Many of us grew up thinking we knew what it meant to "go to school." In the past, just about every student would pile up their books, head to the local school bus stop, and wait to be brought to what those in the 20th century would call a "building."
Those of us in the 21st century, of course, still call them buildings, but just how many of them are actually necessary to teach students in the modern age has been brought into question by an almost singular sensation: mobile technology. Specifically, the mobile application has allowed online schooling -- even for public schools at the high school level -- to become a serious option, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But mobile applications are not just responsible for changing how school is taught outside the classroom, but inside it as well. The range of uses varies as widely as Garage Band for iPad in music class to experiencing entire course curriculums in iTunes U.
One thing is clear: Through the power of mobile apps, the traditional way of "going to school" is about to change in a major way. Whether students simply don't need to bring books (when an iPad will suffice) or skip the idea of a physical presence altogether, the education system in America needs to recognize and adapt to these sweeping changes if it's going to emerge with an effective education model in the 21st century.
In the classroom itself, even just a few educational apps solve a number of problems, including class participation. Music-in-education pioneer Neil Johnston notes that the Smart Guitar function on GarageBand for iPad brought one particular low-learning student into full participation with the rest of the class.
Other apps that help advance the state of education already exist -- and are already being used by students around the country. The Wall Street Journal noted that online student Allison Schnacky grew an interest in history -- previously describing it as the "boringest" of classes -- after watching assigned videos of ancient Egypt on her computer.
But the real excitement is still ahead, and it's where schools need to be the most flexible. Other mobile app innovations not only promise to enhance class participation, but could become the digital framework for school curriculum in the future.
For example, iTunes U offers teachers of all levels an "easy way to design and distribute complete courses featuring audio, video, books, and other content." The "powerful new app" also allows outside learners the access to the same information -- for free.
Or consider the potentials of cloud-based technology, which would allow students to log in to specific mobile apps in order to access their school assignments, thereby creating the framework for paperless homework. Backpack companies, so long built on the premise that students would have to lug around books all day -- must be shaking in their boots.
In this century, it is the schools that recognize the potential of mobile app technology that will be able to best utilize it and improve their curriculum. Mobile apps represent a potential breakthrough in the way kids can learn -- and the amount they can learn while doing it. Mobile apps need to become a part of education on a systemic level if kids are going to learn efficiently in the Information Age.