One of the hottest areas of growth in education is in the development of apps that can be used to expand the learning platform beyond the traditional schoolhouse.  Yet, many people are deterred from developing these apps for fear that it is too complicated or too expensive.  However, apps offer a tremendous opportunity to embrace the arts to facilitate learning in an innovative environment.  And, as I have explored this platform, I found creating an app doesn’t have to be difficult and can even be used as a way for students to create their own app for their personal learning style.  This can offer a powerful way for students to connect their learning and make meaning for themselves!

Creating an App for Your Class

One way to begin utilizing apps is in creating them to communicate your class content and to add extended learning opportunities in a mobile format.  For instance, you can add your homework assignments to the app, along with interactive practice modules that connect reading, math, science or social studies content with an artform, and video of your class lectures all in one place.  With this, students can continue to learn even if they weren’t able to attend your class or garner more practice of your content area while riding on the bus or in the car.

Creating an App with Your Students

Another way that you can approach app development is to develop the app alongside and through your students as a true teaching and learning opportunity.  Certain app platforms allow you to explore the use of basic coding, which is like learning a new language which includes many math elements.  Other platforms are more intuitive, but students can choose elements to put together and content to include that is based upon their own learning style preferences.  For instance, if a student knows that they enjoy learning through drawing, they can include elements in their app that allows them to draw their ideas to synthesize the information from class.

Students may develop these apps as study tools, or as a way for them to showcase a portfolio of their work.  And by creating it in class, you can leverage the Common Core Reading and Math Standards alongside the Arts standards to create an integrated app model.

App-Making Platforms

There are a few app-making platforms that I really like, though they are very different in their purposes and intuitiveness.  Here’s a brief rundown of some of my favorites:

MIT App Inventor

The good people at MIT developed this platform as an open education resource.  This will teach some basic coding html and provides a TON of flexibility is what to add and the capabilities.  It really can be as basic or as advanced as you want.  The other thing I like is that there are resources for teachers, tutorials and a whole development section.

The App Builder

This site allows you to create a free app with some basic components for education.  The site gears itself more towards educators, and limits what you choose to include. However, you can still include videos, interactive quizzes, integrate a support forum and create learning modules.  It’s a good app for teachers who want to enable learning on the go for their students and who don’t want to worry with any kind of coding.  It’s truly drag and drop.

Apps Bar

This site is by far my favorite for ease of use and flexibility.  You can use this with your students or just for yourself and there’s not any coding needed, though if you’d like to include elements based on coding, you can.  It’s free and the site will take care of publishing the app to the android market for you.  I have used it as I’m working to create the EducationCloset app and I have been SO happy with every element.  A great way to get into creating an app for and with your classroom!

So there you have it!

Hopefully, you’ll be willing to take a deep breath and explore the opportunities this platform has for you and your students as we move learning mobile.  Have fun!