Instructional Technologist Lit Review: A Framework for Classifying Educational Apps

Citation: Cherner, T., Dix, J., & Lee, C. (2014). Cleaning up that mess: A framework for classifying educational apps. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 14(2). Retrieved from

Reviewed by: Michelle Yeung

Cleaning Up That Mess: A Framework for Classifying Educational Apps
Currently, educators must rely on online lists to find academic apps on mobile devices appropriate for their classrooms. The authors propose a framework for choosing educational apps based on purpose, content, and value.

The researchers began by reviewing educational taxonomies, software and frameworks from 1988 to present. 92 free apps were qualitatively and selectively reviewed out of 20,000 available pre K-12 educational apps from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. These included apps centered on English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, though some were found to be multi-subject matter, or teacher resources. In categorizing apps, three questions were essential to the authors, and a Pearson correlation coefficient was also calculated during analysis:

  • What is the primary purpose of this app?
  • What does this app require users to do?
  • How could teachers use this app in their classrooms?

The resulting classification framework resulted from the authors’ analysis of the 92 apps:

  • Skill-based
    • Description:  Apps that use recall, rote memorization, and skill-and-drill instructional strategies to build students’ literacy abilities, numeracy skills, standardized test readiness, and subject area knowledge.
    • Bloom’s Taxonomy Implications: Remembering and Understanding
  • Content-based
    • Description:  Apps that give students access to vast amounts of information, data, or knowledge by conducting searches or through exploring pre-programmed content.
    • Bloom’s Taxonomy Implications: Applying and Analyzing
  • Function-based
    • Description:  Apps that assist students in transforming learned information into usable forms.
    • Bloom’s Taxonomy Ranking: Evaluating and Creating

Educators are encouraged to create subcategories for each of the areas within the framework. An example given for a Literacy Skill-Based App are subcategories of: Fluency, Grammar, Handwriting, Language Acquisition, Spelling, and Vocabulary.

The proposed framework can advance and inform teachers and teacher candidates how to select appropriate apps for the classroom, even as new apps are released onto the market. In addition to TPACK (Koehler & Mishra, 2005, 2009), these tools can save time, school budgets, align the app to a planned lesson in the classroom.

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