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There's an App for That!

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A finger touches a mobile phone screen
There's an app for that

We truly live in an age of prosperity when it comes to access to technology. I remember being a small child and imagining a day when we could call each other through video, like in the Jetsons. Now we can. I remember imagining a day when we could have holographic projections that look like reality. Now we do. I remember imagining a time when cars could drive themselves. Now we're there. What an amazing time it is to be alive and a part of this world as we redefine how we connect with each other, how we learn, and how we live.

Stock data displayed on a computer screen
A benefit of capitalism

One of the great benefits of technology in a capitalist society is that competition in the marketplace means app developers have to be responsive to their users to remain relevant. They can't sit complacent on a decent product for a few years and rely on a loyal customer base anymore. They must dig deeper into what their customers need and want. They must invite consumers into their development conversations. They must keep innovating and learning new tech. The great part about this is that it means the developers are also consumers of tech. They know what it's like to get a subpar product. They know what bad apps look like. What they feel like. And because of that, our tech keeps getting better, easier, more user-friendly, and efficient.


Thanks to a great deal of open-sourcing and generous pricing models, many educational tools are now either free or low cost enough to feel negligible to many users. Some exceptions exist, of course. But it's inspiring to see the poorest of us able to produce videos, graphics, podcasts, websites, and courses using freely available tools. Thirty years ago, those tasks required incredibly expensive tools and hardware. Now all those tasks can be done, and done well, on a mobile device. And it's even more inspiring to see these advanced tools being made available for children to explore from the earliest ages.

A young child plays on a mobile device
Advanced tools of yesterday are child's play today

This week, we focused on exploring tech tools, so I was definitely in my element. But still, there are so many, it can quickly get overwhelming even for the most enthused among us. There's content creation apps, editing apps, delivery apps, and evaluation apps. There's apps for games, puzzles, quizzes, and flashcards. There's game builder and story builder apps. There's apps for design, management, and storage. In short, if there's a task you need to do, there's probably an app for it. And more likely dozens, or even hundreds.


To keep from going down an infinite rabbit hole this week, I stuck to exploring apps related to my latest project, creating a YouTube channel. I focused my search on apps designed to help create, edit, subtitle, organize, and market videos. There are tons. Whatever the task, you'll find many to choose from. Some are amazing. Some are not. And some are something in between. In fact, many of the apps I explored fall into this third, more nebulous category.


In the right instance, for the right purpose, most apps can be exceptionally helpful or time saving. But at other times, for other purposes, the same app can fall flat. It's part of why we call a collection of these apps a digital toolbox. Not every app is designed for every job. And when a tool isn't quite working, it's time to look for a better tool for that job. In the past, we might have just made due. But nowadays, we have too many varieties to get stuck thinking they're all alike.


It's also important to not get stuck thinking we've found the best tool because we're comfortable. I do this all the time, myself. I have a few apps that I really love, so I find myself relying on them again and again. I feel frustrated when I try to learn a new app, especially when a task I knew well how to complete in my tried and true app is done differently in another. It's easy to justify in those moments the need to cling to comfort. It saves time, after all.

A magnifying glass
Never stop searching

I have to challenge myself to push through the learning curve before I can truly evaluate a new app, though. The payoff is that sometimes I find new tools that become my favorites. For example, for years I used Screencast-o-Matic to create all my recordings. I loved it. Others talked about how much they liked this app or that app for screen recording. I tried a few that others suggested, but just didn't like them. They felt clunky or confusing. Then, after years of this stubbornness, a place I worked for had strict app use policies and required I use the screen recording apps they had licensed. At first, I hated them. But after a few weeks I realized they had some great advantages over my favorite. Eventually, I stopped using Screencast-o-Matic and haven't missed it since. That's not to say it isn't a great tool. It's just to say I've discovered other tools that serve my needs better.


In case you're curious, I created a section on this site to provide links to some of the tools I'm either currently using, have used, or just think are really great and would like to use when the job at hand warrants a tool shift. You can check out my list in My Toolbox., which can be found in the My Research section.


Weekly Wrap-Up

The major takeaway I got this week while exploring all these tools is that there is no need to settle any longer. For the bulk of my life, the world worked one way. For any given task, there were a handful of tools. Usually one or two were considered by most to be the best, and if they didn't meet your needs, you either had to be an innovator and create the next best widget, or you had to settle. And typically, those tools were expensive, so it was often not economically feasible to switch gears even if desired. Now, though, with the cost of development and authoring tools being so low, not to mention the advancements in AI, it takes little more than imagination to bring new tools to life. And because of that, the market is flooded with a wide variety of tools for just about every task.


So, when we aren't happy with what we're using, when we aren't getting the results we want, or when it just doesn't feel like a well-fitting glove, it's worth it to take a look and see what's out there. Apps are being added daily and there's already too many for any of us to exhaustively explore. But when the tool doesn't work for us, with hundreds more available, it makes sense to try something new.

Two people collaborate on an app design
New apps are released every day

And when we think we've found the tool that ends all tools, we can enjoy the moment, but know it's fleeting. Tech does not stand still, and the tools of the educator's trade are forever in flux. Though we feel that now more than ever, this is really nothing new. We once wrote in clay. Now we write electronically. Tools will keep changing, and we get the joy of discovering how new tools are going to propel us further than we can currently imagine. I wonder what children today imagine their future will be like in 30 years. I don't know, but there's probably an app for that, too! What a wonderful time to be an educator!

 

All images contained within this post are courtesy of Media from Wix.

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