Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Thing 15: App-palooza!

Okay, humiliating admission: Not only do I NOT have an iphone or an ipad, but my ipod is probably more than 6 years old (beyond outdated by today's standards).  And get this - I don't even have a "real" cell phone plan; I actually use a zippy TracPhone I bought at Target 2 years ago.  I don't use it for internet or apps - I actually use it to make calls when I can't get to a real phone, such as when I'm stuck in traffic and will be late, or at a store and don't know which wallboard screws my husband wants.  Yes, I do text - but ditto to the above.  I text for purpose not for pleasure.... most of the time anyway.

But don't get me wrong: I'm not a purist nor am I anti-technology.  I just haven't found my life requiring me to add more layers of complexity to my already complex existence.... at least until I read some of these articles. 

Before I go into my take on the wide world of apps, though, please let me digress enough to say that my husband owns a Samsung Galaxy.  Not the phone, mind you, but the bitty device version.  This, too, is at least 2 years old, and I'm not allowed to play with it.  I'm pretty sure it has a few apps on it, like the ubiquitous constellation finder and the other such novelties.  But we're just not gadget people, which is truly ironic given I'm a Library Media Specialist and he's a software engineer.  I guess we just don't want to get sucked any more into the disposable world of state of the art technology that is outdated before you walk from the store to your car than is absolutely necessary.  We like to make investments that last - like our Toyotas.  We buy them new and expect them to run and look good for years... like 10 years... and they do.

But on to the assignment.  Okay, I read/explored about a half dozen of the articles and lists, and I truly did find it interesting.  I was relieved that I recognized a lot of the apps that I use in non-app version (not even sure the lexicology I should be using there!).  For example, I teach my 6th grade Library classes using Edmodo, although more times than not, I find we need to use the good old print versions for links to articles that mysteriously won't open.  And I use and/or teach Prezi, IXL, Google Earth, GoodReads, Blogger (ah hem), and DropBox.  That said, there were, of course, tons of apps that I never knew existed.  Specifically, I was intrigued by the Cinderella App from Nosy Crow, because I teach an extensive 398.2 Unit on Folklore, wherein we spend 5 class periods reading versions of Cinderella from around the world that we compare and contrast in Venn Diagrams and then write about.  I think the kids would love to "play" inside the story - although the description of the activities made me think of the very 1990's "interactive books" that used to be so big.  I even wrote my Master's Thesis on them in 1997.  But would this app actually enhance my lessons or just serve to entertain the kids?  I'm not sure....

Also, I really liked the idea of the MyCongress app.  Now there's something that might be handy for me to use in the classroom.  Our 8th graders are going to Washington D.C. in the Spring and I'm working with the ELA and SS teachers to come up with inquiry projects to make this trip an educational experience with embedded learning opportunities.  How cool would it be for our kids to have access to information on how congress is working EVERY day in REAL life as it is happening?! 

But the other big factor in the back of my mind as I browsed this myriad of offerings, is that my school, like me, is just not there yet either.  We're only now introducing circulating sets of iPads and are still firming up our wireless access.  Apps are definitely on the horizon, but as of now it's still largely uncharted territory.  I know most of my colleagues have smart devices or androids, and probably are way ahead of me in the app department - so for once, maybe they can teach me a thing or two!

I do know from reading these articles and browsing the app lists that there's a lot of potential for educational connections.  I certainly don't feel that they are the key to great teaching, but like with any tool, they certainly can enhance what we do.

I'm just glad I had this opportunity to explore even if I couldn't play.  At least I feel I can be part of the conversation as my school moves forward - and that's certainly something.