3 Reasons Apps Foster Effective Learning

By Marie Mérouze
Founder and CEO of Marbotic

As technology continues to evolve, it’s not surprising that apps are starting to be incorporated into daily classroom activities. With more than 80,000 apps considered “educational” in Apple’s app store, educators will never have a shortage of applications to use with students while teaching various lessons.

And, while most educators welcome the regular use of applications in classrooms, some educators and even parents are hesitant to leverage technology to support curricula. However, when used in the right way, apps can complement lessons and help teachers. A recent study found that the use of tablets and apps improved both classroom learning and engagement. There are many reasons, and here are three:

Enjoyment

It’s been proven that the release of dopamine has an effect on students’ desire to learn. Dopamine is released when students are engaged in an activity they enjoy. For example, when they play an app that is fun, the released dopamine encourages them to keep learning to maintain the level of enjoyment. When learning feels like a chore, many students lose interest in the lesson. With apps designed as games, learning is no longer a chore but, rather, a fun activity.

In order to avoid apps that are solely for entertainment, I recommend apps that are not distracting to the learning environment. When classroom apps are carefully reviewed, students will have fun and look forward to playing games while learning at the same time.

Diversity

These days, educators are stretched thin. They’re working to provide the best possible classroom learning experiences for children, but the problem is that students learn in different ways. What works best for some children might not work for others. Thus, the introduction of a variety of applications provides different ways for students to learn.

Some students learn best by writing things down. Others, with visual games. Still others, with tactile activities. Because apps are so versatile, they can address various learning styles without the need for educators to print a wide range of worksheets.

Repetition

Repetition is not only a key component of learning, but it reinforces it. Contrary to popular belief, repetition doesn’t have to mean doing the exact same exercises again and again but, rather, engaging in practices that work the same skill group.

On the one hand, while worksheets are a prime practice tool for lessons, they’re typically a “one and done” activity. On the other hand, apps are meant to engage students again and again. Beyond being environmentally friendly, apps provide reinforcement each time they’re played – especially apps that automatically adjust difficulty levels to match ability. Quality apps for the classroom usually incorporate a wide range of activities for different levels, providing fun, new ways for students to grow again and again.

At the end of the day, apps aren’t solely about entertainment. They can be helpful in the classroom, too! When looking for complementary activities to support lesson plans, don’t forget to consider apps and how they can positively enhance the learning environment.

OLC Innovate 2017 – April 5-7 New Orleans, Louisiana

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In April 2017, the Online Learning Consortium will host its second OLC Innovate conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. This conference was designed with attendees in mind, working to address the diverse professional development needs of the higher education community. As professional development needs vary from individual to individual, a variety of components were designed to take place within and beside the general conference and are intended to enhance and expand the traditional conference learning experience in meaningful, intentional, and networked ways. A few to explore:

  • The HBCU Affordable Learning Summit provides a forum for discussion and collaboration around making higher education more affordable for students. Attendees will work collaboratively to develop plans that they can take back and implement at their home institutions.
  • The Community College Summit is a half-day program facilitating discussion and sharing among faculty and practitioners in the community college space. A shared, iterative document will be created, allowing participants to reflect and create new knowledge.
  • The Solution Design Summit brings together teams from a variety of institutions to work together with conference attendees on creating interdisciplinary solutions to institutional challenges.
  • The Innovation Lab offers a hands-on, open space for pedagogical experimentation, design thinking, and experimentation. Demos, reflection exercises, and the inaugural “Whose Design Is It Anyway” competition all offer a fun break for the engaged and often overwhelmed conference mind.
  • Defining Innovation – An Interactive Installation is an experimental innovation space, aiming to re-think how we share and leverage information in higher educational contexts.

As engagement chair of the OLC Innovate conference, I invite you to reach out to me and share what your favorite conference experience has been. Are you planning to attend OLC Innovate, and are you looking to get involved, volunteer? Or do you need assistance and recommendations? Email me at jlknott@gmail.com

For more information about OLC Innovate 2017, visit https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/innovate/.

QR Codes — Mystery Solved

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

QR codes have always been a mystery to me. They are in a variety of places, and I know that one is supposed to scan them. I even downloaded a QR app to my iPhone. However, until I read Nik Peachey’s “20 + Things You Can Do with QR Codes in Your School” (9/25/15) on Nik’s Learning Technology Blog, I didn’t have a clear idea of what they were and why I’d want to use them in my personal or professional life.

Example of a QR code.

Example of a QR code.

First, I learned that QR stands for “quick response.” The purpose is “to  transfer various types of digital content onto a mobile device in seconds without having to type any URLs.” Peachey goes on to explain that to use them in the classroom you need two tools, something to create the code and something to read the code. He provides a couple of links for each and a video about how to create QR codes. He assures the reader that they are easy to use and any teacher will find them transformative in the classroom. That’s quite a claim.

What can teachers, students, and schools do with QR codes? Peachy says that, in the classroom, students can download homework assignments, notes, worksheets, etc. all directly onto their mobile devices. The school can use QR codes to link to welcome videos, photos of events, events and schedules, and newsletters to name a few. In the library or a self-access center, students can link to YouTube videos, digital books, and online activities. He also suggests that a QR code can also be useful for marketing. Put one on brochures and promotional materials. “Create a QR code with a link to a Google map showing the location of the school and add this to marketing materials to help people find the school.”

Finally, Peachey writes that while getting familiar and comfortable with QR codes may take staff and students some time, it will pay off in the end. A few of the benefits he lists are:

  • Reduced copying and printing costs
  • Reduced cost of purchasing and storing print materials, as well as cds and dvds
  • Increased engagement with materials
  • Creation of a “21st century mobile friendly learning environment”

I am going to try to pay more attention to QR codes around me and see how transformative I find them. What about you? Do you use them? What do you think about Peachey’s claim?

A Successful Public Health MOOC: Interview with Dr. Satesh Bidaisee

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

One Health, One Medicine: An Ecosystem Approach was a five-week public health MOOC offered by Dr. Satesh Bidaisee1 at St. George’s University, Grenada, in summer 2016. The course attracted 582 students from all over the world and was especially popular with students from the Caribbean, United States, and even Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.

Among the 582 who enrolled, participants, or “students who took at least one graded activity in the course,” numbered 98, which is 17% of the total enrolled. Of the 98 participants, 52 completed the course. Completion is defined as achieving “at least a 50% in the course, which required them to get full participation and quiz credit and at least one additional exercise (case or presentation).”

Calculated in this way, the completion rate among participants was 53%, four times the rate in previous years. Of the 50 students who completed the survey, 98% rated their overall experience in the course as good or excellent. To the question “Would you be interested in pursuing a degree from St. Goerge’s University?”, 82% answered yes. Of this number, 30% preferred online courses, 16% preferred on-campus classes, and the remaining 36% had no preference either way.

Dr. Satesh Bidaisee, St. George's University, Grenada.

Dr. Satesh Bidaisee, St. George’s University, Grenada.

ETC: How would you explain the high rate of completion for your MOOC?
Bidaisee: The key factors were: (1) A user-friendly online course management system, SGUx, which is built on the EdX platform. (2) Accessible course team. (3) Interactions with students through live seminars, live office hours, discussion blogs, Twitter communication. (3) Case study reviews, peer-review evaluation of student-produced seminars. (4) Focused course topic and content on One Health, One Medicine.  Continue reading

How Can I Present a Better Webinar?

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

A few weeks ago I presented my first webinar, and I have mixed feelings about it. I have participated in them and have felt okay about the experience, but this was not the same. Let me give you the background, and then I am hoping that a bunch of people will jump in and give me fabulous hints and advice about how to do it better next time.

First, the webinar was set up by someone else who was in a different location, and she used Hangouts, which I had never used. I had prepared a PowerPoint with my main talking points, and we uploaded that.

When the webinar began, I could see participant faces and the face of the moderator. I could also see the chat box where participants greeted one another.

When I started my presentation, we put up the PowerPoint, and I literally felt like I was sitting behind a screen talking to an invisible audience. At one point, the moderator said that several people had commented that they couldn’t see the PowerPoint advancing, couldn’t see the comments, etc.

All I could see was my PowerPoint, which appeared to be working just fine.

In response, I started flipping back and forth between the PowerPoint and the Hangouts screen to follow the comments. The longer this went on, the more stressed I got. I ended up hurrying through the rest of the presentation, answered a few questions, and said goodbye.

Those of you have had better experiences in presenting webinars, what advice can you give me? Different platforms? Different presentation models? How could I have made it more interactive? Other tips for conducting an effective webinar? Thanks in advance.

80 Percent of K-12 Schools Now Using Digital Content

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

A study by ASCD and Overdrive, Inc.,1 is being released today (1 April 2016). Digital Content Goes to School: Trends in K–12 Classroom E-Learning is available for download here. Here are some of the highlights:

1. More than 80 percent of K-12 schools and districts are now using some form of digital content — including eBooks, audiobooks and digital textbooks — in the classroom.

2. Of the 80 percent of respondents who report using digital content in their schools or districts, four out of 10 are using it as part of their curriculum.

3. Devices used for digital content: laptops (75 percent), tablets (62 percent), personal computers (49 percent), and smartphones (17 percent).

4. Contributors to this growth include recognized benefits such as the ability to deliver individualized instruction, allowing students to practice independently, and greater student attention/engagement.

5. As digital content continues to transform the classroom, the concept of a personalized, individualized model of schooling becomes more feasible, according to the report.

6. “Devices bring more knowledge to students’ fingertips than the teacher can give, so the traditional lecture model is no longer applicable. We want content that will engage students and the ability to introduce flipped classrooms with content that students can access at any time, at any place” (Kahle Charles, executive director of curriculum, St. Vrain Valley Schools, Longmont, Colorado).

7. The two issues cited most often were equity concerns about lack of Internet access at home and the fear of teachers not wanting to go digital, including teachers not comfortable or effective with digital learning.

8. Across the board, teachers most desire English/Language Arts (ELA) content in digital format (74 percent), followed by science (62 percent), math (61 percent) and social studies (56 percent).

9. Survey respondents report that digital content currently occupies about one-third of the instructional materials budget and the use of digital content continues to grow.

10. This report is based on a survey of more than 2,000 administrators at the school or district level in the U.S.

__________
1 Overdrive, Inc., is a provider of eBook and audiobook platforms for schools.

Irritating Software Upgrades and the Spirit of ‘Gaman’

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

With technology, experimentation and improvement go hand-in-hand, so we expect to pay a price. In some cases, such as drugs and cars, the cost can be horrendous. In others, such as software applications and operating systems, the cost isn’t as dramatic, but it can be irritating.

The most irritating in my current experience involves WordPress.com. The problem is they’re making changes piecemeal, and after many months, they’re still not done. In the interim, we, the users, are on our own. This means we’re forced to switch between the old and the new interfaces to complete tasks that were once simple and routine. The result is confusion and dozens of additional time-gobbling, mind-boggling steps.

For example, in the new composing interface, I can no longer insert links in text mode. I have to switch back to visual mode to do so. Compounding the problem is that WordPress sometimes seems to hang frozen for a while before switching between the two modes. A similar problem involves categories. In the old interface, I can no longer set categories. To do so, I have to switch to the new.

Very annoying is the photo insertion process. Photos posted via the new interface are no longer clickable for enlarged views. To make them clickable, I need to re-enter the same post via the old. And this is where irritation climbs to a whole new level. There’s no clear or simple way to switch back to the old.  Continue reading