Joined: Oct 2017
Apps in the Classroom of the 21st Century
Article published in the Special Mobile Applications for
Communication and Pedagogy
Article published in the Special Mobile Applications for
Communication and Pedagogy
Overview of the educational possibilities of new digital mobile
devices and their applications in the educational field and how
they decisively influence all areas of our lives and our society.
The technological changes that have occurred and are occurring
in these last decades decisively influence practically almost all the
areas of our lives and our society. They influence how we relate, in
lifestyle, in the use of free time and leisure, in productivity, in the
way of learning and teaching and, ultimately, in the way we relate
to the world.
But we did not have enough with computers connected to the
Internet, and in recent years new technologies burst in all these
areas: mobile technologies. And in particular we are talking about
the different mobile devices, mainly mobile phones and tablets.
These devices as happened with computers have appeared earlier
in the field of home and leisure than in the realm of education. And
also these devices have some new features that can provide
interesting functionalities. But what can these new tools in the
field of Education bring us? I would say that one of the main ones
is to be able to learn by breaking the barriers of space and time.
Mobile devices and the new classroom concept
The same meaning of the classroom concept already forms a way
of teaching and learning more in line with more traditional models
of an industrial age. In this sense we mean by classroom the room
or room of an institution in which a group of students attends the
teacher's class. In this classroom model there is a space-time
limitation. Teacher and student use books, desktops or laptops or
other resources that help learning but limiting itself to that space
and time. Mobile phones and tablets are instruments that allow for
versatility, portability and ergonomics to be used anywhere and at
any time, making possible what is called ubiquitous learning. For
this reason the concept of classroom as a closed and static space
loses its traditional definition. But mobile learning rather than
In this article we will focus more on tablets than on mobiles.
Although it should be noted that most mobile phones have a large
copy on tablets. This fact is of paramount importance because
dominating the use of the mobile is also a guarantee of dominating
the tablet and especially if they use the same operating system.
At the educational seminars organized by Fundació Trams in the
Kursaal theater in Manresa in July 2012, Miguel Angel Prats asked
about 700 people: How many of those present in the room do not
have a cell phone? There were only three assistants. This reflects
the weight and importance of these devices in the personal and
daily lives of people. And if we join to this fact the great
proliferation of applications that exist and are continuously being
generated and published in the platforms of digital content for
mobile we will realize, in some way, what is coming. However,
many of these applications are clearly improveable at educational
level and more specifically didactic, since it would be necessary to
include education professionals in addition to programmers and
designers. So there is still a great way to go.
Tablets and apps. Pros and cons
When we talk about apps we are referring to applications specially
designed and adapted for use on tablets. However that does not
mean that these devices can not be used the applications and web
pages that are generally used on the Internet. Practically 95% of
websites work on these devices.
But then we wonder what advantages and disadvantages we find
in these devices. We can start by saying that a tablet not only
contains the conventional technology of a computer, but also
other technologies such as: gyroscopes, accelerometers,
magnetometers, camera, GPS, ambient light sensors. All these
technologies exponentially increase the functionality of these
For example, thanks to the gyroscope, applications can be
developed that use spatial positioning sensors such as
educational games where the user has to move the tablet to
overcome an interactive activity or game. This opens up new
possibilities in the field of spatial orientation, for example.
Interactivity no longer only focuses on clicking with the finger or
the mouse, but also depends on the movement of the arms and
the body involving the development or activity of new parts of the
With respect to the accelerometer we can say that it is a device
that measures the acceleration and the forces induced by gravity,
and that allows to detect the movement and the rotation. Surely
many readers of this article know the Wii (console Nintendo). As
this device uses the accelerometer in their games as for example
to move a character, moving the device through the air. Another
technology that opens up great possibilities in the development of
All these technologies open as we have discussed new
applications unthinkable in a conventional PC. For example:
Compasses to work with the students the basic orientation skills.
Instruments to measure: lengths, levels, speed, distance.
Mapping and GPS applications.
Conventional, bar and QR scanner.
Sound level meter.
What is really interesting is that we can have real instruments that
allow us to work in the classroom with the students in a more
practical way and focusing more on aspects that are more
competential than purely rote and more oriented learning, know-
how and knowing apply more than know how to reproduce.
It is important not to forget also the new way of direct interaction
with the hands and fingers with the interface of the screen. In this
sense we are opened new possibilities that remind us of those of
digital boards. In fact we can now write down, draw lines and write
directly as if we did it in a notebook or notebook. It is also worth
highlighting the voice interaction that is currently taking giant
strides in effectiveness. I am referring not only to reading text by
voice synthesis but also to voice recognition. Undoubtedly voice
recognition can have great applications for students with special
educational needs in the field of psychomotricity. At
genmagic.org, our multimedia creation portal,
Before buying a tablet we usually ask questions before:
Why do I need it?
If I already have a laptop, what advantages does it offer?
What model, brand?
With what operating system?
Do I want it with Wi-Fi? And with 3G?
What size will fit me?
Let's start first of all by analyzing the advantages of a tablet:
Touch screen, which allows you to write directly to it and interact
more easily and quickly.
Mobile screen and flexible use. It allows to be used in different
positions and to share the screen with others in a simpler way.
The size and weight is reduced, since it is thought to carry it.
Quick start as it is usually not necessary to turn it off during the
day and the battery usually has a good duration.
The installation of the programs is done very quickly and also
allows to manage them from any device. For example to install a
program on the tablets that have the Google operating system
(Android) we can use the Google Play Store platform. In this
platform besides that we can find thousands of applications, also
allows us to install and uninstall the applications from a computer
any other device. Also in this platform not only find applications,
but also books and movies.
One of the factors to take into account when acquiring a tablet is
the operating system you use. The main operating systems for
Apple iOS (iPad tablet).
Android from Google.
Windows Phone from Microsoft.
Special mention deserves the Android operating system mainly
because it is considered a free operating system thanks to its
code is open. This fact allows developers to be able to optimize it
quickly by adding improvements and detecting errors faster.
Other advantages are:
Android can be installed on a variety of devices: computers,
mobile phones, tablets, USB, cars, etc.
It allows you to install programs (apps) from different platforms
(Google Play Store) or from an unrestricted USB device.
Application developers, being an open sisitema Android, have
more freedom when creating applications. For example in Android,
up to version 4 you can see all the thousands of Flash applications
on the Internet.
Android is highly customizable. But not only graphic level
replacing wallpapers, animations, widgets or themes, but also the
interface system itself. For example we can use an application that
will convert the operating system navigation to Windows XP.
Another of the decisions we must make when purchasing a tablet
are the types of connections we will need.
The tablets need an Internet connection, this is very clear. We can
also be very clear that the possibility of Wi-Fi is very profitable
because if we have this connection at home or at work we will not
assume any additional cost. The tablets that also have Internet
connection type 3G are a little more expensive but allow us
greater mobility in connection since we do not always have a Wi-Fi
In case we have a tablet and a mobile, and this mobile has 3G
connection and also has the function "my Wi-Fi zone", then we
can take advantage of the 3G connection of the mobile to create a
Wi-Fi network with which we can connect our tablet or other
tablets or PCs.
And to finish this section we must also assess the difficulties that
these devices may have as tools for classroom use. The first
difficulty we will find in deciding what kind of tablet we need.
When evaluating a tablet, we should not only evaluate what the
naked eye sees: size, quality and resolution of the screen, weight,
connections ... We have to decide what operating system we want
and the quantity and quality of educational applications available
for that device . Some of the improvements that tablets would
need for inclusion in classrooms could be:
A lower cost. A tablet with good quality, screen resolution and
light weight still often surpasses the cost of mid-low-end laptops.
The possibility of using electronic pencil with more precision. The
use of traditional pencil and paper even more accurate. Some
models like the Samsung Galaxy Note go in this direction
demejora. It is undoubted that the functionality of the pencil-
electronic is very necessary in the educational field: note taking,
annotations with drawings, schemes, drawing lines, graphics ...
and specifically more in the educational stage of children.
Increased efficiency of the virtual keyboard or make use of a
physical keyboard. By means of On-The-Go USB (USB OTG)
technology we can also connect a physical keyboard. It is an
extension of the USB 2.0 standard that allows USB devices to
have more flexibility in connection management. Currently
developers are making great strides in creating virtual keyboards.
It is impressive to see how they increase in effectiveness. The
virtual keyboards areapps that are installed on the device. For
example in the keyboard Swype the user must drag the file by the
different letters, that are united to paraformar a word when it
raises the finger. Another keyboard that uses a different
procedure is Swiftkey X which includes a very powerful prediction
system and is able to predict words based on the last word we
have written. Personally using it gave me the feeling that I was
reading my thoughts.
Although these could be some important improvements, it would
also be necessary to have more and better educational
applications (apps). It would be highly recommendable to have
platforms where students and teachers can freely download apps
without authentication, as with the Google Play platform that
requires you to have an account to carry out the installation.
Apps for Education
Although as we pointed out that with the tablets we can use most
of the webs, applications and educational games that exist on the
Internet, there are several reasons that allow us to value positively
the ability to install apps on these devices.
A first reason is that having it installed will no longer need the
Internet connection. Only in case an update is necessary will we
need to connect.
A second reason is that both tablets and mobiles are devices with
a small screen and another function of the apps is to adapt the
display of the information to the screen to make it look more
correct and also so that you can interact better with your fingers
or the electronic pen.
A third reason is related to the advantages we have previously
discussed about these devices. Application developers can
program specific functions of tablets and mobile devices such as
camera, GPS, accelerometer, vibration, etc. with languages such
as Java or C ++. And from here create educational applications
with new possibilities that did not exist on desktop and laptop
We have selected some examples of educational apps that we
Within this category we can find numerous tools such as
calculators, abacuses, rulers, transporters, squares, cameras and
video, document scanners and QR or bar codes, blackboards,
compasses, levelers, timers, timers, speedometers. ..
SyncSpace is a blackboard with a space that can be expanded
dynamically. It is as if we have an infinite and sliding space that we
can move with our fingers. Another great feature of this
application is the possibility that gives us to share the drawing
space with other users who have this program installed but with
real-time synchronization. We can also share the board as an
image with WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter, or send a catch by
A very practical and interesting functionality is the ability to zoom
int and out with two fingers giving us greater control over the
contents of the whiteboard.
At educational level can have many possibilities of application. For
example if the teacher shares the board with the students can
explain the contents and the students will see them on their own
tablet as well. It also allows two modes, the read only mode and
key access to be able to modify.
Consultation Works and Books
Another great category where we can find many apps are the
works of reference and books. Here we can find applications like:
encyclopedias, dictionaries, books, tutorials, etc.
Some examples are:
Wattpad is a mobile and tablet application that allows you to read,
comment, publish and share e-books. It connects to one of the
largest ebook communities in existence, where you can find a
large variety of copies, and more than 100,000 free books. It can
be interesting for the areas of language and literature since it has
Wikipedia Mobile is the official Wikipedia application for Android.
It is the free encyclopedia with more than 20 million articles in 280
languages and is the most comprehensive and widely used
reference work ever collected by mankind.
With this application you can save articles to read later or offline,
search for nearby articles, share articles using the "share" feature
of Android or read articles in another language.
Google Play Books is an application that connects to a platform for
selling and reading e-books for mobile, tablets and also via the
web. It allows us to download a preview on our book device. In this
way we can know if we are convinced or like both the form of
visualization as the content.
The configuration options are as follows:
Save the book to the tablet.
Share the book through social networks, email ...
Read out loud.
Change the font size.
Day / night mode.
They are applications that allow you to collect and organize
information from different media such as newspapers, websites,
blogs ... Some even allow you to extract information from social
networks like Twitter or Facebook. Some examples of these
applications are: Pulse, Currents, Flipboard . From the educational
point of view, they are tools with many possibilities because it will
allow students to follow up on information on specific topics and
quick consultation of current news.
We can consider a new category with applications that help us
take notes, capture and organize information. In this category we
can highlight the famous Evernote application .
Evernote is an application to manage, organize, remember or
share any type of digital information, whether audio, text, video,
etc. One of the great utilities of Evernote is that you can organize
the information in textbooks, images, audio, videos, etc. If you use
a mobile or tablet you can take photos or scan documents directly
and organize them in notebooks. It is undoubtedly a very
interesting application so that students and teachers can organize
the multimedia information of their notes and documents. In
addition it allows to synchronize all the information in different
digital devices and to enhance the collaborative work.
We could also include here specific applications for these devices
like Google Drive , Dropbox and Box that also allow storing and
organizing information in the cloud. Google Drive includes Google
Docs, an Office package with many possibilities for collaborative
Interactive multimedia applications
Under this category we refer to all those interactive activities that
facilitate the learning of curricular contents. We can find from
classical multimedia stories as specific applications for very
specific learning: mental calculation, verbs, mathematical formulas
In our portal (genmagic.org) we are developing a new space on
applications for tablets where we explain from the operation of the
operating system, selection of educational apps and we are also
creating new applications for these devices and adapting others
we already had.
In the previous image we have an application example that
generates exercises on operations combined with fractions that
we have created for these new devices.
Activity and application generators
Under this category we mean those applications that allow us to
create interactive activities. In this section we highlight the
Araboard application . AraBoard is a set of tools designed for
alternative and augmentative communication, whose purpose is to
facilitate the functional communication, through the use of images
and pictograms, to people who present some type of difficulty in
The most direct way to begin the search for educational apps is to
access the official application stores accessible from the devices,
such as App Store (for Apple products) and Play Store (for
Android devices) among the most used.
iBooks Author can also be considered an application to create
content in this case multimedia books. And it makes this task very
easy to do, allowing you to drag and drop items, edit, and import
or convert external files such as text documents, images,
animations and videos.
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In this article we intend to present an overview of the new digital
devices, especially tablets and their possibilities in the educational
field. Deciding to include these devices in daily classroom work is
not a simple decision. As we have seen there are many options,
many possibilities and some difficulties. We believe that there is
still a lack of maturity and consolidation of both physical devices
and educational apps. Very possibly some of the problems we
have been discussing will be solved and implemented
improvements adapted to the educational field.
But the school can not turn its back on these powerful new
instruments. If our students live surrounded and immersed in this
new interactive multimedia culture we can not prohibit their use in
classrooms. And it is here, in the educational use, in which
teachers must bet. Otherwise we will be wasting all these
possibilities and even more, we will be distancing empathically
from their interests and motivations.
But it is not about introducing to introduce more pots in the
classrooms. The integration of these new technologies involves
the construction of collective learning and, therefore, requires a
rigorous curriculum and planning. We can not develop
competencies if there is no planned content. Therefore, the
inclusion of these new tools must also be oriented towards
strengthening basic lifelong competences and new digital
competences that allow, above all, learning to learn and also to
unlearn. But it is not only valid for our students, but also for
ourselves as teachers.
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