Evaluating authentic mobile apps for learning

Back inward Apr 2013 I delivered a workshop at the IATEFL 2013 conference inward Liverpool. The topic of the workshop was ‘Criteria for Evaluating Web Tools as well as Apps‘ as well as inward the workshop I encouraged participants to portion as well as explore their subconscious criteria for deciding which apps as well as spider web based tools they used amongst their students.

I peculiarly encouraged them to think almost ‘authentic’ apps rather than those made for learning. This is because inward many ways I experience that most made for learning apps receive got made really piddling pedagogical progress beyond their roots inward CALL from the concluding century.

I also believe that encouraging students to acquire ‘hands on’ amongst authentic apps has a much to a greater extent than of import role inward helping them to prepare digital literacies which they tin dismiss exercise exterior of the classroom.

As a resultant of that workshop as well as the inquiry that developed from it I’ve instantly developed this listing of criteria for evaluating mobile apps for educational purposes.

Here I’ve divided the criteria into four categories as well as given some explanation of each. I welcome your comments as well as feedback every bit this is silent really much a operate inward progress.


Accessibility – Will all the students receive got the necessary equipment to exercise it? Will it operate across all / most mobile platforms as well as also operate inside a desktop spider web browser?
  • Unless teachers are working inward a teaching environs where a uniform laid of physical devices are provided for students, such every bit a consummate laid of iPads or Android tablets, as well as thence they demand to cheque carefully that all the diversity of devices that their students possess are all supported. The safest way to ensure this is to cheque to come across if the app also has a browser based version, thence that students without up-to-date mobile devices volition silent endure able to participate.
User friendly – Will students endure able to larn how to exercise it reasonably quickly?
  • Apps that are complex as well as accept a long fourth dimension to master copy may non endure worth the commitment. Teachers demand to ensure that they programme how to instruct the students how to exercise the apps inward a reasonable amount of fourth dimension or receive got a strategy for gradually regain to a greater extent than features of an app every bit they prepare to a greater extent than activities amongst it.
Registration – Do students demand to register to exercise it?
  • Getting students as well as teachers to register as well as cry upward passwords tin dismiss endure laborious as well as fourth dimension consuming, thence apps that don’t require registration as well as peculiarly those which run inward the browser on mobile or desktop tin dismiss endure really convenient to use. Registration does nonetheless offering students to a greater extent than protection as well as makes whatever potential misuse or mischief trackable dorsum to its source.
Security – Is the app secure?
  • Although it tin dismiss endure hard as well as fourth dimension consuming to check, teachers demand to determine that the app is secure as well as the creators volition process their students information as well as personal information responsibly as well as confidentially. If at that spot is whatever cast of social interaction enabled through the app teachers demand to cheque if at that spot is whatever machinery or procedure for blocking as well as reporting abuse.


Price – Is it gratuitous or affordable?
  • One of the swell advantages of apps is that many are free, freemium (have both a gratuitous as well as a commercial version) or are quite depression cost. Having said that, fifty-fifty if depression toll apps are existence used it needs to endure decided who volition pay for them, especially if each educatee inward the score needs one.
Business model – Is at that spot a draw of piece of occupation organisation model to back upward the app? Is it clear how it makes money?
  • Every app producer needs to laid upward coin somehow, thence it is of import to position the draw of piece of occupation organisation model supporting the evolution of an app. Although teachers as well as students are keen to exercise gratuitous apps, apps that receive got no visible draw of piece of occupation organisation model may endure generating coin through advertising or past times trading data. An app that has no visible agency of fiscal support, may receive got a really brusque life span, rapidly conk unreliable, as well as neglect to prepare as well as evolve due to lack of funds.


Digital literacy – Does learning as well as using the app assist students to prepare a useful or transferable digital literacy?
  • Just using an app inward itself doesn’t necessarily flora developing a digital literacy. The exercise of the app must inward some way prepare a digital science that tin dismiss endure transferred exterior of the learning context as well as used inward some authentic way either inward the workplace or every bit business office of the students’ lifestyle.
Authenticity – Does it receive got an authentic role beyond linguistic communication learning? Is it an app that a native speaker would exercise for a genuine role exterior of a classroom?
  • Apps that are motivating for native speakers to exercise for a genuine role should also endure motivating for linguistic communication learners for that same purpose, thence authentic apps that involve some sort of linguistic input or output are ideally suited to linguistic communication teaching purposes.
Personalization – Does the app enable user to limited some expression of who they are as well as what they believe?
  • It’s of import that linguistic communication learners receive got the chance to exercise linguistic communication creatively to limited something of their ain personality or identity. Apps which back upward this variety of inventiveness tin dismiss endure potentially really useful.


Learning destination / outcome – Is at that spot a a possible learning resultant that exercise of the app volition Pb to?
  • Using an app is non inward as well as of itself a learning outcome. Use of the app needs to Pb towards some cast of learning goal. In some cases it tin dismiss endure slow to come across what learning goals tin dismiss endure achieved through using the app, at other times teachers may demand to think carefully what learning outcomes tin dismiss endure achieved through edifice activities which include the exercise of an app.
Interaction / communication – Does it back upward interaction as well as communication betwixt users?
  • Apps which are developed to a greater extent than or less social interaction as well as communication are much to a greater extent than probable to endure able to honour a useful house inward the linguistic communication classroom as well as should endure easier to base of operations tasks to a greater extent than or less every bit communication naturally fits amongst the aims of linguistic communication acquisition.
Prolonged use – Does the app demand prolonged exercise to accomplish a satisfactory outcome?
  • Many apps are designed to a greater extent than or less brusque daily tasks construct upward over a menses of fourth dimension to accomplish an outcome. If teachers select to exercise these kinds of apps they demand to element this long term approach into their timetabling.
Assessment – Is the operate on the app assessable past times the teacher? Does the app back upward the delivery of instructor reply as well as feedback?
  • Students demand to know that teachers are evaluating, assessing as well as responding to their work, thence apps which tin dismiss back upward this variety of instructor intervention tin dismiss endure potentially really useful.
Collaboration – Does the app back upward collaboration betwixt users?
  • The mightiness to collaborate on projects or producing some cast of tangible resultant is viewed every bit existence a potentially important digital literacy thence apps which foster these kinds of collaborative interactions inward a meaningful ways receive got swell potential.
Context – In what context would the app endure useful? For whom is the app to a greater extent than useful?
  • There are a expose of unlike contexts inward which apps tin dismiss endure used. Some may endure to a greater extent than appropriate for exercise at habitation past times the student, or inward the score past times students, whereas others could endure to a greater extent than appropriately used past times teachers for their ain evolution or the evolution of content for students.
Reusable – Does the app receive got sufficient depth of role to back upward multiple activities as well as tasks?
  • Many apps receive got swell novelty value which tin dismiss endure motivating for students, merely novelty tin dismiss shortly vesture off, thence it is wise to weigh the amount of practice goodness students gain from novelty apps against their potential for extended exercise as well as the amount of fourth dimension it takes to download install as well as register them.
Learner autonomy – Can app endure used independently exterior of the score past times the educatee to back upward some cast of learning?
  • Apps that tin dismiss endure used past times students working independently may good assist to foster a score of learner autonomy if at that spot is some inward built learning outcome.
As I said, this is silent a operate inward progress, as well as I did scrap amongst which criteria brutal inward to which of the categories as well as amongst the categories themselves, thence all comments are welcome.
I promise you lot honour these criteria helpful inward evaluating the apps that you lot select for your students.
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Nik Peachey