A challenge I have been having lately is the overlapping of apps. Recently, I was reviewing dictionary apps such as Dictionary.com and the Oxford English Dictionary. As I was comparing these two apps, I was challenged in that they essentially performed the same function and provided similar information. To be frank, a word’s definition, its pronunciation, and part(s) of speech among other qualifiers are pretty standard in dictionary apps. This realization, though it may not be the most enlightening one I have had, caused me to think about how I can substantiate key differences between the apps.
When I review apps, I analyze them using our research-based rubric that has more than 20 attributes. With it, I identify the apps’ different strengths and weaknesses, and this often gives me a point of comparison. However, when apps literally perform the same function and offer the same information, there is not much to really qualify as being distinguishing criteria. In light of that, I then focus on how the apps could be used in the classroom, but I again run into the same challenge. There is no distinguishing criterion to separate the two apps. So, when choosing which app to use in the classroom, it simply comes down to making a call based on the app’s design and interface.
From the perspective of teachers, I recommend that you envision how your students are going to use the app. How are they going to react to the app? Will they understand how to move from one screen to the next, from one piece of information to the next? How will you teach with the app and how will students access information? These attributes, to me, are what I use to distinguish similar apps. Outside of the dictionary apps I used earlier, this same challenge appears with many early literacy, office, and handwriting apps. Remember, the distinguishing factors are not the app’s rating per say, but how you can use the app and how students will engage it.