tech say it can have positive effects. There are apps that remind/train people to take medicine on time or develop weight loss habits. But critics are concerned with persuasive design that is not intended to improve lifestyles but to keep people on their devices in order to sell.

A letter signed by 50 psychologists was sent to the American Psychological Association accusing psychologists working at tech companies of using “hidden manipulation techniques” and asks the APA to take an ethical stand on behalf of kids.

Event-Based Internet

Event-based Internet is going to be something you will hear more about this year. Though I had heard the term used, the first real application of it that I experienced was a game. But don't think this is all about fun and games. Look online and you will find examples of event-based Internet biosurveillance and event-based Internet robot teleoperation systems and other very sophisticated uses, especially connected to the Internet of Things (IoT).

HQWhat did more than a million people do this past Sunday night at 9pm ET? They tuned in on their mobile devices to HQ Trivia, a game show, on their phones.  

For a few generations that have become used to time-shifting their viewing, this real-time game is a switch. 

The HQ app has had early issues in scaling to the big numbers with game delays, video lag and times when the game just had to be rebooted. But it already has at least one imitator called "The Q" which looks almost identical in design, and imitation is supposed to be a form of flattery.

This 12-question trivia quiz has money prizes. Usually, the prize is $2000, but sometimes it jumps to $10 or $20K. But since there are multiple survivors of the 12 questions that win, the prizes are often less than $25 each.

Still, I see the show's potential (Is it actually a "show?") Business model? Sponsors, commercial breaks, sponsors and product placement in the questions, answers and banter in-between questions.

The bigger trend here is that this is a return to TV "appointment viewing."  Advertisers like that and it only really occurs these days with sports, some news and award shows. (HQ pulled in its first audience of more than a million Sunday during the Golden Globe Awards, so...) 

And is there some education connection in all this?  Event-based Internet, like its TV equivalent, is engaging. Could it bring back "The Disconnected" learner?  

I found a NASA report on "Lessons Learned from Real-Time, Event-Based Internet Science Communications."  This report is focused on sharing science activities in real-time in order to involve and engage students and the public about science.

Event-based distributed systems are being used in areas such as enterprise management, information dissemination, finance,
environmental monitoring and geo-spatial systems.

Education has been "event-based" for hundreds of years. But learners have been time-shifting learning via distance education and especially via online learning for only a few decades. Event-based learning sounds a bit like hybrid or blended learning. But one difference is that learners are probably not going to tune in and be engaged with just a live lecture. Will it take a real event and maybe even gamification to get live learning? 

In all my years teaching online, I have never been able to have all of a course's student attend a "live" session either because of time zone differences, work schedules or perhaps content that just wasn't compelling enough.

What will "Event-based Learning" look like?

Does Education Have a 'Next Billion?'

next billion"Next Billion" is a term you will find used in talking about the future of the internet. It refers to not only the exponential growth in connectivity in emerging markets, such as India, but also the growth of next-level technology in more mature markets. 

One thing that is evident is that the next billion internet users are much more likely to be using mobile phones than a computer.  Globally, half of all internet users got online in February 2017 using mobile devices. It is still a close race with 45% accessing the web on laptops or desktop computers, but break out the number for emerging markets, like India, and the mobile wins easily. In India and other countries that did not have wired infrastructure in place for Net connectivity, and did not have a population able to purchase computers, mobile and wireless are the only choice. Indians accessed the internet through their mobiles nearly 80% of the time. 

This is also changing the way providers, carriers, phone manufacturers and related companies (such as Google/Alphabet) design.

For example, the emerging next billion tends not to type searches, emails, or even text messages. These newcomers avoid text and use voice activation and communicating with images. Part of this is due to their unfamiliarity with the devices, and partly it is due to a less educated and literate population. They are using low-end smartphones (Android dominates) and cheap data plans along with the most intuitive apps that let them navigate easily.

What does this have to do with education?

My first thought is that even if your students are part of the "first billion" population, delivery of learning online needs to very seriously address mobile use, and the user interfaces need to be intuitive and less text-based.

My second thought is that educational providers, especially post-secondary, need to be prepared for the next billion learners who will not be coming to them in the same ways, or with the same goals, or with the same devices. When I say "educational providers," I am thinking of much more than schools and universities.

No doubt some of this has already been taking place through online learning and especially with the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) and Open Educational Resources (OER), but the pathways are not even well established for the first billion, and certainly not for the next billion.

 

 

 

The Augmented Reality of Pokémon Go

Go
People have been searching for creatures and running down their phone batteries this month since Pokémon Go was released.
Is there any connection of this technology to education, Ken? Let's see.

First off, Pokémon Go is a smartphone game that uses your phone’s GPS and clock to detect where and when you are in the game and make Pokémon creatures appear around you on the screen. The objective is to go and catch them.

This combination of a game and the real world interacting is known as augmented reality (AR). AR is often confused with VR - virtual reality. VR creates a totally artificial environment, while augmented reality uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it.

The term augmented reality goes back to 1990 and a Boeing researcher, Thomas Caudell, who used it to describe the use of head-mounted displays by electricians assembling complicated wiring harnesses.

A commercial applications of AR technology that most people have seen is the yellow "first down" line that we see on televised football games which, of course, is not on the actual field.

Google Glass and the displays called "heads-up" in car windshields are another consumer AR application. there are many more uses of the technology in industries like healthcare, public safety, gas and oil, tourism and marketing.

Back to the game... My son played the card game and handheld video versions 20 years ago, so I had a bit of Pokémon education. I read that it is based on the hobby of bug catching which is apparently popular in Japan, where the games originated. Like bug catching or birding, the goal is to capture actual bugs or virtual birds and Pokémon creatures and add them to your life list. The first generation of Pokémon games began with 151 creatures and has expanded to 700+, but so far only the original 151 are available in the Pokémon Go app.

I have seen a number of news reports about people doing silly, distracted things while playing the game, along with more sinister tales of people being lured by someone via a creature or riding a bike or driving while playing. (The app has a feature to try to stop you using from it while moving quickly, as in a car.)

Thinking about educational applications for the game itself doesn't yield anything for me. Although it does require you to explore your real-world environment, the objective is frivolous. So, what we should consider is the use of VR in education beyond the game, while appreciating that the gaming aspect of the app is what drives its appeal and should be used as a motivator for more educational uses.
AR
The easiest use of VR in college classrooms is to make use of the apps already out there in industries. Students in an engineering major should certainly be comfortable with understanding and using VR from their field. In the illustration above, software (metaio Engineer) allows someone to see an overlay visualization of future facilities within the current environment. Another application can be having work and maintenance instructions directly appear on a component when it is viewed.
Augmented reality can be a virtual world, even a MMO game. The past year we have heard more about virtual reality and VR headsets and goggles (like Oculus Rift) which are more immersive, but also more awkward to use.This immersiveness is an older concept and some readers may recall the use of the term "telepresence.” 

Telepresence referred to a set of technologies which allowed a person to feel as if they were present, or to to give the appearance of being present, or to have some impact at place other than their true location. Telerobotics does this, but more commonly it was the move from videotelephony to videoconferencing. Those applications have been around since the end of the last century and we have come a god way forward from traditional videoconferencing to doing it with hand-held mobile devices, enabling collaboration independent of location.

In education, we experimented with these applications and with the software for MMOs, mirror worlds, augmented reality, lifelogging, and products like Second Life. Pokémon Go is Second Life but now there is no avatar to represent us. We are in the game and the game is the world around us, augmented as needed. The world of the game is the world.

Cognizant Computing in Your Pocket (or on your wrist)

Two years ago, I wrote about the prediction that your ever-smarter phone will be smarter than you by 2017. We are half way there and I still feel superior to my phone - though I admit that it remembers things that I can't seem to retain, like my appointments, phone numbers, birthdays and such.

The image I used on that post was a watch/phone from The Jetsons TV show which today might make you think of the Apple watch which is connected to that ever smarter phone.

But the idea of cognizant computing is more about a device having knowledge of or being aware of your personal experiences and using that in its calculations. Smartphones will soon be able to predict a consumer’s next move, their next purchase or interpret actions based on what it knows, according to Gartner, Inc.

This insight will be performed based on an individual’s data gathered using cognizant computing — "the next step in personal cloud computing.

“Smartphones are becoming smarter, and will be smarter than you by 2017,” said Carolina Milanesi, Research Vice President at Gartner. “If there is heavy traffic, it will wake you up early for a meeting with your boss, or simply send an apology if it is a meeting with your colleague."

The device will gather contextual information from your calendar, its sensors, your location and all the personal data  you allow it to gather. You may not even be aware of some of that data it is gathering. And that's what scares some people.

watchWhen your phone became less important for making phone calls and added apps, a camera, locations and sensors, the lines between utility, social, knowledge, entertainment and productivity got very blurry.

But does it have anything to do with learning?

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University already announced plans to test out the usefulness in the classroom of eight Apple Watches this summer.

Back in the 1980s, there was much talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI). Researchers were going to figure out how we (well, really how "experts") do what they do and reduce those tasks to a set of rules that a computer could follow. The computer could be that expert. The machine would be able to diagnose disease, translate languages, even figure out what we wanted but didn’t know we wanted. 

AI got lots of  VC dollars thrown at it. But it was not much of a success.

Part of the (partial) failure can be attributed to a lack of computer processing power at the right price to accomplish those ambitious goals. The increase in power, drop in prices and the emergence of the cloud may have made the time for AI closer.

Still, I am not excited when I hear that this next phase will allow "services and advertising to be automatically tailored to consumer demands."

Gartner released a newer report on cognizant computing that continues that idea of it being "the strongest forces in consumer-focused IT" in the next few years.

Mobile devices, mobile apps, wearables, networking, services and the cloud is going to change educational use too, though I don't think anyone has any clear predictions. 

Does more data make things smarter? Sometimes.

Will the Internet of Things and big data converge with analytics and make things smarter? Yes.

Is smarter better? When I started in education 40 years ago, I would have quickly answered "yes," but my answer is less certain these days.

 


In 4 Years Your Phone Will Be Smarter Than You (and the rise of cognizant computing)

JetsonsYour smartphone will be smarter than you by the year 2017. That is from an analysis from market research firm Gartner. It won't have much to do with hardware. It will come from the data and computational ability in the cloud. Phones will appear smarter than you - if you equate smarts with being able to recall information and make inferences. It was a part of a discussion of smart devices at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013, November 10-14 in Barcelona.

What made mobile phones smartphones was new tech and and apps, Cameras, enabling locations and sensors, and tying them into apps and social interactions via apps has been the biggest trend the past 5 years. The easier things are already in place - scheduling, sending out reminders, letting you know what friends are doing or where they are, alerting you to things in your vicinity.

A newer trend is having phones that predict your next action based on personal data already gathered. This is called cognizant computing and many people see it as the next step in personal cloud computing.

Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, says “If there is heavy traffic, it will wake you up early for a meeting with your boss, or simply send an apology if it is a meeting with your colleague. The smartphone will gather contextual information from its calendar, its sensors, the user’s location and personal data.”

Of course, allowing your phone to do these things is part of the equation. And not everyone is okay with granting permissions to apps, opening up their data and feeling confident in allowing apps and services to take control of aspects of their lives.

This idea of cognizant computing is said to occur in 4 phases. Those phases (according to Gartner) are sync me, see me, know me and be me.



4 phases



Sync me is familiar to users and probably appreciated: store copies of digital assets and sync them across devices. So, my iPhone knows what my iPad knows and my cloud documents are on all my devices, including several laptops.

See me is here in its early stages and means devices can track history and context. The phone knows where I am now and where I have been.

Using the data from those two phases (which many of us have granted permissions for), phones can move to phases 3 and 4. That's when things get a bit scary for some people. When my phone "knows me" it act act proactively. Do I want to purchase something now based on my earlier spending habits?

And, taking it a step further, how much do I want my device to "Be Me" and act on my behalf? It will pay my bills. It will send selected friends and relatives birthday greeting and pick out a gift. (After all, I have tied my wife's purchases to my account and it knows where she likes to shop and what she likes to buy.)

Scary? Or are you happy to let that little package of power make your life "easier"?

I still haven't gotten my jetpack or flying car, but I might get some cousin of The Jetsons' Rosie that can slip into my pocket - and into my life - quite easily.



 


Include Mobile When Blending Courses

blender

Blended learning is not a new course design concept. It refers to a mixing of different learning environments. Usually, that means blending traditional face-to-face (F2F) classroom methods and class time with online and computer-mediated activities.

There is not one definition of blended learning. In fact, I hear the terms "blended," "hybrid," and "mixed-mode" used interchangeably.

In blended learning, technology always plays a bigger role than in the traditional classroom. As schools "allow" and actually encourage the use of smartphones and tablets, these devices allow the F2F experience to overlap with the experiences outside the classroom.
diagram Students bringing their own devices to campus (known as BYOD) changes things. It changes technology policies and it lowers the cost of technology for blended-learning. Statistics are always changing but at least 75 percent of teens now own cellphones, according to a Pew Research Center report. Is there a socio-economic, racial "gap" with mobile technology as there was in the early days of personal computers and Internet access? Another Pew study reported that African Americans and English-speaking Hispanics are slightly more likely than whites to own a cell phone.

Remember 1:1 computing? Mobile devices, particularly smartphones, bring us much closer to that as a reality. And that also makes blended learning more viable.

The real blending may occur when students don't see a big difference between the experience in a classroom and the experience outside.

Mobile doesn't eliminate all the issues with blended courses - and many of those issues have been around since the earliest days of online learning. Some things are harder to do - maybe impossible - to do online. Assessments on mobile devices require considerations of academic integrity.

But anyone considering designing or teaching in a blended setting needs to be be making mobile part of the design.


Free Apps Dominate Downloads

apps


If you look across all mobile platforms, nearly 90% all app store downloads this year will be free apps.

Add to that information from a report from Gartner that says that 90 percent of the apps that users pay for will cost less than $3. The report, "Market Trends: Mobile App Stores, Worldwide, 2012."

App downloads in 2011 were at the 24.94 billion mark from Google Play/Android Market, the Apple App Store, and others. Of those, 88.4 percent (about 22 billion) were for free apps, while about 2.9 billion were for paid apps.

This year? The forecast is for 83% growth with annual growth projected at 50 to 79 percent each year through 2016.

What does this mean for educators? As mobile continues to move into classrooms, sometimes only because students bring it there, we will find ourselves using more and more free and cheap apps rather than traditional, expensive software.

That makes money available from school budgets and from students' budgets that could be used in other ways. It also open the door to using more mobile technology without considering software cost as a critical factor.

Read more: Free Apps To Make Up 89 Percent of Mobile Downloads This Year



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?

Some Free Classroom Apps

There are many free apps that can be used in the classroom. You have to be a creative teacher to use elementary apps effectively with students too young to have phones, but teachers are using iPads and tablets in classrooms and sometimes even getting parents to use apps on their own devices at home. Here are some via techlearning.com. Some are free. Some are free versions of apps that are available at a cost but are available in free lite versions (some may have ads).

Math


Basic Math - This app offers basic operations of math with choices. It allows teachers to see student’s score and email results to parents.


Mad Math Lite - If your classroom has limited iPads, this app allows you to have more than one user. In addition, it enables you to set the student’s setting depending what operation they are working on. This app records a report card on the student’s progress.


Coins Genius - This app is a good introduction to coins. It is limited in the free version, but it does give you a chance to see if this would be a good tool for your class.


Calculator Pro - A standard calculator in vertical mode and a scientific calculator in landscape mode.


EaselAlgebra ilite - Easel combines interactive, hands-on algebra workbooks with instant "ShowMe" lessons. If you get stuck on a problem, just tap "ShowMe" and see a step-by-step animation of how to solve the problem.


HMH-Fuse Geometry- A completely self-contained, interactive curriculum on the iPad.


Elementary Language Arts


My Spelling Test - Create your own spelling tests with your weekly words. Students can
test themselves. Allows students to see what words they got right and wrong. Teachers can track student’s work to make sure they stay on level.


ABC Phonics sigh words - Uses the DOLCH spelling words. The app has flashcards, drag and spell, and unscramble.


Wordweb Dictionary - The WordWeb English dictionary and thesaurus: fast searching, spelling suggestions, definitions, usage examples, synonyms, related words - and no ads


Free ebooks -  Download app, then join for free. Download five free books a month.


Paperdesk lite - Leave behind your paper notebook for your next class lecture or meeting. PaperDesk is a simple notebook replacement made for the iPad. The design goal behind PaperDesk was to mimic, as closely as possible, a simple pad of paper with no unnecessary frills.


Foreign Language


Spanish Tutor 24/7 - Goes
beyond the simple talking phrasebook or flashcard programs, providing a set of interactive study tools that helps users learn Spanish. Also available for French: French Tutor 24/7.


Sign Language - How to fingerspell words, numbers, express basic sentences, idioms and learn about deaf culture.




Apps and Attention Deficit

Vicki Windman is a special education teacher who regularly posts about tech, especially apps lately. Here are some apps that can help students diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

iearnedthat-lite
(Free/ Full Version $1.99) Helps children develop desirable behaviors by working towards tangible goals. Choose a behavior for the child. Do not interrupt for 15 minutes during a 45-minute class period. Student then takes a picture of what he or she wants, such as computer time. The picture is broken down into puzzle pieces. Each time the student is successful, he or she adds another piece. Upon completion of the puzzle student receives an award. The app is good for all ages.


ireward $4.99 A motivational tool for iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. Create a star chart or token board to help reinforce positive behaviors using visual rewards. This type of praise or approval will help parents of typically developing children, children with autism, developmental delays, ADHD, and anxiety disorders.


Homeroutines $3.99 This app can be customized for any age. Create routine checklists, then complete them on chosen days of the week, with reminder notifications, and a gold star for each completed task. Checklists can automatically reset.


Alarmed-reminder timersFree Pop up reminder alerts. Includes 80 custom sounds, Nag me for auto repeating. Great for students to help remind them when they need to bring something to school.


ADHD organizer $1.99 Lets users set goals and record their success. Includes a memory bank section for thing frequently forgotten.


Audio-notes recorder $2.99 Record notes and export by email. Great for students who need to remember something without having to write it down.


Event Countdown $1.99 This is great for students who need to keep track of assignments. App shows remaining days, hours and minutes until the date.

Audionote recorder-notepad $4.99 Combines the functionality of a notepad and voice recorder.


Vicki has also posted about useful apps for assessment.

iPhone Application Development

Most of us can't get a seat in Stanford's popular iPhone and iPad application development course, but luckily the open side of courseware allows anyone with app dreams to follow online. 

Stanford has released the iOS 5 version of their "iPhone Application Development" on iTunes U. You can download course lectures and slides for free. The obvious audience is students of all ages interested in developing apps, but if you are teaching or planning to teach such a course yourself, it would make sense to take a look.

Stanford offered an iPhone apps course online in 2009 and it made some history by scoring a million downloads in its first seven weeks. The instructor is Paul Hegarty and he teaches students how to program apps for iPads and iPhones. It is the most popular download on
Stanford's iTunes U site, with more than 10 million views.

It is no small task to learn to create apps. Unofficial prerequisites: If you are unfamiliar with Apple's operating systems, you need to learn Objective-C.  If you were a Stanford student, you would have taken a year of computer science classes and had object-oriented programming before taking the apps course. Two Stanford prerequisite courses, Programming Methodology and Programming Abstractions, are also available on iTunes U.







Disrupting Education With Apps

Tomorrow, I am giving a keynote for faculty at Bloomfield College. It's about how software apps and mobile computing in general is impacting teaching. "Educating in an App World" is still to come for most classrooms.

Sure, "There's an app for that" has gone from being an advertising tagline to being a solution for many software needs. Apps – small, easy to download software for mobile devices – are definitely changing how students at all level are using technology.

Watch pre-schoolers playing with their parents phones and tablets. Have you seen a 3 year old go up to a TV screen and try to drag or pinch an image? It's how they expect to interact with technology.

I have found more apps available for the K-12 world than for higher education. But, we limit the use of mobile devices in classrooms, especially in the lower grades. Teachers are more likely to ban phones than make use of them.

But that IS changing. Apps are changing the way colleges design and deploy software and it is moving into classrooms.

The idea of "disruptive innovation" (which was coined by Clayton Christensen) is that a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market but then moves “up market" and eventually displaces the established competitors.

Disruptive innovation: cellular phones disrupted fixed line telephony; traditional full-service department stores have been disrupted by online and discount retailers; doctor’s offices are being displaced by medical clinics. Maybe the traditional four-year college experience is being displaced in degrees by community colleges, online learning and school 2.0.

The problem is that education isn't business, no matter how much politicians and critics want it to be.

Take innovation. Companies tend to innovate faster than their customers’ lives change. There are newer phones but customers who don't want to upgrade yet. The company ends up producing products or services that are actually too good and too expensive for many of their customers. But in education, those "customers" that we prefer to call students innovate faster than the schools. Students probably have the technology in their hands before we can offer it or have a way to use it in our classrooms.

What is changing in higher ed? Firts, is how students use technology with or without our guidance. That is driving changes in the way colleges design or purchase websites and software. Go back more than a decade and a school had to get a website. Then they had to get a better website. Now, you better have some apps. 

The ways colleges deploy software is also changing. Did your school offer software on CDs? Did it move to downloads? Did it move away from even supplying software or requiring a computer? Will it offer apps?

The greatest change comes when educators can implement apps for teaching. Initially, colleges use it for campus-wide initiatives like admissions, but we are seeing it begin to move into classroom use.

Do you agree with this critic? “For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise.”   That was Socrates on the written word, see Phaedrus, 340 BC.

Welcome to the app world.


Android 4 Schools

Here's a pointer to a new site from Richard Byrne, author of Free Technology for Teachers. Android 4 Schools will look at resources and reviews of apps (mostly free) for educatots with a focus on K-12 schools.

Though that focus is K-12, I wouldn't dismiss the site if you are in higher education (particularly if you prepare K-12 teachers!) as it promises to include some pedagogy too, and includes apps for teachers, students, and administrators.

Teaching in an App World

img There is no question that the app - those small, easy to download software applications for mobile devices - is changing how we use technology.  "There's an app for that," was one of the most heard phrases in tech circles the past few years. (Apple even applied for a trademark on the phrase which was featured in their iPhone ads.)

The way we design and deploy software is changing and so is how we decide on things like purchases.

The Apple App Store passed its 10 billionth download early this year and offers almost 400,000 apps and the Google Android Marketplace has over 200,000 apps with more than 3 billion downloads. More than half of all Web traffic currently comes from apps.

I am doing a conference presentation this fall (at the NJEDge.Net Annual Conference) on how apps are beginning to change schools and teaching. I have been asking colleagues face to face and online and the answers vary quite a bit. I would love to have you give some feedback on your own observations about this topic (see bottom of post).

The Questions:
1. How are apps (mobile and web apps) being developed & used?
2. How are schools using them now?
3. Where are the opportunities for schools to enter the app world?
4. How are educators reacting to this app world? Are they using them to teach?

In brief, apps are being developed both on campus by both students and web developers, but they are also being built for schools by outside vendors. 

Many schools seem to have as their entry point (and in many cases as their only official use) apps for campus-wide initiatives like admissions and registration.

There is far less evidence of course or discipline-specific app use by instructors. Some publishers and vendors apps (such as Blackboard's Mobile Learn and MindTap from Cengage) may be available to students independent of the school's efforts.



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