I recently ran across this old blog post I wrote about ensuring mobile applications and utilities are engaging the end user and are not used just as a means to deliver content. While the original blog post was written a little over a year ago, much of the information still holds true today. We need to make sure we engage our students, faculty, parents, and even our community with our applications. Below is the original post, from June 8, 2015 on my personal site:
One of my passions since the start of implementing mobile technologies in the classroom is seeing how we can creatively use these technologies across the campus or district.
Probably my first exposure to mobile technologies in the classroom was in 2005 or so, with the rise of iPods and other portable mp3 players. Within the educational setting, we had a new way to deliver digital lectures and other learning materials to students to listen to “on the go”. This also helped with the rise of iTunes U, but we still had an issue – students are only consuming data, not interacting with faculty and peers, and it is only related to the classroom, not across the enterprise (student services for example).
After the sort of mp3 “boom”, we started to see the rise of smartphones, specifically the iPhone and our ability to expand the content delivery was great. However, for awhile, the interaction with the content was still very static. It was with the start of the iStandford application (MobilEDU, acquired by Blackboard, turned into Blackboard Mobile, then rebranded as Mosaic), that the idea of providing access to student services information and providing institutions a new (and mandatory) way to market themselves. There was (is) still a problem – the apps were created in a manner that it was still a content delivery model. Yes, there are ways you can interact with the app, but how can you begin to interact with your school?
Some vendors that came into the space started adding ways to authenticate into the student information system, providing access to holds, financial data, registration, etc. All major LMS vendors have apps as well for students and faculty to discuss with each other and interact with other content or interactive tools. BUT, this is only a start. It is not only important that we provide real-time access to information for students, but all students want to feel connected to the institution and want mobile technologies to improve their lives (ability to check in to visit the financial aid office or, better yet, real time communication with campus support staff).
An even bigger question is, "How does this translate to K-12??" Many vendors have taken their Higher Education applications and either made minor changes for the K-12 market, or even worse are using the same technologies with a different message. I would say, in the K-12 area, it isn’t just about engaging students and providing access to mobile technologies in the classroom, but now we have to engage parents and maybe even the community with the equivalent of a student services application.
My oldest son starts kindergarten this August, and I could be a mobile nerd (I am), or a too engaged parent (TBD), but I have already downloaded the district app and played around to see if it will meet my “needs” as a parent. Because some of the information is now outdated (end of the school year) and because most doesn’t pertain to me yet, the verdict is still out as to whether or not I will be satisfied with the application as a parent or not. I will say, though, that so far it appears as if a majority of the information is very static, which is always a problem because of there is always a need to update information.