There’s a lot of chatter of course about apps for the iPad, classroom, schools, etc. And apps of course are a big part of the iPad. But I would suggest that content-specific apps are less of a concern (and I will admit that this entry / position might be more applicable to a high school setting, ironic because high school becomes more content specific; elementary school I suspect is more focused on content-specific apps).
The more I’m involved with technology PD, either as a consumer or a provider, the more I am convinced that specifics, be they applications for a computer, apps for a device, or websites, are not what teachers want or need. If I show up as a tech PD provider and say ‘This website will improve your teaching’, the assumption is that that area (whatever area the website covers) needs improving. As a teacher in that situation, my most likely response is something along the lines of ‘Cool, but I’m happy with what I’m doing’. And I don’t fault that teacher, nor do I chalk that teacher up to yet another example of teachers fearing change. What the PD provider has done is solve a problem the teacher doesn’t have.
Technology PD needs to start with systems and teacher-generated shortcomings. Teachers need to say ‘I want to become more efficient in x’ (grading, organization, presentation, annotation, etc.) and the tech PD should focus on that. Maybe that will be a content-specific app but more often than not it becomes an approach with a number of possible tools that the teacher can use. I taught a 6 day after school intro-to-Mac course (the Mac Training at the top) and, as suspected, the most valuable day was day 1, which was spent largely with an overview of little things to adjust in your Finder and file management (for instance, setting the folder that a new Finder window opens) system. This is what (most) teachers need: systems to make technology work for them, systems that are within their reach skills-wise (z+1), and systems that they will wonder how they did without. Another website or app for them to learn, pilot, troubleshoot, and generate or convert material for will only contribute to the already prevalent feeling of too much being added without enough taking away.
Technology makes my life more efficient, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t function that way for all teachers.
PS. I of course have plenty of apps that I love and that I rely on. If you’re looking for a way to assess apps or review apps, either indivudally or as a school, click here. It’s a great post on reviewing apps with lots of different rubrics, assessment sheets, checklists, etc.