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App Quality Checklist for Educators

Just because there’s an app for that, doesn’t mean it’s a quality one; consider these 9 quality checklist questions when selecting apps for the classroom.

By Lani Aquino

Almost everyone has a story of an internet search gone awry. Blindly searching for apps can lead to some of the same quandaries of either inappropriateness or inapplicability. That’s why it’s important to have a criterion when searching for apps to use in the classroom. Whether the goal is to find apps to aid in the learning process or to help students and teachers organize/manage all its intricacies, there are lots of options out there. With a go-to checklist in hand, it can be a lot easier to ensure the best choices are being downloaded.

The first inclination in selection may be to head to apps solely categorized as educational. While a developer may have selected Education as the category, it does not necessarily mean that there will be any redeeming educational qualities found within it. By the same token, some great apps for education may be categorized under other headings (i.e., Games, Productivity, Books). Keeping an open mind as app possibilities are selected can be a great first step in finding the right fit. Once a contender has been chosen, these quality checklist questions should be addressed before hitting that download button.

  • Is the app customizable? If the goal is to have an entire class of students use a single app, it’s important to select one that can meet them at their diverse levels. While every app may not be designed to have a teacher register all of his/her students as users, the ability to have the needs of a wide-range of learners met is best. Look for apps with multiple difficulty levels and or options for modifications.
  • Can progress be tracked? If an app is being used to facilitate learning and/or skill building, having it also produce some type of report would be helpful. This can also ensure that students are using the app as assigned.
  • Can data or products generated be shared? If students are creating learning samples or elements of a presentation to be combined with others, the app needs to have a shareable option that would allow these creations to be emailed, posted, etc.
  • Are the graphics and text clear/readable? If students have trouble looking at the app, they will be less likely to use it.
  • Is the app easy to navigate? If it’s a free app, try using it yourself and/or looking for a demo online (Online demos work for paid apps too). A steep learning curve for usage may detract from students’ ability to engage.
  • How are the reviews? This may be the most important factor of all. What are other users saying about the app? It’s typically easy to tell the age range of the reviewers, so take some of the responses with a grain of salt.
  • When was the app last updated? Be sure to check out the version history. This is especially important in regard to timely content. If the app hasn’t been updated since February of 2014, there is probably a better option out there.
  • What’s the price tag? Free apps are not always free. In-app purchases and pop-ups can often make what seemed like a great deal a cost-prohibitive advertisement. Check for hidden costs, instant renewals, and the like. While a free trial/sample is a great option before deciding to purchase, it can also be a frustrating experience.
  • Is the app engaging? If the app doesn’t facilitate learning or organization in an engaging format, then it probably isn’t going to pass muster with the digital generation. The use of technology should enhance learning in a way that doesn’t cause students to dread switching on a device.

Not every app is designed for every student, and each app of interest doesn’t have to be shared or recommended to a whole class. Sometimes giving students and parents options for building skills or managing information can be done on a more individualized basis. Whatever the reason for including the use of apps in the learning process, having a way to navigate through the sea of possibilities becomes a lot easier when teachers are asking the right questions.

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