Recently I got a chance to talk to my daughter’s school about educational apps and use of iPads in the school. Here is what I took away from the meeting
Make educational content to be the most entertaining part your app
Some apps have a feature where users get to design their own avatar to play the educational games or they get to play a game after they achieve a level.
Such activities should not be the most entertaining part of an educational app, because they could distract students from more important content such as working on math skill or solving a physics problem, or learning letters. These activities could be made educational or should have a time limit.
Include multiuser functionality
Usually one ipad is shared between multiple students in a classroom (in my daughter’s school about 5 to 7 students share one ipad), thus having a multiuser functionality inside the app is very a useful feature. A good number of users allowed inside the app could be anywhere from 5 to 10.
Provide progress report through apps
The app should be able to provide the detailed report (progress report) of how it was used by individual students, to the teachers, thus making it more usable in the educational environment.
Give away accessories
As iPads become a norm in education, accessories such as styluses, headphones, microphones only improve the experience of using apps inside a classroom. Schools could have iPads but not the accessories due to low budget. If your budget allows, donating them could be a great way to help your local schools and ease transition of apps in the classrooms.
If your apps need tracing or writing, donating styluses will help schools use your apps more often. If apps have recording function, then donating microphones is a good idea.
Many Facebook contest give aways are iTunes gift certificates or promo codes. It will be a good idea to give away accessories as well.
Educate your local schools about the events such as App Friday
Public schools are restricted by low budget, thus they end up getting a lot of FREE apps which may not always serve their purpose, thus it is very important for them to know of the events like AppFriday and app sites such as AppyMall, best apps for kids, smart apps for kids and KinderTown where they often feature many top rated apps that are discounted or FREE, and schools could load up their ipads and read the app reviews and recommendations!
We as individual developers should educate our local schools about such events and resources. The technology representative in the school can in turn take this information to the county level meetings to let other schools know.
Provide material to help schools integrate apps inside their classrooms
One of the jobs of the tech specialist at schools is to research apps and figure out how these apps can be integrated inside the classroom and then educate teachers. Given that there are so many apps out there and many teachers are not used to them, this exercise could be quite overwhelming.
Creating a document of curriculum around your apps for schools to use will be tremendously helpful. Developers could post this document on their websites or inside the app itself.
Also a dialogue with school could help developers create features in their apps that will complement schools curriculum.
Attend technology meetings at school
School’s tech specialist often has meetings with all teachers on a regular basis. It would be a great idea to ask if you could attend one of these meetings and offer help to be a contact person for any educational apps need. It will help you to get to know the teachers and their concerns.
Connect with school’s PTO (Parent Teacher Organization)
Many schools have a very active PTO that helps them raise funds. Getting in touch with them is a great way to find out how you could help with school’s technological needs.
I hope my fellow educational app developers find this information useful. Feel free to leave a comment about your experience and add to this list for different ways we can better collaborate with our local schools.