The Significance of Interactive Apps


Interactive applications are changing the face of training and education from passive to engaged learning. While lecture style/powerpoint presentations were considered industry standards at one point, research on teaching and learning and the availability of technology now more commonly influence the design of training. Engaged and thoughtful training design means that content is parsed out in digestible chunks with intentional opportunities for interaction, discussion, and low-stakes evaluations so there are no surprises to learners or the teachers at the end of the lesson time.

Interactive learning. Be it for youth or adults, research indicates that learning that engages the mind and body of the learner is more successful. Sesame Street revolutionized TV for kids in the 1970s. The Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) spent time researching how teaching and learning could be done by television. Their short segments, familiar characters, modules that were sometimes repeated, pauses for audience interaction were successful approaches to teaching. CTW has applied this same practice to interactive apps and learning on the web. Their website and applications are attractive to youth and adults, there are games that are interesting and engaging and the learning strategies have been tested and adapted. Higher education is beginning to embrace this approach. It has taken time perhaps because play feels like it is for children rather than adults. Additionally higher education is often entrenched with tradition, tenured faculty who many not be included to change, and subject matter experts focused on research rather than the practice of teaching.

Accessibility. One no longer needs to “go” to class – training via apps is accessibly anytime. When there is a long line at the grocery store – shoppers often take out their smart phone and begin to look around for something of interest. Games, apps, and learning that can be attempted in small bouts are attractive and make learning accessible to all people (with technology) anywhere. Kahn Academy has done a great job with this – topics are broken down into small lessons with tutorials and Q&A that allow users to jump in and out anytime. Kahn Academy lessons can be used to enhance the experience of a student taking a class or can be used in place of a class. There is no need to sign up, pay or even complete lessons. The a-la-carte approach offers no-pressure learning help to everyone, anytime.

Self-motivation. In the future I would anticipate that learners will be motivated to make use of applications and resources on their own in order to better themselves and their credentials. That is happening to some degree now, I would imagine that as the workforce begins to embrace self-made learners (over more traditional trainings) – more learners will grow their credentials using the tools available to them. I would also anticipate that the market will favor apps that help the learner achieve their learning objectives without a painful process – in other words games and interactive approaches will win this one.


Hirsh-Pasek, K., Zosh, J. M., Golinkoff, R. M., Gray, J. H., Robb, M. B., & Kaufman, J. (2015). Putting education in “educational” apps: Lessons from the science of learning. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 16(1), 3-34. doi:10.1177/1529100615569721

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The Significance of Web-based Video on Learning

Anyone can contribute. Video on the web is being produced by a diverse group of people from around the world for a variety of reasons.  Tutorial videos, in particular, have had a significant impact on the way we learn to do things and how learners contribute to learning.  In the way that citizen science has turned every person into a scientist (or at least the collector of data) video production by the people at large has turned every person into a teacher.

Mastery comes to those who teach.  In the National Academies of Science document Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits the sequential learning process called  the 6 strands of learning documents the process of learning from being exposed to a subject to becoming proficient enough to teach.  Youth non-formal education has worked to create an environment where the six strands can most successfully be observed in youth participants.  As a career educator for a non-formal education system I’ve observed success numerous times – but certainly at a cost (time, energy, small percentage gets to a successful outcome).  Simultaneously, as the mom of a pre-teen son I’ve observed the six strand process happening without any intervention by school, non-formal education or me – but by the enthusiastic play of MineCraft.  My son has gone from an observer to an enthusiast, to one who wanted to share his ideas with friends and then create his own teaching modules to share his knowledge with others around the world.  He figured out the technology of building tutorials and sharing knowledge on his own because he was motivated.  Similarly my two daughters (18 and 20 years old) turn to YouTube before any other resource to find tutorials on how-to do anything and the girls have blogs that include video that focus on yoga, health and nutrition.

Constructivism at it’s best.  Reflecting on this idea – it is almost a revolution in teaching and learning – one that removes the middle man – the teacher – and allows equal access to information (for those with privilege enough to have technology) and teaching to the masses.  There is power in knowledge and it is not only the degreed that have that power – that is most evident at this juncture.  The quantity of video learning options has made us less tolerant of bad and inefficient teaching.  In general individuals seem more willing to find answers out their own and share, and less impressed by institution based education.  The ever-present tutorial and the ability for anyone to share seems to inspire more to be self-made learners.  Part of the learning is in the deconstruction of ideas and construction of teaching – the whole principle of constructivism.

Opportunities for instructional designers.  The opportunities are great for those who understand teaching, learning and technology – which includes and in some cases requires instructional designers. Some faculty may embrace the ideas of video and tutorial based learning, and some wax traditional.  In both cases support is necessary to help create instruction that will engage the learners and help the learners engage others.
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Sergio Artal, J., Luis Navarro, J., & Luis Bernal, J. (2014). Youtube & facebook as educational tools in the teaching-learning process. Experience in higher education. Iceri2014: 7th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation, 940-949.

O’Neill, Megan. (2010). 5 ways YouTube has changed the world forever. Social times. Retrieved July 20, 2016 from