OnQ Blog

Today’s homework: 12 tips for improving Android education apps

Feb 13, 2015

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

As part of the push toward high quality mobile-centric learning for kids and teens, the Qualcomm Education team is engaging with the professional community to develop programs and software that will move this initiative forward.

Recently, I sat down with edtech expert Jeff Knutson, Senior Editor at Common Sense, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive at both home and classroom in the digital age. As a former teacher with more than 10 years of experience, Jeff shared some best practices for developers to consider when they’re creating content for the classroom.

  1. Think like a classroom teacher. Can the app be used in a variety of settings or scenarios? Are teachers' practical considerations (time, funding, logistics) taken into account? As you research, test and iterate, invite experienced, practicing teachers to get involved. Ask them, what do teachers need help with? What do teachers want help with?
  2. Make products that stress active, experiential learning. Does your tool immerse kids in the learning experience? How can students use apps to connect to other areas in their lives? Will they stay motivated to continue learning and exploring? When I asked for an example, Jeff pointed to DragonBox, which he believes  does a great job of reeling kids in and empowering them to learn.
  3. Respond to students with constructive feedback, advice and helpful hints. Give specific guidance that boosts students' desire to keep learning. Offer the right amount of help without muddling or complicating the experience. As an example Jeff suggests Khan Academy's Missions platform because it makes it easy for kids to access help and hints in multiple ways and formats.
  4. Provide teachers with clear, actionable data on student performance. A dashboard is key, but don't overwhelm teachers with too much information; provide information that offers a clear path toward student improvement. For example, Jeff points to how LightSail offers teachers data they can use to adapt their lesson plans, helping their students learn based on their individual strengths.
  5. Support a diverse range of learners. Will kids with different cultural traditions, linguistic backgrounds or learning styles have access to the content? Does the product have built-in tools to help struggling readers, English-language learners or special education students?
  6. Cover the right amount of learning content without sacrificing depth. Will students learn a little about a lot of things? Often, this approach can make learning a mile wide and an inch deep. Think about how kids can address any topic in a deep way. Usually, this involves critical and conceptual thinking. Jeff likes Motion Math: Fractions! because it offers a deep dive into a specific topic that also supports conceptual learning.
  7. Encourage kids' collaborative and collective learning. Can kids' interactions build greater or more meaningful understanding? Jeff would recommend looking at Historypin as a great example of how information about neighborhoods and various cultures can be crowdsourced; or a tool like Animoto Video Maker that offers kids opportunities to interact with each other as they create and share ideas. An important note: If you include social media features, make sure to accommodate online privacy and safety concerns.
  8. Balance kids' privacy and safety with teachers' need for assessment data. Does the tool offer performance and behavior data that help teachers guide learning while ensuring kids aren't asked to share too much? Make sure to online privacy policy and information security in mind. Determine what information the product is collecting and what the implications are.
  9. Meet kids at their own levels. Do the content and design match the tool's target age group? Will kindergartners be able to read the directions? Could the graphics feel condescending to high school students? Can learning content be adjusted or automatically adapted to maximize learning for individual students?
  10.  Represent diversity (gender, race, and culture) without bias or stereotype. Is a diversity of backgrounds represented and as unbiased as possible? Are there opportunities for all kids to identify with different kinds of characters?
  11. Deliver a kid-friendly experience that promotes distraction-free learning. Do advertisements, links for teachers and other adults, or sales and subscription information pull kids away from learning? Keep their focus on the experience. An example Jeff points to is, Ansel and Clair: Little Green Island because it offers a great, kid-friendly interface that keeps kids immersed in what they're learning. 
  12. Innovate and go deep to make your product essential. Is the product filling a critical need in education today? Does it simply substitute an existing classroom tool, or does it redefine what good teaching and learning look like?

At Qualcomm Education, we believe learning doesn’t stop when the bell rings. The goal is 24/7 learning, in and beyond the classroom. Thanks to creative and motivated organizations like Common Sense Media, the goal of improving education outcomes for students worldwide is gaining momentum.

For more information about Common Sense, check out Graphite.org or fill out their developer review request form. Make sure to mention that you came across Common Sense Graphite on this blog.

Happy learning!

Opinions expressed in the content posted here are the personal opinions of the original authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Qualcomm Incorporated or its subsidiaries ("Qualcomm"). Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries. The content is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be an endorsement or representation by Qualcomm or any other party. This site may also provide links or references to non-Qualcomm sites and resources. Qualcomm makes no representations, warranties, or other commitments whatsoever about any non-Qualcomm sites or third-party resources that may be referenced, accessible from, or linked to this site.

Susan Silveira

Staff Manager, Business Development