5 great mobile apps to inspire your learning solutions…

Mobile learning isn’t just about taking your old content and making it available on a mobile device. We’re afforded a whole new range of possibilities once we take learners away from their desks. We should be looking to take advantage of the mediums we’re given; mobile, camera, geo-location, movement, voice and more… Just to whet the appetite, here’s 5 apps to help inspire some creativity in your next learning project…


This is a neat little app that can be adapted to bring social interactions into your learning. The premise is simple; by ‘bumping’ 2 phones together, you can instantly share contact information, files and more. It’s implementation is a great example of innovating given the tools available to you. Using the phones accelerometer, the app knows when you’ve made a “bump” type motion. It sends this info off to the server where the date/time stamp of the motion, along with the rough location is compared with other records. If the server can match your “bump” with another “bump” in a similar location at the same time, that’s your bump! Clever, eh?

Anyhow, consider how we could use this in learning. Perhaps it is part of an ARG; find person ‘x’ and bump them to get information. Perhaps you need to share your essay with another student. Maybe we’re making new contacts as a part of the induction process. There are lots of uses here, all part of generating a social approach whilst blending the online and the offline world.

Google Goggles

This app is surely the future of performance support learning. Fundamentally you can use Goggles to search the web using pictures or voice in the same way you would type your query into Google normally. This has consequences in the future for all sorts of initiatives like Augmented Reality learning experiences, but it also has plenty of uses today. Imagine flicking your phones camera onto the piece of equipment in front of you, snapping a pic and then being directed to the training on that device.

For me, one of the great breakthroughs here is the ability to take away the need for the often difficult keypad on mobile devices. Think of the breakthrough accessibility innovations that occur with this sort of development. I made a very quick video (on my iPhone, of course) to show the power of this functionality for those unaware of the app…


One of the first location-based apps is still growing strong, despite Facebook wading into the marketplace with their Places features. It is still relevant; perhaps its separation from Facebook is its strength (although it can also utilise the Facebook API). Because of this separation, it should be possible to get your learners to sign-up without treading on the toes of their social graph. And the gaming mechanics it employs are hugely valuable to us as learning professionals; be that in something as old school as tracking attendance or as new as creating a social game where people scavenge a town looking for clues in a treasure hunt. Forget attendance registers, it’s all about whose the Mayor of your classroom.


The ability to create good content with a minimum of technical expertise and hardware is one of the great features of the current generation of mobile devices. iMovie is just one of the tools you could use to make this happen. You don’t need to give out camera equipment, purchase software or write DVDs to create decent film clips any more. The clip of Goggles above took me 30 seconds to shoot, 30 seconds to add a title and tags, and about a minute to publish to my YouTube account. I could have storyboarded it out, hired in a camera crew and distributed it using my own website, but I would have never made it any better than the 2 minute solution.

This is a killer feature not only for developing learning content, but for engaging students. Forget answering MCQ’s, make me a video.


I like Instagram because it has no real pretences to be something it isn’t: “Fast beautiful photo sharing for your iPhone”. Seems like this area would be pretty well covered by apps like Facebook, right? Well maybe, but actually I’ve always found Facebook to be crappy when it comes to dealing in photos. And we come against the “Facebook wall” once again; what happens when my students don’t want to engage with me in their private space?

With Instagram you take a photo, add a filter to it and share with friends. In terms of practical application, I’m seeing this as a great way to engage younger students in a creative activity. What filters do what to an image? Why do they do that? Which looks coolest? How can we make ordinary pictures look great? It’s a very creative little tool and it is so simple that it will work for a pretty young audience.

From a wider perspective Instagram teaches us a good lesson; whilst many new apps will come along and break new ground, there remains plenty of opportunity to exploit previous territory that no one ever really nailed. Your innovations don’t have to be disruptive to be innovative.

For the first time we’ll be at Learning Technologies 2011, Jan 26th-27th in London. If you are planning on visiting the conference and exhibition be sure to pop in and say “hi” to us; we’ll be on Stand C8 showcasing Curatr and starting great conversations about innovative learning technologies. That and we’ll have cupcakes.

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