Educators are no strangers to new technology. Digital tech has been slowly making its way into classrooms for many years, from videos to personal computers to the internet. In the past, this integration was typically an incremental process: Educators and other school leaders could sample what worked and what didn’t and adjust accordingly.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the landscape of digital technology in education has shifted profoundly. Educators and students are no longer operating remotely, but the number of digital technologies that flooded the industry to address online learning needs have had a lasting effect. Although the pandemic threw educators into the proverbial deep end in adjusting to a radically different learning environment, the urgent need to create those accommodations forced many educators to familiarize themselves with and utilize technology that they might otherwise have never encountered.
Now, many of these technologies have stuck around as educators have realized their utility and merged them into their classrooms in order to create a more robust learning environment for all students. In particular, educators have reevaluated their approach to using mobile devices for learning. While mobile devices can be a distraction, many educators are now tapping into the positive, interactive power of these devices to harness them and improve the learning experience.
Educational, student-friendly mobile applications have been leading the charge on this front. Such applications find engaging ways to present learning content that can meet students where they are, which is to say, on their mobile devices. Let’s take a look at some of the leading learning trends on mobile apps.
Lots of Video Content
Educators have shared videos with students since they could wheel a VCR into their classrooms. Of course, these days, video content is far more advanced and has become embedded in the instructional practices of many teachers. Video content comes in many forms, and it’s often easier for students to engage with course content. As software design company Shakuro explains on its blog, “integration of video content into mobile apps for learning, if it doesn’t go against their format, makes them more interesting, with easier-to-digest content.” Recorded content can use captions to make its lessons more accessible to learners. Additionally, webinars, live instruction and one-on-one tutoring programs are all examples of how real-time video can aid students and meet them on their schedule.
Flexible and Personalized Learning
With the versatility of mobile applications, lessons become quite malleable. These capabilities open up many possibilities for flexible learning opportunities that can be personalized to suit individual student needs. Educators can raise or lower lesson difficulties depending on student performance. They can identify student strengths and weaknesses, allowing the algorithm or artificial intelligence of the application to tailor the learning exercises toward individual students’ needs.
Many mobile applications take the learning experience and turn it into a game, a process known as “gamification.” Gamification has become increasingly popular, especially among young learners. It makes the learning process more engaging, and, as Shakuro notes, “compulsory” with many apps designed for kids.
If executed effectively, integrating mobile apps into digital learning can help educators increase engagement among their students and create a learning cycle that addresses the specific needs of different students. Given the diverse presentation capabilities of many mobile apps, they can also make the learning experience more accessible to learners with accessibility needs.
There are still challenges, of course. Students’ mobile devices will likely still contain non-educational apps that could be distracting. Plus, educators will have to adapt their lesson plans in order to complement the learning on mobile apps. Overall, though, mobile devices and education-friendly apps represent a significant opportunity for reaching students.
Edutopia suggests speaking with students up front about cell phone usage. More importantly, invite students into the rule-making process for classrooms. Discuss mutual respect and expectations with them, but also allow them to help set the rules. This co-investment in fostering the classroom atmosphere can cultivate buy-in from students since they feel more like a part of creating expectations.
An advanced degree from a program such as the online Master of Education in Applied Digital Learning from Lamar University prepares educators with the skills and knowledge required to maximize the utility of mobile apps. This fully online program offers hands-on learning experiences and opportunities to successfully identify, implement and monitor innovative digital practices for their classrooms.