Education professors come to teachers' aidby Doug Bell
Two enterprising Spadoni College of Education professors have created an Internet database that they hope will become the Google of educational apps. It’s called App Ed Review, and it provides helpful reviews about the best educational apps for teachers.
The project got its start a year ago in Todd Cherner’s graduate literacy class. His students were mostly elementary school teachers who had been given iPads by the their local school district to use in their classroom. The challenge, according to Cherner, an assistant professor of education who earned his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, was that these teachers were provided with only a limited number of iPad training sessions and didn’t know where to start when it came to selecting the right apps.
“There are thousands of teaching apps out there, but not much in the way of guidance,” says Cherner, who likens the situation to visiting a grocery store where nothing is shelved or categorized. “Imagine that all the food is thrown into a big heap, and you have to find a banana.”
Cherner began reviewing the existing online tools for evaluating the quality of educational apps, and he found that only a limited number of such tools existed. He and a colleague, Cheng-Yuan “Corey” Lee, an assistant professor in the Department of Foundations, Literacy and Technology, began discussing how to develop a tool to assist teachers in selecting the best apps to support their use of iPads in the classroom.
The two professors developed a 26-point classification system, or rubric, for evaluating apps designed for the education field. They created a host website, called App Ed Review (appedreview.org), where each app reveiw is posted along with a report describing its particular value and usefulness to teachers.
These app reviews are one of the features that make App Ed Review superior to other such sites, they believe.
“Our reports are written from the perspective of teachers, specifically taking their needs into account,” says Lee, who has been on the CCU faculty for four years and previously worked at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Many other sites simply link to descriptions posted in the App Store, which provide basically no more than advertising copy.
The App Ed Review offers succinct descriptions of the apps based on a close evaluation of their instructional value, design quality and potential to engage students. Importantly, App Ed Review provides instructional ideas for using the apps that are informed by the Common Core State Standards. To ensure a high standard of quality, an editorial board was created comprised of state certified teachers who hold or are earning graduate degrees in education.
App Ed Review classifies apps into two main categories. Teacher Resource Apps are those that assist teachers with such tasks as attendance, lesson planning and assessment. Instructional Apps are concerned with actual classroom functions and cover a wide range of subject areas ranging from English and math to sports and nutrition.
The attractive, user-friendly site has already posted evaluations for more than 140 apps, and its popularity is rising. Cherner and Lee report that the site received 372 visits (as opposed to hits) last Wednesday, Feb. 26, and they have noted lots of social media interest, particularly on Twitter and Pinterest. The scholarly journal CITE (Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education) has accepted an article by Cherner and Lee about their app classification system.
The App Ed Review was supported with a $5,000 Professional Enhancement grant awarded by the Provost’s Office. Cherner and Lee began working on it in March 2013, and the site went online in November. They estimate they have spent about 500 hours on it altogether. The initial impetus for the project was to support local teachers, and although they see the site as having an unlimited reach, they hope it will always serve CCU’s local school districts.
“Our intention is to always maintain it as a free site,” says Lee, “a free resource for working teachers.”
For more information about the app, visithttp://www.appedreview.org