Wednesday 28 September 2016

Technology assists all of the shiny, 'appy' people

Mary O'Rawe

Published 17/08/2015 | 02:30

Technology assists the shiny, 'appy' people.
Technology assists the shiny, 'appy' people.

"There's an app for that!" seems to be a common cry for just about every encounter. Education apps are becoming more popular with every academic year. In June 2015, Apple's App Store ranked education apps as their third most popular category.

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Considering too that ever-greater numbers of second-level students are entering the third-level environment having experienced an iPad as their main learning mechanism, it's clear that students will now expect a similarly 'smart' experience.

As the number of smartphones among the college population also continues to grow, academia needs to work to connect with students through this medium.

At the pre-entry stage and early orientation to college, many universities and colleges have developed bespoke apps to communicate programme content, guide students around campus, facilitate easy connections to internal and external resources, and provide quick access to the all-important timetable.

From the college's perspective, what would have been a costly exercise just a few years ago can now be developed in a matter of weeks with no need for advanced coding skills, and a budget of just a few hundred euros. DIT's Get Smart! and Prep for DIT are examples of such bespoke apps developed specifically for first-year undergraduates and access students.

Apps can provide benefit in a wide range of areas, but the following themes offer a good start:

Organise Yourself

Students often struggle to beat procrastination, especially in a more independent learning environment. Many apps can help students balance a full academic schedule with a part-time job and social life. Apps such as iProcrastinate from the App Store can help with cracking those scheduling difficulties.

Tackling that individual assessment can be guided by specific apps for various stages of planning e.g. Easybib for writing up that all-important list of references.

A range of learning platforms are now also offered by colleges in app form, e.g. Blackboard, so students can access content while travelling.

Whilst assistive technology apps are geared towards students who have learning difficulties, these apps are useful for the whole student population. Ireland's own UrAbility.com can point learners and educators to the best app resources for a range of learning styles.

Engage Yourself

We've all drifted off in a lecture or talk to find that we missed the main points. A range of great interactive techniques are now available, among the most popular being apps to facilitate multiple-choice quizzes around the content just covered. Socrative is one of the best apps in this category, allowing students to test themselves in a fun and gently competitive environment, and offering a welcome break from listening to the lecturer!

Manage Yourself and your group

Much continuous assessment is group-based at college. You may already have mixed feelings about working in teams from your school experience. It will be important to your success to get your group dynamics sorted out productively.

Trello is a great app for project management, and team members can be added and progress tracked.

Irish Independent

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