What are Mobile Apps?

Mobile phones — distinct from new sorts of larger format mobile devices such as tablets — have as a category proven more interesting and more capable with each passing year. According to a report from mobile manufacturer Ericsson, by 2015 80% of people accessing the Internet worldwide will be doing so from a mobile device. At the 2011 Mobile World Congress, Google CEO Eric Schmidt noted that for every baby born that year, 30 Android phones would be activated. Mobiles are becoming better understood in the academic world; there has been a significant amount of time spent finding creative ways to incorporate them both in the physical space and as a tool to help students learn from a distance. As educational institutions become more adept at developing and using mobile apps, their utility and pervasiveness is only due to increase. Current examples of mobile apps span functions from interpretation and education, to marketing and promotion, to specialized apps tied to specific courses.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Apps have taken off big time. I like this article: "App usage outstripping desktop and mobile web says Flurry. Mobile analytics firm claims its data shows people are spending 81 minutes a day using apps". http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/appsblog/2011/jun/21/flurry-app-usage-stats, June 2011, - john.cook john.cook Nov 13, 2011
  • Mobile apps can remove the need for a classroom. It can put many students from different area's in the same space virtually. - JamieMadden JamieMadden Nov 20, 2011
  • I think apps have the ability to create a classroom experience outside of the classroom. Imagine a student having all their course materials available in one well-organized, visual app - lectures, text, social sharing features, etc. I think we're further off from that mature of a technology, but certainly at a very basic level, using apps for learning has a that exploratory, interactive appeal similar to games. - Sam Sam Nov 13, 2011
  • I think it might be worth some clarification of what apps are becoming i.e. may be website as app (e.g. Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader) which is device and OS agnostic rather than an app install. - Nick Nick Nov 20, 2011
  • The importance of apps is that they allow both rich seeking out of information in general and domain-focused ways, as well as the means to create new materials based upon that information anytime, anywhere: mobile devices are freed from a (relatively) passive role, and instead take center stage as creative tools. - rubenrp rubenrp Nov 21, 2011

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Although there are cross platform issues, e.g. Apple and new Windows Mobile won't play Flash (HTML5 wins out), Apps are ubiquitious. This is interesting: 'NESTA - What's App? A look at the emerging apps economy' http://www.nesta.org.uk/publications/guest_articles/assets/features/whats_app_a_look_at_the_emerging_apps_economy "there are also challenges: uncertainty about which platforms to target and what business models to adopt, lack of transparency in the behaviour of some platform providers, and privacy and infrastructure issues. The public sector may have a role to play in helping to address some of these issues, so that the UK can reap the full benefits of this fast-growing, highly innovative market." - john.cook john.cook Nov 13, 2011
  • Mobile apps aren't just computer applications translated to phones and tablets. There are some key differences (- allan.gyorke allan.gyorke Nov 14, 2011).
    • The touch interface fundamentally changes the relationship between a person and the application. We have peeled back a level of abstraction similar to the qualitative leap between the command-line interface and the point-and-click GUI. I don't click an arrow to advance a page, I flip the page. I don't press a button labeled "rotate" to see the other side of a 3D object, I spin it through direct touch. When done well, this can create a more immersive experience.
    • Mobile applications can be more attuned to their environment: location, orientation, audio input, and potentially visual recognition. Apps currently exist that tell students where they are on campus, identify nearby restaurants with ratings around us, listen to and identify music, identify constellations through a camera, etc... All of these are basic forms of augmented reality. With Apple's Siri, this is expanded a bit further so that the augmentation can extend beyond augmentation of the current state to a future condition. For example, "when I get home, remind me to take out the garbage" results in a reminder event dependent upon the future condition of arriving at a specific location.
    • The instant-on state of mobile devices, quick-loading applications, and push notifications greatly reduce the barrier to access information and integrate it into a discussion. It also reduces the barrier to contribution through quick status updates, alerts, and spontaneous photographs and video along with location-specific meta-data.
  • Many of the apps are clearly related to social networks. Social networks are increasingly used to support the educational work in universities. Smartphones and tablets allow access from any location strategies, and discusion group raised by teachers. - javier.no javier.no Nov 14, 2011
  • In this section we have Mobiles, Mobile Apps, and Tablet Computing. I don’t think these need to be separate categories. Under RQ2 “New Topics,” I posted a topic titled “Multi-screen,” which I believe more accurately reflects where we currently are with respect to these technologies and others (TV set top boxes, laptops, etc). Several forces (technical, social and market drivers)have converged in such a way that the lines around these technologies are becoming more than a little blurry. As outlined in that posting, I believe it is time we think about these as one topic instead of discrete segments. - phil.ice phil.ice Nov 19, 2011
  • Something frequently mentioned at conferences I attend is the difference between Apps and mobile web apps. It seems in my industry a lot of people are moving from apps to web apps so that they'll work across platforms. And with HTML5, they can act an awful lot like more traditional apps. - lauren.pressley lauren.pressley Nov 19, 2011 Great point. This trend can be seen in the commercial space with Adobe's recent pullback from Flash Mobile to focus more on HTML5 with applications like Edge. However, there are still problems making HTML5 work in all instances as its still a very immature framework. Then there is the issue of whether some apps will work at all on the iOS without the use of Objective C or at least recompiling scripts into Objective C. - phil.ice phil.ice Nov 20, 2011
  • There seems to be a big focus on the social, play aspects of apps and not enough about content creation and specifically what the students themselves might be able to contribute. On this note, the ability for children to create the apps themselves. There is a TED talk by Thomas Suarez who is 12 years old and He talks about the apps he created and specifically touches on kids might know more than their teachers. http://www.ted.com/talks/thomas_suarez_a_12_year_old_app_developer.html - JamieMadden JamieMadden Nov 20, 2011 Agree with Jamie.- Sam Sam Nov 20, 2011
  • Creating an app represents the culmination of many important skills that should be incorporated into the curriculum of universities - tech savvy, creativity, an understanding of user experience, etc. - Sam Sam Nov 13, 2011
  • Apps lead to a rethinking of topics surrounding learning spaces: what happens when creative and learning environments require less and less traditional physical setups (e.g., a chair, desk, power outlet), and can instead move out into the world? - rubenrp rubenrp Nov 21, 2011

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • Because they are often task oriented or small and dealing with Byte sized learning I see then being used as part of a learning solution. We still need to 'contextual designs' and orchestrate the learning. As Android's product manager Erick Tseng observes: "That mobile device is never more than a metre or two away from my body, even when I'm a sleep. It knows all my friends through contacts applications; it knows where I am because it's got a GPS chip; what I'm doing, as I've got my calendar stored on it; and it's got all this contextual knowledge about me. That's very powerful. A business that's looking to engage their customers, that's looking to deliver a much more personal, mobile experience, will have to think about building a mobile application." (taken from NESTA report in 2 above). - john.cook john.cook Nov 13, 2011
  • The iPad could help teachers to rethink new ways of preparing activities: more dynamic, more entertaining and educational, which will provide a continuous renewal of the teacher and teaching model change. In a research made by Orion with the UOC university, both teachers and students revealed through the responses on a scale, a questionnaire and a focus group, its potential in college as well as the need for an adjustment period. - javier.no javier.no Nov 14, 2011
  • Apps are an experience learners are familiar with outside of class for recreational purposes. Bringing apps inside of the classroom better connects "inside" and "outside" learning.- Sam Sam Nov 13, 2011
  • Some apps provide functionality that does not otherwise exist/ For example, audio recordings synchronized with notes taken of classes, interviews or team/group meetings by students and faculty (onground or onlineusing apps such as Soundnote, Audiotorium, Notability, etc. These coupled with the use of bluetooth speaker/recording devices (such as Jawbone Jambox) provide new learning, teaching and research possibilities. - Nick Nick Nov 21, 2011

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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App usage outstripping desktop and mobile web says Flurry

Mobile analytics firm claims its data shows people are spending 81 minutes a day using apps

NESTA - What's App? A look at the emerging apps economy