Time For An App Stipend For Teachers

I just spent $6.99 for the FluencyFinder app for my iPad. It was an impulse buy, granted but after having read about it in a blog post, it looked like an app I should be familiar with. But then, I do admit to a compulsive app buying habit dating back to my first iPad when not even 5 minutes after finishing the setup I had paid $19.95 of my own cash and was crashing the wifi network downloading the Elements app (remember when that was like THE app for ipad?).

Since then, I’ve avoided the VPP process like the plague, preferring to pay my own way through app exploration and experimentation (much to my wife’s displeasure at the monthly iTunes bills). Over the years I’ve built up quite a library of Apps on my personal iTunes account, 99.5% of which I never use. When I started using a Nexus 7, I once again went down the personal app route, buying apps associated with my personal gmail account.

I chose this route in the beginning because there were very few alternatives at the time. Now as I’m handing out iPads to teachers en mass and making them create “district” iTunes accounts with their work email addresses so that they can redeem district purchased apps to a district account, I’m reminded of why I’ve stuck with just buying my own apps even in the face of VPP.

It’s just easier. There is no app request form, no two week wait for approval, no logging in on my iPad to install personal apps and logging out and back in with my work account to install district apps. It’s easier, which means when I see an app I think might be useful or that looks interesting, I buy it, try it and then I know. And what’s more, an app that I find doesn’t work for me, may fit into someone else’s work flow beautifully.

That’s why App discovery and evaluation to me is a perfect example of 21st Century Skills in action. The search for an app, the critical assessment of an app, the practical integration of an app into instruction and hopefully, the sharing out of that process through social media to pay it forward for the common good. To impede that process by trying to control it seems very 19th century to me. So I’ve been thinking what we should be doing is giving every educator the opportunity (and expectation) to explore, experiment, fail, succeed and share with Apps. The best way to do this is to eliminate the red tape and give everyone an App Budget with permission to play. I propose just one requirement; that they share their app discovery with their peers throughout the year.

What do you think? Do you know of any districts that have taken this approach? I’d love to hear your thoughts.