Monday, October 11, 2010

Android, iOS, Educational Software Investigations

Continuing my background reading about the use of mobile apps in education, today I finished a book on the development and history of children's software ("Engineering Play", author: Mizuo Ito, MIT Press, 2009).

At the same time, yesterday I visited a Verizon Corporate store to get my hands on some Android phones and a personal feel for what an app running on one of those phones might be like. What would a developer be working with from a usability point of view?

The two events (book reading and store visit) intersected in an interesting way. First of all, my visit to the Verizon store was an exercise in patiently experiencing absolutely terrible customer service - I howled about that on Facebook. Nonetheless I discovered a few interesting things. Most notably, in searching through the Android Market, I found no category for Education. Hmmmm. Access to the internet through their store phones was highly restricted, so I went home and tried again. Still nothing. The few educational apps I found were spread around here and there. And there was a note that said to see additional applications I needed to use my mobile device. Well, that wasn't exactly helpful.

Then this morning, in the Ito book, I came across a line (page 156) in which he quoted another publication "people have a low opinion of educational software".

They do?
Do they?

There is some great software out there. Interestingly enough though, I found evidence that the greatest selling "edutainment" software ever created is the Simcity line. Not originally created as educational, many educators have appropriated it for educational use. (Hence the name edutainment)

If you search online, you can find lots of cool software being developed for educational purposes.  Real cross cutting applications - math, science, art ... One of my earlier posts pointed to a company producing software for children with disabilities (DevelopEase).

In a few days I am going to an Apple store to do a similar activity as at the Verizon Store - get my hands on the iX devices and learn about their development program. I want to learn about the iOS from the Apple people. How do their devices support educational apps compared to the Android platform for example. The phones at the Verizon store struck me as not at all well set up for educational applications. Resolution was terrible even on their highest end phone. But since I can't actually use any apps without borrowing or stealing a friend's Android phone, I'm hypothesizing here. I must add though, that Google puts all their developer information online which is very nice.

I'm also going to make a point of finding out if Apple has a app category for "Education" and if not, why; and if so, what is in it. Not owning an "i" device I need to pounce on the store. It should be an interesting comparison of customer service experience too.