Apps for Teachers and Education

A new series of peer-to-peer reviews of apps being used in education


Featured AppsHere at E-safety Support, we are regularly contacted by our members who want to know a little more about a new app they are investigating for their school.

Very often, these enquiries relate less to the features of the app, but more about how other schools are using them, how they are helping within the setting and what (if any) have been the snags.

We know that you, our members, have a vast array of knowledge and 'on the ground' experience of a great many apps and hoped that you would share your experienced with fellow teachers.

At E-safety Support our intention is to provide a useful arena for teachers to share their comments, allowing others to evaluate the feedback and help them decide if the app is for them.

We begin our series with ClassDojo

ClasDojoClassDojo is a US based app which "connects teachers with students and parents to build amazing classroom communities"

ClassDojo is essentially a communication app which, in brief, allows schools to share photos, class work, videos, messages etc. The app is designed to provide a flexible way to share this information with the whole school community.

We have received a specific question regarding this app from one of our members:

We are considering starting to use the free App 'Class Dojo' as a method to contact parents. Are you aware of any issues with this and have you and advice on how our e-safety policy should change to take into account this new method of interaction with parents and carers?

We contacted the makers of the app with this question. They replied confirming "We work really hard to make sure we are in full-compliance of all laws. We are also Privacy Shield certified for the EU".

High View Primary School would highly recommend the app. "Classdojo is fantastic. Most teachers in our school use it and the kids love it. The children are in class groups and other groups eg. Higher level maths group. They collect a given amount of awards that translates into team points and ultimately class prizes."

Can you help?
If you are using ClassDojo in your school, or have had experience of the app and would like to share your thoughts to help other E-safety Support members, please use the comments section below, or email tina@e-safetysupport.com.

Are there apps you would like to discuss?
We will be featuring the new GoBubble app from eCadets in our next app review. Have you used it in your school? Have you found it useful, easy to use, beneficial? Or, are you considering using it but have questions of your own? Please let us know.

If you would like to ask about other apps that interest you, please let us know by emailing tina@e-safetysupport.com.

Written by E-safety Support on February 09, 2017 13:37

In-app purchases - two sides to every story

I recently read an interesting story of a mother of a 12 year old boy, who is facing a £7,000 bill - a bill he inadvertently ran up by playing a popular online game on his mobile phone. Mrs Cox told the BBC that neither she nor her son were given any warning about the charges, incurred from purchases within the game application.

The situation arose when Mrs Cox’s son bought two add-ons within the game ‘Clash of the Clans’, which cost £5.98 in total; however, these transactions triggered a permissions setting that, from then on, allowed the phone to continue make in-app. purchases automatically - at a staggering rate of £240 per day.

Mrs Cox claimed that safeguards against such purchases were not in place and that firms offering apps should review procedures “…and forget making a profit from vulnerable people”.

A games expert stated, however, that there would have been an email receipt sent to the Google account that is registered on the phone. He also stated that there would also have been a warning when the game was initially downloaded and that on each occasion a purchase was made there would have been a request for an approval.

What this unfortunate story highlights is the obvious need for parents to be acutely vigilant of what their children are doing on their personal electronic devices and monitor their actions and behaviour. Now, teenagers may find this annoying and object to their ‘privacy’ being invaded, but this is just the same as wanting to know who they are hanging around with or setting a time when they should be home by - it’s called good parenting, the only difference being that it requires parents to realise that they need to talk to their children about their online activities and have an on-going understanding of the technological age that they are growing up in.

Having just read the above story, you may have formed the opinion that in-app purchases within children’s apps, such as games, are undoubtedly a bad thing and should be banned outright. Indeed, read most articles within the popular press about this controversial subject and you would quickly realise that you were not alone.

There is, however, another side to this story.

Recently, British publisher ‘Nosy Crow’ released an iPhone/iPad app called ‘Nosy Crow Jigsaws’, which is a collection of digital jigsaws based on artwork from the company’s own books and apps. Now, this app is a ‘freemium’ app - that is it is free to download but users have to buy packs of puzzles, via in-app purchases. This is, however, where Nosy Crow have been careful and have demonstrated a responsible awareness of the problems associated with in-app purchases in children’s apps.

When parents download the app, they get five free puzzles as well as others based on the company’s fairy tale apps. They are then offered the options of either purchasing packs of 10 puzzles at a time for £0.69 or unlocking the whole collection of 200 puzzles for £6.99. Setting an upper limit to unlocking the whole contents of a game/app is completely contrary to the usual business strategies of the freemium games industry, where publishers gain significant profit from heavy-spending users, but the company believes that offering the cap is a responsible approach and have gone as far as to purposefully not offer common game ‘rewards’ such as tokens or ‘gold coins’, which they believe confuse children as to whether or not they are spending real money.

What this highlights is a major dilemma for app development companies who specialise in mobile software aimed at children. On the one hand, these companies have to be sustainable and hence have profitable business strategies, but on the other, they wish to appear responsible and not be caught up in a situation such as the one described by Mrs Cox.

Up to now, this dilemma has not been resolved, so, until the app industry can consistently demonstrate a responsible approach to ‘freemium’ apps aimed at children, it remains the parent’s responsibility to constantly observe what their children are doing, not only on their computers, but on their mobile phones and tablets, to ensure that their enthusiasm for playing the game is not clouding their awareness and hence causing them to be duped into running up huge bills by making in-app purchases.



In a related news story recently, it was reported that Google is to pay out at least $19m in refunds to settle a formal complaint over unauthorised in-app purchases. Read more,

We would love to hear your thoughs on 'freemium' apps, so please let us know by using the commments section below.

Written by Steve Gresty on September 10, 2014 13:33

Youngsters understand technology better than adults - true or false?

Typing on a computer keyboardIt’s an old adage, perpetuated by the media, that children and young people understand technology better than adults in their mid 40’s and beyond, but is this correct?

As an ICT teacher, I have, on occasions, had the pleasant experience of a student approaching me and saying that when they have been playing around at home with a software package that we’ve been using in school, they have discovered something really cool. They then demonstrate their new knowledge and, with a mischievous glint in their eye, ask me “did you know you could do that sir?” Now, when I declare that I did not, they respond by saying “but, how come you’re the teacher and now I’m teaching you stuff?”

In it’s recently published annual study of British consumers, the communications watchdog OfCom states that the advent of broadband in or around the start of this new millennium, created a generation of digital natives, the youngest of which are learning to operate digital devices before they are able to talk.

According to OfCom, these youngsters are “…developing fundamentally different communication habits from older generations, even compared to the 16 - 24 year old age group.”

For this research, the watchdog developed a ‘digital quotient’ (DQ) test measuring awareness and self confidence around technology from smartphones to smart watches, awareness and understanding of super-fast broadband, 4G networks and mobile apps.

The watchdog studied 800 children and 2000 adults and in the 6 to 7 year old age group the average DQ score was 98, whilst for those in the 45 - 49 age group the average DQ score was 96. The research demonstrated that digital understanding peaks around the ages of 14 -15, with a DQ score of 113. It then gradually reduces through adult years and drops significantly in old age.

Back to my cheeky student, standing in front of me with a gleeful, self-satisfied grin on their face. I explain that although I’m the teacher, they, as a care-free, youngster, possess far more of a precious commodity than me, which allows them, at will, to meander through the tools and functionality of an app…

Time!

And I believe this is one of the reasons why, apparently, this phenomena occurs. The average young person comes home from school and after (hopefully) completing homework and eating a meal, the evening is pretty much their own to do as they please, so, should they be inclined to play with a web design package or try to write a program in a particular computer language or even just become familiar with an app that all their friends have been using, they have the time to do just that. Adults, on the other hand, have careers, family duties and other commitments that constantly demand their time and therefore have limited opportunity (and also the energy) to raise their awareness and learn what the latest technology can offer them, unless it is necessary for their work.

It is also my opinion that young peoples’ susceptibility to fashions or trends is a contributory factor to this issue.

OfCom’s report stated that whereas 18% of the children used the picture messaging app. ‘Snapchat’ and a further 11% knew a lot about it, almost half of the adults questioned had never heard of it. Could it be that once adults find out about say, a social networking app. and learn how to use it, they do not see the point of learning how to use another app that appears to do the same thing - just with pictures, purely because it happens to be ‘in’?

Indeed, many teachers use Facebook - the original social networking site but, how many have you ever over heard say “D’yer know what, Facebook is just so ‘yesterday’, I’m moving over to Snapchat!”?

What do you think of this issue? Do you believe that just because young people have grown up in the ‘digital age’ they are inherently better equipped to use technology and to immerse it into their lives? Or do you think it’s just that they have the free-time to find out about what tech is cool to use and how to do it? Do you think that there are other reasons? Comment below and let us know your thoughts.

Written by Steve Gresty on August 20, 2014 08:23


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