Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

Evaluating Instructional Apps Using the App Checklist for Educators (ACE)

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

Evaluating Instructional Apps Using the App Checklist for Educators (ACE)

Article excerpt

Background

Since the iPad was introduced to the public in 2010, the use of this device in the classroom setting has continued to grow (Perry, Thrasher, & Lee, 2016) and has become a preferred tool for special education teachers (Mautone, 2013). Overall, teachers have reported a positive instructional experience using iPads (Johnson, 2013). The iPad and its accompanying applications (apps) have become integral tools used to address many special education program objectives and Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals. Additionally, survey data have indicated that teachers' perceptions are that all students would respond positively to using iPads in the classroom (Johnson, Davies, & Thomas, 2013).

Researchers (Douglas, Wojcik, & Thompson, 2012) have demonstrated that apps can serve as supports for students with disabilities by providing efficient access as both an instructional tool and an assistive technology device. Further research has focused on the use of specific apps for students with autism and other developmental disorders (Cumming & Rodríguez, 2013). Apple iPad technology has had an impact on fostering new learning opportunities for students with disabilities by increasing engagement in learning, time on task, independent educational opportunities, and skill development (Baig, 2013; Flower, 2014; Rodríguez, Strnadová, & Cumming, 2014). Increased student engagement, motivation, and independence are apparent benefits of using iPad apps integrated into academic lessons (Baig, 2013; Flewitt, Kucirkova, & Messer, 2014; Johnson, D., 2013; Miller, Krockover, & Doughy, 2013). Maich and Hall (2016) provided suggestions for teachers using iPads in inclusive classroom settings, starting with planning for use and including using the data collection feature of some apps to support acquisition of IEP goals. However, these benefits can only be achieved if apps are chosen appropriately (Perry et al., 2016). Thus, overall, the use of apps in special education is emerging as an effective practice, and implementation in the classroom must be planned, intentional, and informed.

Since this type of technology (i.e., app use) is still relatively new, the rigor with which it is screened before being implemented as an instructional support is generally lacking. Authors (Newton & Dell, 2011; Powell, 2014) agree that apps should be chosen with a purpose in mind. The process of locating and evaluating apps can be difficult and time consuming (Perry et al., 2016). Teachers need a tool that allows them to evaluate iPad apps with relative ease, but will also guide them in effective use of the app with their students. Planning for the use of iPads and apps is a critical component of effective use in the classroom (Mautone, 2013). A rationale for the use of a specific app to individualize learning for a student with a disability should include consideration of how the app will meet the student's IEP goals. The choice of apps used for instruction must be based on more than a suggestion from another person, and more than an appealing advertisement. When used for instruction, they should not be chosen for entertainment value. Apps must meet specific predetermined academic criteria. It is becoming increasingly apparent that an evaluation tool or rubric should be used when choosing apps (Rodriguez et al., 2014). With new apps being released every day, lists of apps can become outdated quickly. This research was designed to gather data on the current use of apps in the classroom, to determine what teachers need in an evaluation tool, and then to create an effective iPad app evaluation scale based on those needs.

Development of the iPad App Evaluation Checklist for Educators

The first step in creating the scale involved collecting information on overall use of the iPad and apps by K-12 general and special education teachers. Principals in local school districts were contacted for permission to administer a survey to the classroom teachers in their schools. …

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