Apps Students Want

Artist's rendition of "The Past Speaks to Us" mobile app. From THE Journal.

Project Tomorrow asked students from kindergarten through high school to imagine their ideal mobile app for learning.  They received more than 200,000 responses and T.H.E. Journal highlighted fifteen of them that could transform student learning and take advantage of this budding technology in their November/December 2011 issue.  For museums and historic sites, here are the ones with most potential (as well as what’s happening currently in the field):

  • The Real Thing.  Suggested by a sixth grader in California:  “Some students have a hard time with subjects but they don’t want to ask teachers.  This app would let them watch videos or talk to real professionals about the subjects they are learning in school.”  Some institutions are already offering YouTube videos like this to explain the job of a curator or an expert’s view on a topic.
  • iMu-see-’em.  Suggested by an eighth grader in New Jersey:  “This app is at once a virtual planner, information database, and textbook archives.  It includes a three-dimensional model viewer for referencing subjects, like various works of art.”  I see the convergence of these activities happening already; take a look at Central Park or Explorer: The American Museum of Natural History (staff report available).
  • The Past Speaks to Us.  Suggested by a second grader in Arizona:  “This game will let you choose famous people who were teachers from the past.  Then they will tell you some of the smartest facts they know.”  Not quite an app, but the award-winning Architect Studio 3D includes a virtual Frank Lloyd Wright that provides advice on the design of your project.
  • Race Against Time.  Suggested by a second grader in Pennsylvania:  “My game would have kids going through a virtual world using a time machine.  The students would learn about history through simulations.  Students would create an avatar, which advances with them as they move through each level.”
  • My Teacher Match.  Suggested by a twelfth grader in Wisconsin: “This program scrutinizes how each student learns best through a test that measures their interests, hobbies, and special skills.  Teachers are quizzed separately on the same criteria and matched up with compatible students.”  Okay, this probably would only work for museums with large staffs, but perhaps it could be modified to give museum staff an advance warning of student interests and skills, and they could present the activities that would be most engaging.  So far, I haven’t seen anything like this–the closest is a online teacher pre-visit survey from the Kentucky Historical Society.