Archives for July 2014

Student-Centered Use of Technology: My Phil”apps”ophy

photo 1I created Come On, Get Appy!  to share apps and show where and how they fit with the Common Core. With so many apps in the app store, and the number is growing daily— how do I choose the apps I share?

How I Choose Apps to Share

I follow two major ideas when thinking about apps:

  • Apps used in the classroom should be predominately creation apps.
  • All the apps you use with students should fit on one screen. This gives you 25 slots on an iPad—and that’s a lot. The apps I have on my home page include creation apps and curation apps, because those are the ones I use most often. If I find I’m not regularly using an app, I’ll exchange it with one I use more often. This makes my home screen the only screen I really need for most of my work.

I realize that these ideas go against what many teachers want. I frequently get requests for content apps, and I have no problem with content apps. In fact, I’ve shared posts on content-based apps (like Sums Stacker). However, I prefer to spend my time and money on an app that can be used across the curriculum for multiple purposes and can be used in student-centered ways— rather than on an app that is only about consuming content.

Student-Centered Ways? What Do You Mean?

When I conduct Professional Development on technology integration, I always bring it back to the idea that what we are doing with technology needs to focus on student-centered uses. Actually, everything we do in the classroom should be done in student-centered ways. So, what does this look like? What I want to see when I go into a classroom is students making choices— not only regarding the tool they will use, but of the product they will create using the tool. I want students to demonstrate their learning of a topic, and I don’t direct how they demonstrate this learning. I believe that this can best be accomplished using creation apps.

For some teachers, allowing students to choose the apps they use and they products they create can feel overwhelming. It requires the use of a rubric focused on the content, not the product. It may mean that there are 20 different types of products to grade (assuming 40 students are working in pairs) for any given assignment. If the class is studying figurative language and the students need to prove their understanding of figurative language, some may choose to make a video or a presentation of some sort, while others may write and/or produce a story.  Some might not want to use technology at all. That’s completely okay. Students need opportunities to choose the best tool for the job. If they can justify why he or she has used a particular tool, I consider the use of technology to be done in a student-centered way.

Students making the decisions about which tool to use for which purpose is student-centered use of technology— even if the decision is to use no technology. In order to be able to make these choices, students need to have access to multiple apps that will allow them to create different products. As teachers, we need to make sure we are focused on the process—not the product.

Common Core Connection

This post isn’t about an app, per se; it’s about all apps. If you are using creation apps, there is a greater chance that you are addressing Common Core standards and the 7 Cs. Standard 6 of the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing states: “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.” Producing and publishing writing takes many forms, and creation apps allow students to produce, publish, and post their work. The College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening, especially standards 4, 5 and 6, can also be met through the use of creation apps.

What Do You Think?

I have a number of favorite creation apps. I’ve already written about many of them— Kidblog, VoiceThread, ExplainEverything, Coach’s Eye, Tellagami, Skitch, and Thinglink. However, there are so many more that I will eventually feature on Come On, Get ‘Appy! 

What are your favorite creation apps? How do you use them in student-centered ways?