New “app building” class to be offered next fall

Smart devices are getting more attention in the classroom

Mackenzie Martin

Many techies can only dream of a job working on product development for Apple, Inc . But starting next fall, some University of Minnesota students will get to do the next best thing. A new application building class will allow graduate students the opportunity to try their hand at designing content programs for smart devices like the iPhone, iPod Touch and the newly-released iPad. The course will be taught by Charles Miller, assistant professor of learning technologies, and will be offered through the Department of Curriculum and Instruction next fall semester. Students will mainly be building education-based apps to be used as teaching tools, but content may vary to allow more creativity and experimentation. Miller said using technologies like the iPod Touch in the classroom are motivating for students because they capture their interest. But regardless of the technology, Miller said it all comes down to how professors use it. âÄúWe have to find ways to implement technology in meaningful ways that enhance learning,âÄù Miller said. The University of Minnesota is among the first to offer a course of its kind, with other iPhone development courses already being offered at Stanford , MIT and the University of Washington , Miller said. Randy Baum , a second-year ESL Chinese grad student in the curriculum instruction department said he has used various apps and said they can be a useful tool in the classroom for those who know how to use them. âÄúFor the experienced leader, I think itâÄôd be useful,âÄù he said. Baum currently uses an app that helps his students write Chinese characters and said he would like to see one capable of evaluating foreign language pronunciation. âÄúIf you have an idea for an app, itâÄôd be good to know how to make one,âÄù Andy Howard, second-year ESL Spanish grad student, said. The class will be limited to 40 students and preference will be given to learning technology graduate students. Miller said he hopes to offer a similar course next spring semester. âÄúThe future of app design and online learning represents an exciting opportunity,âÄù Miller said. âÄúI want to make sure that Learning Technologies and the University of Minnesota is playing a major role.âÄù Miller has not yet talked to Apple about any possible partnership, but said he wants the students to be involved in the process when it is discussed.