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School Choice

There's No App for Our Education Woes

Thousands of people believe that students stand to gain from using education mobile apps. Early stage research suggests that some mobile apps can aid student comprehension in math, science and reading. The idea here is that students who use education apps in their learning are more set up for academic success than others. And those who don’t run the risk of falling into the “ app-gap,” which now some researchers believe further widens the achievement gap. I disagree. There are over 170,000 education apps currently available, falling just behind games and business apps in the number of mobile applications available. As a twenty-something, second-year special education teacher, the idea of supplementing class instruction with technology was intriguing. When the school administrators gave out iPads to each teacher for instruction I was excited for my students. They would have access to another learning tool. Achievement is far more complex of an issue, and education apps simply are not silver bullets. It’s not the app that sets students up for success; it’s their socioeconomic status. Students from families with high incomes can live in the best school districts with school systems that may invest in professional development directed towards technology in the classroom. The best possible education app would mean nothing to a student who does not have the proper supports. Apps, iPads and other forms of ed-tech are only as good as the schools, and the schools are only as good as the teachers. Focusing on teachers’ intrinsic motivation, as well as professional development and other supports, is essential in using tech in the classroom. Having the app isn’t enough. Consider my case—without the support of an experienced teacher and my willingness to experiment, that iPad would have collected dust. There is no app for our education woes. Certainly, education apps can be very useful for supplementing education. But as we know, there is no substitute for great teaching and meaningful support for our teachers.  
Antar Tichavakunda is a doctoral student in urban education policy and a research assistant in the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California.
Antar Tichavakunda is a doctoral student in urban education policy and a research assistant in the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California. His research interests include the digital divide as it relates to historically underrepresented youth and the experience of underrepresented student populations at predominately ...

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