As an instructor, you may already know there’s ways tablets can enrich your courses, but sifting through the nearly countless apps available for download can seem overwhelming. As with choosing any other new course materials, there are a lot of factors to consider. With so many apps on the market—and more being added every day!—it can be hard to know where to begin. You may wonder:
- if you’re looking at the right type of apps for your course
- if there’s a free app that will give you what you need or if you’ll need a paid one
- if the apps you choose will make you seem “out of date” to your students
It’s concerns like these that often keep instructors from diving into incorporating mobile devices into their courses. However, using mobile devices, such as tablets and even smartphones, doesn’t have to be so daunting. Instead, you can start off slowly and ease into using apps and mobile devices in your course. One way to do this is by creating an assignment for students to research useful apps.
Start using mobile devices in your classes by turning a search for apps into part of the course. Assign students the task of searching for an app that would be useful in the course, then have them give a short presentation to the class on why that app is helpful.
For example, in a math class, your student may discover an app like Quick Graph to graph equations clearly and cleanly, or in an English class, your students may learn to understand Elizabethan English a little better with the Shakespeare Dictionary! It can be an individual or group assignment, and you can stagger the presentations throughout the semester to coincide with different lessons or even have an “App Day” where everyone presents what they’ve found. Students have now had the opportunity to have hands-on experience seeing how mobile devices can benefit them as they learn, and you’ve had the chance to see how mobile devices can benefit you as an instructor as well!
Some things to consider:
- Apps may vary on different platforms, and won’t be available to all users. Make sure you decide beforehand which devices you’ll allow for this exercise (iPads, Android tablets, smartphones, etc.), in order to avoid frustration and confusion.
- Watch out for costs! There’s a multitude of free apps available, but some of the most comprehensive apps can be pricey. Students may be more reluctant to download multiple apps if the costs are adding up, so be sure to set guidelines for pricing and don’t expect students to download every app their peers find if the costs begin to rise.
- Even with all the apps available, students can easily duplicate apps in an assignment like this. If you’re looking to cut down on having students present the same apps, consider making the assignment more specific for each student. Ask one student or group of students to look for apps to assist with one lesson of the course, while asking another student or group to focus on something else.
Remember: you don’t have to take an all-or-nothing approach to using mobile devices in your courses. As with any changes you make to your teaching material, it can take some research, and a little trial and error. But with methods like this one, you can ease into using apps in the classroom and create an experience that’s enjoyable and educational for your students and yourself!