13.05.2014

Teachers can also educate the app developers

Teachers can also educate the app developers

Photo: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Education and technology have always been going hand in hand: A tremendous amount of technology was conceived in educational environments. Today, while the revolutionary changes of the information age are occuring all around us and while governments are making efforts to bring technology to the classrooms , the balance has shifted and education and technology have to reevaluate their relationship. Now technology has to change the old ways of teaching, whose basic pedagogic principles have survived many centuries; but as you expected and just like in many other fields, there is resistance against profound change or at least against moving too fast.

The immense majority of digital education platforms and apps are developed by “technologists”, forced upon teachers by educational coordinators and consequently widely rejected by the teachers who are supposed to use them in the classrooms. To sum up the situation, there are signs of education and technology ‘breaking up’ with each other.

An initiative to Improve the Relationship between Teachers and Developers

The logical solution to the conflict mentioned above would be the education community collaborating with developers and companies creating these apps and digital education platforms and viceversa, with the goal to better meet the needs of teachers. But the matter is more complicated than that. A first step could be to create the right conditions for both sides to sit down and discuss, then developers have to understand the teachers’ needs and provide solutions for them in their apps or products. Another possibility would be applications emerging directly from the educational field that were provided technical support from the industry.

With the goal to improve the relationship and the communication between both sectors, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation published the study Teachers Know Best: What Educators Want From Digital Instructional Tools, which is based on a survey conducted among more than 3,100 teachers and 1,250 students. The study tries to give an answer to four central questions, which define its content quite well. Those questions (and some of the answers they found) are:

  • What do teachers want and need digital education tools to do? Teachers and students responded likewise that technology is very useful for their activities and the former wished for the tools to give instructions directly to the students, that they enabled them to diagnose learning needs and encouraged students to work together and make interactive experiences.

  • How can developers use the information of the study to respond more effectively to the needs of students, teachers and schools? To begin with, developers should communicate to teachers that these kinds of tools already exist, because a good part responded that there are not enough on the market and that they do not tell their students to use the existing ones, because they feel that they are not effective.

  • What is known about the way teachers and school districts choose and acquire these tools? Only 4% of the teachers indicated that they spend their own money to buy these kinds of digital tools. In general, teachers are not consulted about which tools should be purchased, but if their opinion is considered, they later report that the tools were truly effective. They get information about available tools mainly through recommendations from other work colleagues or social networks.

  • What else do we know about the market for these kinds of education tools? The study mentions the existence of certain indicators that describe the growth potential of this market in the next few years. It also highlights that many school districts are currently testing digital tools created by third parties as well as by themselves.

Teachers can also educate the app developers

Photo: Mike Coghlan

The study presents a number of figures and other quantitative data in great detail: 52% of teachers feel that digital tools focussing on maths are effective, while only 46% say the same about those dealing with science. More than half of the school districts questioned are investing in digital blackboards.

The Message from Teachers to Developers and Companies

From the study mentioned before various main conclusions can be drawn. One of them is that teachers want to participate in the creation process of these kinds of tools or at least in their acquisition. The study itself concludes that developers should ask teachers and students about what tools are effective and why in order to learn from their experience.

In this sense, teachers can also show app and digital education tool developers when, how and why interactivity should be included in an IT solution at a certain point of the learning process instead of the other way around, when teaching is forced to adapt to technology. This is not an easy task, though not impossible either, because it calls for a (possibly limited) immersion into the pedagogical world of the teacher.

But despite the distance between the developers, companies and the real needs of teachers, some of the latter have decided to develop their own apps and tools. An example is the app NoRedInk, which was created by the English teacher Jeff Scheur and which tries to help teachers teach this subject in a more enjoyable way. Another example is the app P3 (Pupil Performance Portfolio), developed by teachers from the State of Ohio (U.S.), which follows up on the student’s performance in a more convenient way than other apps or tools available on the market. More cases like these can easily be found on the internet.

If you are a teacher and you want to develop your own app you can use the guide The Ultimate Teacher’s Guide To Creating Educational Apps or visit other specialized web pages offering information on this subject (like YoProfesor).

Maybe with your creativity, talent and a little advice you can develop “something” that helps us get better teachers and students. Without a doubt this world has great need for both.

mSchools is a pioneering global initiative designed to encourage Catalonia's high school students to work in the classroom with mobile technology through the creation and use of mobile solutions. Backed by Mobile World Capital Barcelona, with collaboration by the Regional Government of Catalonia, the City of Barcelona, and GSMA, mSchools is intended to improve students' academic performance and reduce dropout rates. The programme features complete curricular development related to mobile technology and its applications in the social and economic spheres.

Mobile World Capital presents a global vision that effectively integrates mobile technologies into the fabric of the industries transforming our lives. Committed to expanding the mobile experience throughout Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain with strong support of the public and private sector.

Mobile World Capital is leading mobile transformation through commitments in Competence Centres, local Industry Development, and Entrepreneurship and Innovation programmes.

MWCapital offers an open platform and exhibition showroom where citizens can understand and experience how mobile is enhancing our lives: The Mobile World Centre, located in the heart of Barcelona on Plaza Catalunya.

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