By Jonathan Nalder, and Shane Roberts
One common problem for educators seeking to use the iPhone or iPod touch in their learning environment is the fact that the most common uses of the devices for things such as taking attendance, voice recording or interfacing with learning management systems (such as Moodle) require constant exiting and switching between several different apps. All this switching has the potential to keep teacher eyes off students for the precious seconds it takes for them to go off-task. Excessive app-switching will also increase the number of applications accessing the device memory, resulting in a slower operational and response time.
Helping to solve this problem is a new app from iKonstrukt thats simply titled ‘Educate’. Unlike many other education apps released so far for the platform, ‘Educate’ groups several common functions into one program, meaning that running a lesson requires less app-switching. These multiple functions include an inbuilt calendar with welcome widescreen mode, an attendance and grade marking database, a stopwatch, voice recorder, photo tool (take images and add text to them), reference area (with numerous teaching strategy tips) and link to online learning system Moodle (apparently integration with the other main LMS Blackboard is being looked at for a future release).
So can this app live up to its ambitious name of providing everything needed to educate a student? Bearing in mind that this is a 1.0 release, and still has a few quirks (that running the ‘free memory’ app first often helps with), it has in our 3 days of testing proved to be a great start at accomplishing just this lofty goal. It does need the ability to import student names as well as calendar data before time-poor teachers may really start to use all of its planner and tracker features to the full.
What may really convince some Teachers to purchase Educate is its Moodle integration, but I haven’t been able to test this, with my school being Blackboard-based. The app does however seem at this point to only allow the posting of content to Moodle; I’m not sure if …
Another unique Educate feature that should be noted is its in-built link to the app’s Facebook support page where help forums and the growing number of other educators using the app can be directly accessed, again all without closing the app itself.
So is it worth its price of US$6.99 ($8.99 in Australian store)? The answer to this question may depend on how much your school could benefit from mobile access to Moodle, but for those doing the math (one function which you do still have to switch out of Educate for – think I’ll make a calculator a feature request), Educate’s price is cheaper by quite a bit than buying separate apps to get the same functionality.
On the other hand: Why I won’t purchase Educate (personal opinion of shanetechteach);
1. Lesson planning is “trapped” within the device. I can’t access it from my other devices, or share it with others. How can my students see my planning?
2. Doesn’t integrate with BlackBoard.
3. Grade and attendance data seems to be trapped within the application.
I will stick to the use of multiple and free applications until it has a process to copy data from the iPhone or iPod Touch to your laptop or desktop. Where recording of grades and attendance is completed in one program, export is required for school specific processes so that teacher work is not increased by double input. For example, my school uses IDAttend for attendance and OneSchool for reporting. Cohort grades are centrally recorded on a network spreadsheet. As a Head of Department it would not be in my interests to have each of my teacher’s grades stored separately, and only on their device.
So I personally will stick with Google calandar (synced to the iPod Touch calendar) for my lesson planning; iTalk and Evernote for images, notes and voice recording. BlackBoard will still require me to use my computer so no advantage there.
In summary, its great to see a specific education application developed for teachers, however it does not offer the services that would convince me to purchase it - yet?
By the way readers, there’s an active feature request page HERE:
Educate: iPhone & iTouch App for Teachers
Educate is an iPhone/iTouch application designed to support teaching professionals in schools, universities and colleges. Featuring inbuilt lesson planning, student tracking, teaching strategies and eLearning tools, Educate provides teachers with a holistic approach to engaging students in 21st century learning environments.
Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWzPFgZKY9w
Plan lessons: Educate’s inbuilt weekly planner allows teachers to personalise their timetable and plan lessons all from a single interface.
Monitor student attendance and progress: Quickly and easily track student attendance or performance in classes via ready made scales.
Engage students at a deeper level: Access easy to follow strategies for engaging students during individual or collaborative activities.
Implement eLearning: Post real time content to Moodle learning spaces, anywhere, anytime. Also, access critical tools such as a voice recorder for anecdotal notes, a camera that allows you to label images and a stopwatch for time-critical tasks.
Collaborate with other Educate users: Connect online through Facebook with other Educate users to discuss pedagogical practice, suggest application features and seek support.
Price: $6.99 US
Itunes Link: http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=313379802&mt=8