Invent an App in a Snap! – For Your Class….Again!

I was a huge fan of the Android App Maker by Google. It was so simple and easy to use. With just a few clicks, one could quickly create a simple app and use it for teaching topics in online or blended learning. However, sadly, Google shut down support for the App Inventor and that was it….. until now!

Mitappinventor

Thanks to MIT, you can once again begin building apps using the MIT App Inventor. It still has the simple drag and drop functions so don’t worry about programming. I’m really excited to check it out!

Have you built an app for your class using the MIT App Inventor? What do you think? How have you used the apps you built for teaching or learning?

Interested in Mobile Learning? Check out a few of my previous posts:

8 Ways to Jumpstart Mobile Learning

14 Crucial Tips for Mobile Learning

A 100% Mobile Course Using Blackboard Mobile: PE

13 Superstar Mobile Apps for Blended Learning

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13 Superstar Mobile Apps for Blended Learning!

This is the last of three posts on 13 Resources, 13 Tools, and 13 Mobile Apps for Blended Learning. If you haven’t checked out Mobile Learning Design or 8 Ways to Jumpstart Mobile Learning, you may find some helpful tips there as you begin to explore the exciting world of mobile learning. Here also is an infographic of iPad apps using Bloom’s Taxonomy I found recently.

First important question: Why is mobile learning so big right now?

Mobile technology is increasing amazingly fast. Just check out this video on some statistics!

Thanks to the variety of apps available, there are numerous ways to engage students by leveraging this technology. Below are only 13 of the many apps out there. Have a favorite that is not listed? Share it with us in the comments area below.

13 Superstar Mobile Apps for Blended Learning!

1.  GroupMeDiscussion boards can be a great way to have students share ideas and thoughts around a topic. Groupme make this easier by allowing you to set up groups of people by cell phone number. If anyone adds a comment, the rest of the group is notified by text. The cool thing about this is that if some of the students don’t have smartphones, they can still send and receive texts to participate. We used this at a conference recently to keep us all connected. No more being tethered to a non-mobile and less efficient discussion board! Click here for a video app review of GroupMe.

2. UstreamA few weeks ago, my nephew came to play football at the BSU Bronco stadium. My brothers all wished they could have been there to see him play, but thanks to Ustream, they were able to watch it from home! I used this app and held out the phone and streamed the game to them. It lets you share a URL to email or facebook/twitter. Just hold the phone out like you are filming. My brothers were actually surprised at how clear the audio & video was. No, they couldn’t really identify my nephew but it was a lot of fun. The polling and chat features make it somewhat interactive. This could be great if you want to bring in a visitor to your class or broadcast from somewhere “on location” or outside.

3. AurasmaAurasma uses augmented reality. Add levels of augmented reality into your classroom for a virtual field trip. I would suggest you download the free Aurasma Lite and go to this site and check out some of the auras. You will see that as you view the images with the app, they come alive with animations, sound, and video.  Imagine your classroom with hidden layers that you created and send students around to view the hidden videos/pics/etc using the app. The possibilities are endless!

4. Layars Think about how much information is on the Internet about the town where you live. If you were to search the Internet, you would find multiple videos, images, crimes, neighborhood information, news articles, etc. that relate to your area. Now imagine if the GPS in your mobile device could link all this information depending upon where you are located, and then show you location specific relevant information. The Layars app does this remarkably well! It ties in websites and uses GPS to tag them to your location. You turn on the different layers and see different things depending upon where you are. Go to the courthouse and turn on a layar and you will see youtube videos and images about that location.You can turn on the wikipedia layar or any of the hundreds of others. If you want students to explore the history, culture, or city surroundings in their area, this app really makes it easy and enjoyable.You can also read here about why one guy thinks this is the coolest app in the world.

Here is a video on the Layars app. As you watch it consider how this technology may create exciting and engaging ways for learning in your course.


5. DropboxYou may have heard about the cloud that allows files to be stored on the Internet and accessed from multiple computers. Dropbox is a great app that allows you to have a folder on your computer at work, laptop at home, and mobile device. Inside that folder you can access images, videos, and other files. Students can easily share work on files and projects as well using dropbox or sharing the folders with their teacher. Here is a video on Dropbox for more information. Now with the iOS 5, there is also the iCloud for iOS which is similar to Dropbox.

6. Voice ThreadVoicethread allows you to set up groups to collaborate around a video, picture, text, or any type of multimedia. Students can post comments similar to a discussion board, but they can comment by text or audio recording. The voicethread app makes these even easier by allowing you to stay connected and post & view comments from anywhere. If you want to learn more click here to learn more about Voicethread Mobile.

7.  Join.meHave you ever wanted to share your computer screen with someone? Now you can! This app makes demonstrating how to navigate a website or a software tool a cinch. The nice thing about this app is that you can also share your computer screen to a mobile device (which allows for chatting back and forth). Its free and simple to use. The only con is that you can’t share your mobile device screen (only desktops can share). However, you can view the desktop being shared on your mobile device.

8. Skype Skype allows free calls and video face to face meetings. Why not bring in professionals that use the topic you are teaching in their everyday life. Help students learn the relevance of any topic by having an outside visitor come and answer their questions virtually. Teaching Zoology? Have a visitor from the zoo skype in. Teaching culture? Have a class from another country skype in and learn from other people. The world is smaller once you start using apps like this.

9. QR Code Maker & ReaderThere are many ways to use QR codes for blended learning. I posted earlier a video on just a few ways you could use QR codes from McGuffy, PA.  QR readers are free and allow you to scan the code and jump quickly to a website, video, or other file. Instead of remembering long websites, once you scan it, it’s stored on your phone. We use QR codes for practices so students can scan them and then have them on their phone ready to view and practice whenever they like.

10. Animoto Animoto lets you upload images, pictures, and text, select from their audio library or upload your own, and then quickly make it into an exciting collage video. This is a great way for students to use their creative skills to develop brief presentations on the topics you cover in class. You can do it on a computer as well but this Animoto app is so easy to use I had to include it here.

11. Algebra Touch Math is one of the areas where you never really have enough practice.  This app allows students to practice Algebra. There is a free version you can try out. It makes a great supplement for students struggling to grasp Algebraic concepts.

 12. Star Walk This is a must have for any Science or Astronomy teacher. It uses GPS to display the stars, constellations, and planets all relative to how you hold the device. Even if no stars are visible, you can still see them with the StarWalk app.

13. TourWrist Take a tour of far away places or create and share your own 360 degree tour. You likely see this technology when house hunting with 360 virtual tours but this app makes it easy for you to create your own and the view responds to where and how you hold the mobile device. Imagine it being a lens you are looking through to view Egyptian Pyramid, Machu Picchu, or even the White House. Engulf your students in virtual field trips that would never otherwise be possible with this app. Exciting!

 

What other Superstar Mobile Apps have you found that are great for mobile learning? What concerns do you have with using apps like this for learning? Leave a comment.

8 Ways to Jumpstart Mobile Learning in Your Courses!

I’ve been counting down the posts for the time when I get to share these tools and tricks on mobile learning options since starting this blog. Previously I’ve posted on Mobile Learning Design and our 100% Mobile Blackboard course. Today I’ll share several different ways to jump right in and start implementing mobile learning in courses.

8 Ways to Jumpstart Mobile Learning in Your Courses

1.  Learn Mobile Design. I would start by reviewing principles of mobile learning design. Just knowing basic principles of instructional design for mobile devices can go a long way as you decide how you want to approach mobile learning. It also helps you to consider what things you may already be doing that can be slightly tweaked to leverage this technology. Here is a post I did recently on 14 Crucial Tips for Mobile Learning Design.

2.  Use Surveys. Before you start mobile learning, consider your students. Do they have access to mobile devices? What would they like to do with them? Think of questions to put on the survey that will give your institution a good insight into the mobile device usage of your students. This will help later on when you decide which types of mobile devices to support, how many you extra devices you might need to have accessible, and overall help you understand your student’s perspective. We sent out a survey to our students and they gave us great feedback. A couple tools that I think that are good for surveys are surveymonkey and polleverywhere.

Surveymonkey – Is a free survey tool (free version and a pay version available). Check out this tool. You’d be surprised how helpful surveys can be to help you gain insight into what your students are thinking. It is very easy to create them and then you just either email or embed the survey link in your website. Be sure and include a “respond by” date and incentives are always great too (extra credit points, etc)! Surveymonkey works on mobile devices as well.

Polleverywhere – This tool embeds right into your Power Point presentation or site so as you present to the class, you can ask them questions. They simply whip out their mobile devices and text the response which shows up automatically on your slide.  This is a lot like the really expensive clickers but it leverages the mobile devices students already have. There is a free version (I think up to 30 students) and then there are cost versions. I’ve been able to use the free version so far but there are some great reasons to upgrade to the pay version if you can.

3.  Podcasts & Vodcasts. Why not make a podcast of your lesson? There are some great tools that allow you to easily record an audio message and then share it with students. Then they can listen to it on the bus, as they wait, or wherever they go. Podcasts don’t take much time and students appreciate the option to rewind and review topics you are presenting. You can put them on a website and send the students a link, or just put them on CD or a jumpdrive.

Audacity is a great free open source tool for making podcasts. Once installed you simply click the record button and export the podcast to your computer.

Aviary.com is a free online tool for creating podcasts! It’s part of the fantastic suite of online tools they provide. You can also add intro music to your podcasts to make them sound even more professional. Once you are done, just publish your masterpieces to your computer as MP3.

For video podcasts (where it shows you on a webcam in addition the audio, you can use  Garageband (free with Mac) or Windows Movie Maker (free with Windows).  Just be sure and publish the video to a format the works on mobile devices (and test it to be sure it works).

Don’t want to reinvent the wheel? No problem! There are an ever-growing library of podcasts on almost any topic. Simply perform a search like “Spanish podcasts” and you may be surprised that you find just what you are looking for. You can also use itunes U to locate educational podcasts.

4.  QR Codes. QR Codes are similar to barcodes but you take a picture with your mobile device (that has the QR code app reader on it) and it will pull up videos, websites, or other links. We actually put a QR code in Blackboard so students can take a picture of their computer screen while working on a unit and have the practice stored on their mobile device for easy reference later on when they want to practice. This keeps them from having to log into BB or remembering long URL codes.  Here is a link to a great QR code maker (Kayway) that is free. QR code readers for mobile devices and regular computers using webcams are also available. Still not convinced? Check out this video McGuffey SD in PA made on how their school uses QR Codes. Pretty neat stuff!

5.  Mobile Practices & Learning Games. I’m a big fan of practices for students so they can grasp the particular concepts that they struggle with. If every topic has some non-graded practices or learning games for them, they can self-select the practices that will help most. This individualized learning can impact their assignment and test scores dramatically.

Softchalk – Softchalk is a simple tool to create multiple choice, matching, true false, etc practices. It isn’t free but they have a SCORM tool and it works with learning management systems quite well. We developed mobile practices for each unit of some of our courses and placed the practices prior to the unit quiz. This way, students can practice and prepare for the quizzes on the go.

Raptivity – Raptivity has a huge selection of learning game & practice interactives which we use in our courses. Most are flash-based, but there are several that work with HTML5 so they work on mobile devices. The tool is somewhat intuitive and you type in the questions and answers and publish the games to your computer. Similar to Softchalk, the files can then be placed on a server or a CD/jumpdrive, and shared with students.

Hotpotatoes – This trusty tool has been free for awhile and a lot of educators use it to create simple practices for their courses. It’s great for that! While not specifically developed for mobile devices, I found that if I create a hotpotato practice, it creates an HTML file. Then, if I open that HTML in notepad and add the following metadata, the practice will snap to fit the mobile device that views the practice (making it look nice on mobile devices). Its a bit of a “duct-tape” way to do it, but its free, pretty simple and works! Students are just thrilled to have the practices mobile! 😉

If you do use Hotpoatoes, here is the HTML to make it snap to fit a mobile device:
<meta name = “viewport” content = “width = device-width”> <meta name = “viewport” content = “initial-scale = 1.0”>

The metatag HTML above actually works for a lot of different HTML pages. Try it out with your HTML page and see how it looks.

MobileStudy – This is a free tool which lets you easily create practice questions for students and then publish them to their mobile devices.

AppInventor for Android – This tool lets you create apps for your courses. It’s free to use and very intuitive. However, it only works for Android mobile devices. iOS also has an app inventor but I heard that is it not quite as easy as this one for Android. You pretty much just build your little site using their tool and publish it. Pretty cool!

6.  Mobile Blogs & Communication Tools. Students want to be in contact with their peers. Thankfully, there are some great ways you can incorporate collaboration and communication using mobile devices.

Mobile VoiceThread – Voice thread is an online tool you can use to create conversation among students around a graphic, video, website, or any topic. Students can use their mobile devices and post verbal or text comments on a particular picture, video, etc.

Posterous & Blogger – Both of these blog sites have the ability to create a private blogs and can share only with your students if you choose. They both also have an app so students can post comments or posts to the blog using mobile devices. I have two blogs, one on posterous and one on Blogger. Both tools have advantages and weaknesses.

7.  Educational Apps. It’s really important that you check out what mobile apps are available in the content area you are teaching. Because of the touch screen of a mobile device, apps are creating new ways to interact with content for learning. The Star Walk app, Algebra Touch app, and Fooducate apps are just a few examples.

If you decide to incorporate educational apps into your courses, keep in mind what devices students have access to. If you don’t want to restrict them to a certain device, you can find an alternative app for each of the main mobile devices (can be time-consuming). You will also need to decide if you’ll only use the free apps or paid apps as well. There are many educational apps to choose from.

8.  Use a Mobile LMS. If you are already using a Learning Management System, you are likely familiar with some of the benefits of an LMS. However, now there are some mobile options for accessing content with them as well. I posted earlier about our course using Blackboard Mobile, but there are actually several different options.

Thanks to Idaho Digital Learning, here is an archived webinar of this presentation that was given to faculty this summer (2011).

These are just a few ways to incorporate learning devices in courses. I’m sure there are many more ways that I didn’t include, so please let me know what you think in the comments area below. Also, if you are on Twitter, do a search for #mlearning #mobilelearning #mobile or #edtech and you will find an enormous amount of great tools and apps that are available for educators using mobile devices.

A 100% Mobile Course Using Blackboard Mobile: PE

About a year ago, we sent our students a survey to ask them how they would like to interact with their courses using mobile devices. Not surprisingly, they overwelmingly responded that they wanted to do it all!

55% of our students (Idaho HS students) responded that they had access to a mobile device with Internet access. An additional 5% said that they plan to have access within the next year.

Survey: What do students want to do with mobile devices?

  • #1 – Check my grades – 84%
  • #2 – Discussion boards – 65%
  • #3 – Complete Assignments – 50%
  • #4 – Review with Practices, Podcasts, & Mobile activities – 45%

Here are just a few of the suggestions we received from students:

  • Make all the assignments compatible with mobile devices 😉
  • Make class work compatible with mobile devices. We’re entering a world of which includes many new innovative tools that are taking us into a new technological period… Modern educational innovation is what I crave as a student. 😉
  • Continue to offer different things using mobile devices.
  • Being able to study for test on mobile devices.

Because of this feedback, we began implementing mobile learning options for our students. I will write more about the different ways to jumpstart mobile learning in your courses in a future post but this one is specifically on our completely mobile course we developed using Blackboard Mobile.

Why Blackboard Mobile?

The majority of the online courses we offer are developed using Blackboard. It made sense for us to leverage the knowledge we already had when developing a mobile course. We also liked some of the tools available in Blackboard Mobile. We decided that for our first mobile course we would offer Mobile PE (Lifetime Fitness).  Note: This course is 100% mobile for students only. Currently, teachers still need to do the grading, etc using a desktop or laptop computer.

Why Lifetime Fitness?

We’ve offered online Lifetime Fitness for several years. Kids love it! Mobile devices allow us to leverage new and exciting ways to learn the content in the course. Also, lifetime fitness, by name logically relates to movement and exercise, which is done away from a standard computer.

How is the course designed?

This was our first attempt at designing an online course to run completely on mobile devices. However, we referred to Basic Principles of Mobile Learning Design to help us get started.

  • Modules are small to allow students to easily start & stop.
  • The discussion boards and blogs tools work great in Blackboard mobile so we designed the assignments around these tools. Currently, neither the assignment tool nor the test tool are mobile friendly so we did not use them for this course.
  • The Check Grades tool also works well so students can check their grades at their convenience.
  • Types of Assessments Include:
    • Discussion Board.  The discussion board tool works pretty well in BB Mobile. We did have to create a thread inside each discussion board with the prompt in it to ensure that the students can see the prompt. 
    • Public Blogs.  Similar to the the discussion boards, these look great in BB Mobile. Students are able to post pictures to the blogs in collaborative assignments. 
    • Private Blogs – I presume that in the future Blackboard will make the assignment tool and/or the test tool mobile friendly, but currently they are not (meaning you have to click “view in browser” and then zoom in and out in order to complete the assignment or test).  Because of this, we used the private blog so students could submit their responses to their teacher privately. It’s a good alternative if you keep in mind two things: 1) Students don’t want to type long essays using their keypad so you will want to minimize the data entry and 2) For teachers, grading a blog may be more time consuming than the regular “assignment tool” assignments.
    • Free iOS apps (there is no textbook) but the students download the apps to practice and learn from as they progress through the units. Its much more than just reading the content thanks to these cool apps. The teacher also developed a list of extra websites and “additional apps” just in case an app dissappears from the appstore, is no longer free, or if an app doesn’t install correctly for whatever reason on the student’s device. Then once a student learns the topic using the app, they post the answers to questions related to the app using the “private blog” assignment tool. Some of the apps we use include the Nike Training App, Target Weight, Heart Rate, Calorie Counter, Daily Burn, and GoLearn Cycling.
  • Navigating Mobile Lifetime Fitness:

  • Module View of Mobile Lifetime Fitness:

 

  • Snapshots from Course. Additionally here are some views of the course.
    1coursemap3module12discussionboard2-5discussionboards

We also built in mobile surveys using Surveymonkey throughout the course to get feedback from students on what they like and what they think could be better about the course. This data will be crucial as we integrate mobile learning components in future courses.

By the way, in case you missed the earlier post, here are 14 Crucial Tips for Mobile Learning Design. Blackboard also has some Best Practices for Mobile Learning with BB Mobile.

What do you think about Mobile Learning? Do you have any suggestions on design tips for an effective mobile course?

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This information was shared thanks to Idaho Digital Learning.

14 Crucial Tips for Mobile Learning Design

When I first started studying mobile learning and how instructional design for mobile differs from regular online courses, I searched the Internet and would have appreciated a list like this to give me a few pointers to start out. My hope is that this list benefits you and that if you have some tips, you’ll leave them for me in the comments area below. 😉 There is still so much to learn about mobile learning design.

1. Structure

Unlike regular online courses, mobile device learning should be structured in such a way that a user can easily stop & re-start their learning in episodic patterns. Keep in mind students might be on the bus, at a game, or somewhere where learning may be full of distractions

Students also appreciate open navigation (ability to move around and choose the topics as they like) more than the traditional locked-down step by step navigation.

2. Smaller Chunking

Group your content so that chunks of information can be quickly accessed and completed in short periods of time. This allows students to learn on the go and complete as they multi-task. Extensive reading on a mobile device is only ideal when content is chunked and interesting 😉 

3. Minimize Typing

Typing on a mobile device is not as easy as typing on a keyboard. Its that simple. 😉 Keep this in mind as you design your assignments by trying to minimize data entry. Using multiple choice, true false, and matching questions can help with this, but also try and think outside the box. Mobile devices allow for interesting simulation practices and assignments beyond just regular multiple choice type questions. Leverage the new ways of interacting that can be done with mobile devices!

4. Daily Events

The more daily events you can have the student correlate with their learning the better. Its all about making the course relevant to their life.

5. Integrating Location

Take advantage of where students are located and allow them to integrate where they are and what they are doing there with the learning activities and discussions. Topics can integrate location into different learning activities. What perspectives might they add to the course just by living in a specific region or area?

6. Communication and Discussions, Polls, Blogs, & Surveys

Students want to communicate and share just-in-time real world experiences with other students. Polls & surveys also allow students to express opinions and get answers to questions.

Similar to a blog, students can post pics/videos/audio they take with their phone and share it with classmates. One free mobile blog tool I use is wordpress.com

7. Podcasts & Vodcasts

Content for the lesson should be accessible in a variety of formats: readable written text, audio podcast, and a video vodcast of the lesson.  One statistical analysis reported that students believed podcasts to be more effective than their own notes to help them learn.

8. Non-Graded Practices

Non-graded practices encourage students to practice without fear of failure. These practices can help prepare them for an assignment, quiz, or test.

9. Leverage Existing Educational Apps

No need for an etext! There are some excellent educational apps that can increase the quality of the course (many of which are free). Students can track themselves and play around with the app, then log findings as part of their assignments. The apps must work on all mobile devices allowed for the course.

10. Consider which devices you will support

Devices vary and what works on an Android OS may not work on an iOS and vice versa.  Users with the Iphone have higher satisfaction than those with only iTouch or iPad. Constant connectivity increases satisfaction.  One study found that a phone seems to be the best device because of the connectivity but requiring one in order to take a course will definitely deprive some students from participating.

11. Avoid costs to Students

Keep in mind the size of files you use for mobile learning. If the student is incurring costs to learn via their mobile devices, that is problematic. Try and keep images, videos, and other files as small as possible for downloading and use.

12. Find Grades Fast

Students want to see & understand grades easily. According to a mobile survery we sent to students last year, one of the tasks that they wanted most was the ability to check their grades anytime on their mobile devices.

13. On Demand Alerts

Alerts & text reminders sent for office hours, when student’s grades are posted, discussion reply notifications, etc helps increase retention. This also helps students return to the course more often. After all, who can stay away from Hanging with Friends after you receive an alert telling you that its your turn to play! 😉

14. Testing, Testing, and more Testing

Test your course on the devices you plan to support. Keep in mind that complete course redesign around mobile technologies is significantly more challenging than including a few mobile tools into an existing course. Some suggest you only incorporate one or two mobile components into your existing course and try them out. If you have done this, please let me know how it went by leaving a comment below.

Also, always have alternatives in case the app  or mobile tool you chose to use is no longer available or problems arise (which they often do). Having alternative available and testing on multiple devices will help you side-step a lot of the issues that may occur.

If you are curious about how a completely mobile course would work, here is a post on a Mobile Lifetime Fitness course we designed that runs completely on a mobile device using some free apps and Blackboard Mobile.

 

So what other mobile learning design tips do you have? Do you agree or disagree with any of these? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments area below. Mobile Learning Design is so new there is definitely a lot of room for discussion.

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Resources:

Designing Learning Activities with Mobile Technologies, Designing Learning Activities with Mobile Technologies, Hokyoung Ryu & David Parsons.

Effectiveness of Mobile Learning in Distance Education. Dr. Muhammad Imran YOUSUF, Lecturer, Division of Continuing Education, University of Arid Agriculture, Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Students Attitudes & Perceptions Towards the Effectiveness of Mobile Learning, Dr. Fahad N. Al-Fahad. King Saudi University

The effectiveness of m-learning in the form of podcast revision lectures in higher education. Chris Evens. Centre for Educational Multimedia, Brunel Business School, Brumel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex UP8 3PH, UK

2009 Mobile Learning Report: Abilene Chrisian University, Abilene Christian University

Mobl21. http://www.mobl21.com/blog/21/some-best-practices-for-mobile-learning/