By Danny Wu
Tap! Tap! The students who are huddled together on the subway platform jumped up and down ecstatically having just caught the legendary Pokémon, “Zapdos”. The app they are playing on is called Pokémon Go. An augmented reality app for capturing battle monsters through their phones based on actual location tracking. The students excitedly compared the “CP” (battle points) of the individual “Zapdos” they captured.
More than ever, apps are becoming the standard for completing any task in a person’s life. From checking banking accounts to ordering food, or simply turning on a game on the commute to work to pass the time. If you can imagine doing a task thru your phone, chances are there’s an app for it. This brings a new possibility in terms of education through technology, learning through apps. Many institutions around the world are now integrating technology into their courses to not only facilitate or enhance learning but to adhere to new generations of students who are born in this constant ever-changing world of technology.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics website, the percent of children between ages 3-18 who had internet access in their homes, was between 49% and 66% in 2015 (NCES). The number of instructional computers in secondary education institutions from 1995 to 2008 went from just 2,012,000 to a whopping 5,415,000 and the percent of institutions with internet access from 9% to 99% (NCES). Technology is as integrated into our lives as is breathing now. One area that is increasing momentum is learning through mobile phone apps. Perhaps the traditional methods of sitting in a classroom and starting at a board all day may not be the only solution available to students to further their education. There are many free apps available to students to learn a multitude of subjects.
One such app is Khan Academy, a learning app that offers a wide variety of subjects from K-12 to higher educational subjects such as calculus or organic chemistry. The app provides teaching videos for each subject from teaching a topic through examples or actually built-in exercises to practice on. There are a wide variety of subjects to learn from physics, chemistry, math, economics, and many more. While Khan Academy takes a more standard approach in learning with lessons and exercises as with a real classroom, there are also many other more interactive learning apps for students as well.
One such app is Duolingo, an app for learning languages. The app is more of a mobile game style orientation with ‑ash cards for choosing correct terms or listening to different sounds of a term and selecting the correct one. This allows for the user to apply what they are learning in real-time and not just purely memorizing facts. There are many more apps out there to serve different types of students on numerous different skill levels. While that is great in terms of quantity, each app will deliver a different type of experience than another. It is important to be mindful of what teachers are trying to achieve when they bring technology into the classroom. They will need to ask themselves, “How will this app help with what I’m teaching?”, “How to best integrate this app into the course in a productive manner?”, or “How should the results of using this app in a classroom setting be evaluated”. We have many technological resources available to us, but they must be applied properly to have a lasting meaningful effect on our students.
“The Condition of Education – Preprimary, Elementary, and Secondary Education – Family Characteristics – Children’s Access to and Use of the Internet – Indicator May (2017).” Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2001-2002, E.D. Tab, National Center for Education Statistics, May 2017, nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/ indicator_cch.asp