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.

Instructional Technologist Lit Review: Low Cost 3d Printing

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Bradshaw, S., Bowyer, A. and Haufe, P. (2010) The intellectual
property implications of low-cost 3D printing. ScriptEd, 7 (1). pp.
5-31. ISSN 1744-2567

Link to official URL (if available):

Reviewed by: Nicholas Mattos

This article examines some important legal ramifications of low-cost 3D printing, by way of applying and extrapolating various types of intellectual property (IP) law in Europe. Published in 2010 it is very forward minded with regard to the proliferation of consumer level 3D printing and ongoing, as well as subsequent legislation. The authors begin with an informative overview of the industries and processes behind 3D printing, before describing in detail the various types of intellectual property (i.e. trademark, patent, copyright, etc) that may apply. The number of cases directly related to 3D printing was few, at the time, but the authors conclude that changes in the law could dramatically alter the manufacturing economy and society as a whole. I felt that this article was particularly pertinent, as ITS has recently installed a 3D printer in the Faculty Innovation Center (FIC), as well as in the College of Communication and Fine Arts. Growing interest in the technology necessitates a better understanding of the applications and implications for 3D printing in higher education.

The first section reads as a history of manufacturing and the development of industrial, commercial, and low-cost home-use 3D printers. This introduction provides a solid background for anyone who is new to the concepts behind 3D printing, or additive manufacturing. Without being overly technical the authors describe the process of computer-aided design (CAD), and how a 3D printer works by building up layers of material controlled by a computer, executing the design files. The most common type of files used in commercial 3D printers are stereolithography or STL files, but a variety of CAD programs can be used to design and print 3D objects. Software and hardware references are included by the authors, for those who would like to explore the technology in depth, and the first few pages are a who’s who of inventors and companies that have innovated or excelled in the marketplace. The authors even take time to explore a variety of uses of the technology in education, fashion, craft and hobby, as well as everyday life.

The main body of the article launches into a primer on intellectual property and defining legal terminology common to the UK, but seemingly applicable to the US and internationally. Examples are presented as hypotheticals involving Acme, a manufacturer “which produces a range of goods. Acme’s products are protected by various IP rights, such as design right, copyright, patent and trade mark.” (Bradshaw, 2010) These are put to the test against current laws protecting artistic works, commercial products, and other intellectual property. While the case studies are interesting, and seem to be well justified, they are still just the interpretations of 3 individuals. The authors also seem to come from a more technical, and not necessarily a legal background, so I would be interested to hear how a judge or lawyer interprets some of the same cases they reference. I would also like to read current US law and explore ongoing legislation on IP laws and 3D printing in this country and around the world for a broader scope.

The primary legal concern with 3D printing is infringing on patents and trademarks, but these are not always protected from personal use in 3D printing. It is the assumption of the authors that

“Purely personal use of 3D printing to make copies of household objects and spare parts does not infringe the IP rights that commonly protect such items, such as design protection, patents or trade marks. However, there are areas, such as the reproduction of artistic works, where IP rights such as copyright may be infringed. The advent of low-cost 3D printing may therefore pose challenges to several communities: manufacturers, who may be unable to enforce design protection against private users of 3D printing; artists, who may see a new forum for infringement of works previously difficult to copy, and users of low-cost 3D printing, who may face confusion as to what is legitimate and illegitimate use of the technology.” (Bradshaw, 2010)

While non commercial use of 3D scanners and printers to produce objects is often allowed, sharing of 3D PDFs or selling of 3D prints may be deemed illegal, depending on the circumstances. The authors do a good job of creating a variety of scenarios to explain each type of IP law, and how it might apply to Acme and the economy.Intellectual property rights protection will continue to be an issue as the tools of 3D printing become cheaper and more widely available. The determination of this article is that “the household domestic 3D printer is years, if not decades, from widespread use. Its impact will be gradual, as unlike file-shared MP3s it will not immediately provide for the reproduction of faithful copies. Rather, as its ease-of-use, fidelity and range of materials increases, so will its attractiveness and range of applications. This should, a least, allow for a more measured consideration of the legal issues that will arise from such use.” (Bradshaw, 2010) Creative Commons licensing is building a culture of open resource sharing, and global accessibility. The courts are likely to be busy in the coming years trying to interpret out of date IP laws that have trouble keeping up with the pace of technological advancement. In the mean time higher education is responsible for teaching the design and manufacturing skills that include using 3D printers, and other tech tools. It is important to consider the impact of intellectual property law on the work that we do, so that we provide students with the best information and most ethical techniques. I highly recommend this article to anyone interested in 3D printing, IP law, or manufacturing.

Additional resources: Up and Running with 3D Printing with with Kacie Hultgren, Makerbot Thingiverse,

Instructional Technologist Lit Review: Technology Expands the Definition of Literacy

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Technology Expands the Definition of Literacy

By: Josh Rivera

My conception of literacy was limited to one’s ability to communicate thoughts and meaning through reading and writing. It was these skills that separated the educated from non-educated. This narrow definition of literacy must expand to include the many different methods that our culture uses to communicate given the new innovations in technology. According to Jones-Kavalier and Flannigan (2006), “In our 21st automated—a new literacy is required, one more broadly defined than the ability to read and write” (pg. 1). Recognizing and acknowledging the ubiquity of technology in American culture seems to be the first step towards addressing the equity issues that surround it, particularly within the field of education. Moving forward, a key question that educators must answer to ensure that all students are prepared to meet the expectations of the 21st century society—accelerated, media saturated, and century work force is; in what sense are literacies technologies?

Many of our students are processing information at a pace that has never been matched before. According to Jones-Kavalier and Flannigan (2006), our students “posses digital competencies to effectively navigate the multi-dimensional and fast paced digital environment” (pg. 1). Considering these are skills the 21stcentury work force will require of their employees, how can we as educators support and strengthen this ability? The answer is to include digital and visual literacy skills within K-12 education. According to Jones-Kavalier and Flannigan (2006), “Literacy includes the ability to read and interpret media (text, sound, images), to reproduce data and images through digital manipulation, and to evaluate and apply new knowledge gained from digital environments” (pg. 2). Thus, literacies are technologies in the sense that they empower the user with the knowledge and skills necessary for meaningful participation within their community.

New Definition of Literacy Generates Equity Issues

At face value, the invention of, and innovations in technology seem to create new opportunities to participate, contribute, and influence decisions pertaining to one’s society. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case. As Rocap (2003) put it, “digital technologies create not only new possibilities, but new requirements, and at times, obstacles for participation in social, economic, and political life” (pg. 58). In order to understand what Rocap is saying here, we need to look at the ways literacy is composed and the implications it has for public education.

If literacy is suppose to be a social construction as it defines something that every child should know or be able to do, then we must ask ourselves what privileged member(s) of our society possess this responsibility? This role is powerful because their construction of literacy defines the official literacy of the society therein. According to Rocap (2003), although this process of standards development seems to be a process of social construction, we must understand that “social does not necessarily translate into it being either democratic or participatory” (pg. 64). Therefore, the process of defining an official literacy within a society can create and/or perpetuate current inequitable systems. Rocap (2003) says it best; “Economically and politically dominant or official literacies can and often do marginalize groups that engage in culturally diverse practices of communication and with non-dominant content” (pg. 61). Thus, the problem with official literacies lies in the fact that the dominant group’s values and beliefs are those that are represented and given privilege over those of non-dominant groups. That said, “digital equity is not simply an issue of equitable distribution of computers and connectivity, but, significantly, of education, resources, and opportunities that support meaningful participation in the definition, design, and use of the technologies for self- and community- defined purposes” (pg. 60). Once such a system is put in place, we can then focus on our won realities and problems; not those that are imposed on us.

The New Definition of Literacy Proves Problematic for Some Native Americans

The affects on Native Americans in light of the new definition of literacy is aresult of cultural and worldview differences. If the new definition of literacy now includes necessary skills and knowledge gained from a digital world, then such a definition would prove to be problematic if one’s culture struggles with identifying and participating in such a world. This so happens to be the case for Native Americans. These cultures value nature and the natural world of human beings, which is in great opposition to what technology represents. The idea of the “sacred” according to Delgado (2003), plays a vital role in the decisions and actions of the Native American people. Delgado (2003) argues that technological inventions are products of the corporate Western mindset— a mindset that goes against Native culture’s worldview. Furthermore, Delgado (2003) says, “For some Native people being surrounded by the non-sacred—” (technology in this case)” goes against the very basic tenets of Native life and thought” (pg. 90). With these cultural values being considered, it is not surprising that the new definition of literacy has greatly affected the Native American communities.

The discrepancy between Western culture and it’s dependency on technology with that of Native American culture and the value placed on nature and the sacred, create feelings of inferiority and disenfranchisement amongst the Native American people. If the new expectations of the 21st century workforce involve communication skills that require the use of technology, then Native people that lack this skill may consequently feel that their role in such a society is inadequate. For Native Americans, “Dependence on instinct, dreams, face-to-face interactions, common knowledge, common sense, rationalization, and observation are still preferred as ways of knowing and communicating” according to Delgado (2003) (pg. 91). Technology has taken out the heart-to-heart interactions between human beings thereby devaluing a Native American cultural belief.

Teaching Strategies Promotes Digital Equity

Effective teaching strategies can and have been used to promote digital equity. Many teachers have found ways to not only gain access to computers and connectivity, but more importantly, bridge the divide between popular Western culture with other cultures that struggle with accepting technology as a different form of literacy. In all examples that were cited in the readings, there was one common theme that guided the teacher’s instructional strategies; in all examples, the teachers focused on building students’ digital competencies however, their approach was not to teach “digital literacy” insomuch as “critical literacy”. According to Rocap (2003), critical literacies “interrogate existing power inequities in society. They help to raise the voices of and improve life chances for traditionally underserved or oppressed individuals or groups, as well as promote education that supports social justice broadly” (pg. 66). This common theme made the teachers more effective in the classroom.

Ted Jojola developed a CD-ROM program for Tewa students—a tribe found primarily in the Albuquerque area. The computer program focused on teaching and preserving the tribe’s native language, which had been deteriorating due to pressures of modern society to assimilate. The Tewa language is not pubically shared according to the cultural values of Tewa tribes. The computer program allowed members of the tribe to teach and preserve their language while protecting the privacy of the language. In this example the teacher took into consideration the values and beliefs of Tewa culture and strategized an instructional approach that was culturally accepted and meaningful. As educators work towards discovering instructional strategies that are inclusive for all cultures, we must do so in a certain frame of mind. This mind set, as Rocap (2003) put it, must “support the aspirations, values and future visions of their learners’ diverse families and communities, as well as promote principled democratic participation in the wider society…” (pg.64). When this criteria has been met, all our students stand a better chance of success.


Delgado, Vivian. “Toward Digital Equity: Bridging the Divide in Education” NY, New York. Pearson Education Group, Inc. 2003

Flannigan, Suzanna., Jones-Kavalier, Barbara. “Connecting the Digital Dots: Literacy of the 21st Century. Educause Quaterly. Nov. 2, 2006

Rocap, Kevin. “Toward Digital Equity: Bridging the Divide in Education” NY, New York. Pearson Education Group, Inc. 2003

Instructional Technologist Lit Review: Categories for barriers to adoption of instructional technologies

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Citation: Reid, P. (2014). Categories for barriers to adoption of instructional technologies. Education and Information Technologies, 19(2), 383-407. doi: 10.1007/s10639-012-9222-z. Retrieved from

Reviewed by: Michelle Yeung

Categories for barriers to adoption of instructional technologies
Multiple barriers prevent the effective adoption of instructional technologies in higher education. This research provides a framework of the five most common barriers based on literature research: technology, process, administration, environment, and faculty. This framework provides institutions a starting point from which they can plan to minimize barriers and increase adoption rates at their institution.

In each of the categories and the barriers sub-categorized in the framework, the author cites qualitative and quantitative literature supporting and explaining why the barrier commonly occurs. At the end of each barrier, the author adds a conclusion and suggestion for institutional analysis.

The resulting framework includes 5 barriers to the adoption of instructional technologies (Figure 1):

  1. Technology barrier: access, reliability, and complexity
  2. Process barrier: project management, support, professorial development
  3. Administration barrier: control, institutional support, misunderstanding of required effort, compensation and time
  4. Environment barrier: technology effectiveness, legal issues, tensions between administration and academia, organizational change
  5. Faculty barrier: Participation in professional development, perception of quality and effectiveness, self-efficacy and background, resistance to change, effective use

michelle lit review image

Fig. 1
Fishbone diagram of barriers to adoption of instructional technologies

The proposed framework provides management and staff tasked with supporting instructional technologies insight into potential barriers and pitfalls at their institution. While each institution must identify the priorities and importance of each barrier and their potential solutions on campus, the framework is a starting point of analysis