I’m guessing you may have heard the Chinese proverb:
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
I contend this advice is applicable today as it relates to selecting and using apps for mobile devices such as tablet computers and smartphones. If you do a search of “apps for teachers” or “special education apps” you get thousands of hits. Many of those links connect to someone’s personal list of “recommended apps.” That’s okay, but I think it is too easy, and subsequently ineffective.
A foundational element of learning is that every learner is unique. If that is true then it is the responsibility of effective educators to get to know their learners and find just the right resources to help them. Here is where the power of 100,000 apps comes in. With that many choices out there, surely some exist that are just the right resources to help each learner. However, if we simply place our trust in someone else’s recommendations, someone who doesn’t know our specific students, then we’re just shooting in the dark. What to do?
Rather than offering a Top 10 or Top 100 list, I think it is more powerful to help educators become skilled at determining the effectiveness and quality of apps for themselves. Teachers should explore just how individual apps fit individual student needs—or not. There are some good rubrics in the public domain that can serve as a place to start talking about quality. Going through the process of evaluating apps together (or any other type of resource, for that matter) helps a group of educators have fidelity to the common core values of the school and helps everyone be a better educator. Having a discussion about an app always involves considering how the app could be used. Hearing what someone else would do or does with an app will help expand everyone’s thinking. When this happens, not only are educators learning to fish, they are fishing together.