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  • Writer's pictureDr. Kristen Mattson

App-Dependent or App-Enabled?

In their 2013 book The App Generation, Howard Gardner and Katie Davis coin the terms “app-enabling” and “app-dependent” to describe two ways we may choose to view a world “permeated by apps” (p 9). According to Gardner and Davis, “apps that allow or encourage us to pursue new possibilities are app-enabling. In contrast, when we allow apps to restrict or determine our procedures, choices, and goals, we become app-dependent” (p 10). So how might these two ways of viewing technology look in the classroom? The table below contains some examples for you to consider.


App-EnabledMathStudents use a calculator application to solve problems or check their workStudents are given a problem based learning scenario and must use a variety of apps and websites to formulate a plan and find a solutionWritingStudents attach their essays to an email for the teacher to grade digitallyStudents publish their writing online and glean feedback from an authentic audienceReadingStudents access websites like Spark Notes to help them understand the themes, conflicts, and important passages in the novels they are readingStudents participate in a digital literature circle with kids they have never met. Together, they develop a shared understanding of the novel by bringing their various experiences to the reading.Social StudiesStudents access primary source and secondary source materials to learn about injustices in our worldStudents use the power of the internet to network with others and serve their community in an authentic wayScienceStudents explore museum websites or participate in online simulationsStudents are connected to experts in the field via Google Hangouts or Skype in the ClassroomLanguagesStudents use a flash card app to practice vocabulary in isolationStudents create content in the foreign language they are learningArt/MusicStudents use apps to learn about or study the work of othersStudents put their work in front of a genuine audience or turn their creations into profits by opening a storefront and selling their work online

Technology in the classroom opens up so many options for students to engage in real-world, authentic learning experiences. I would encourage you to think about ways to move from a classroom of content consumption to one where creation, connection, and critical thinking are fostered by the types of app-enabling activities you engage your students in!   References: Gardner, H.,  & Davis, K. (2013). The App generation: How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy, and imagination in a digital world.  New Haven: Yale University Press.

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