What is are Mobile Apps?

For several years now, a revolution has been taking place in software development that parallels similar shifts in the music, publishing, and retail industries. Mass market is giving way to niche market, and with it, the era of highly priced large suites of integrated software has shifted to a new view of what software should be. Mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS have redefined mobile computing, and in the past three to four years, the small, low-cost software extensions to these devices — apps — have become a hotbed of development. Simple but useful apps have found their way into almost every form of human endeavor, and a popular app can see millions of downloads in a very short time. The huge market for apps has spawned a flood of creativity that is instantly apparent in the extensive collections available in the app stores. Online app marketplaces provide an easy and highly efficient way to deliver software that reduces distribution and marketing costs significantly. Mobile apps continue to gain traction in education because they are particularly useful for learning as they enable people to learn and experience new concepts wherever they are, often across multiple devices.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • This technology is relevant to the educational sector because it promotes innovation and cheaper to deploy. It provides the most economic, practical, and accessible routes to information for millions of people. - luannel luannel Oct 22, 2014
  • There is great potential for mobile apps in the museum education sector, and a number of apps are now appearing from museums. Some of them are good for education, and some have different purposes. A number of museums have produced what tour apps, which are predicated on providing assistance to museum visitors. They often have a map (which is sometimes interactive); descriptions of objects (with or without audio/ video/ additional or contextual images) and, more recently, incorporate technologies that ping new content to the user (e.g. use of iBeacons, infrared, barcode scan, QR code scan etc). Then there are collection apps which do not assume that the user is visiting the museum at the time but just wants to explore the collection. There are game or whimsical apps (Tate's magic ball, Field Museum Specimania, Race vs Time). And there are apps that showcase museum collections/research and knowledge outside the Museum's walls (e.g. Field Guides produced by Museum Victoria, walking tour apps - the Powerhouse and Museum Victoria, Street Museum Londinium). An enthusiastic educator could incorporate any or all of these into a program. [- ewallis ewallis Oct 30, 2014]
  • I'm working on a project that includes a new mobile GPS app for an artist in residence program, created by an artist team working with an app developer they found. We are getting it built fairly cheaply, ~$8500 or so, and we hope it will run for at least a few years. The thing I do worry about is that it may need a lot of upgrading with each new version of Android or iOS. F%$K!!! That again.... It is planned as a tour with an information archive, full of different voices, images, and all the usual goodies. What I worry about most, obviously, is investing in something that will break fast. Longevity of any digital thing is so poor, and with the explosion of platforms (tablets! phones! bigger phones! iWatches! Retina displays! Google glasses!!...omg) it just gets more complicated.- weberj weberj Nov 3, 2014
  • Ewallis did a great job summarizing the potential for apps designed for museums to use. I'd also like to emphasize the potential for museums to utilize ready made apps for various uses including k12 programming and in-gallery interpretation. This is something we have just been testing as an institution with varying results but it has been a great, low cost way to introduce technology and digital participatory experiences in the gallery. 21 Tech is an IMLS funded research project looking at using mobile apps in science museum exhibitions: http://www.21-tech.org/. There was also a great twitter chat about this topic as well,
    https://storify.com/NAMExhibitions/exhibitchat-using-free-and-low-cost-apps-to-engag - mcollerd mcollerd Nov 5, 2014

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • In recent years there has been a global growth in the number of mobile apps. Getting accurate information on the size of the the mobile apps market could be useful.- luannel luannel Oct 22, 2014 Here's a good infographic on the size and expansion of the current mobile market:
  • http://www.newzoo.com/insights/infographic-mobile-games-market-to-double-in-size-until-2016-and-reach-23-9bn/ - Sam Sam Oct 30, 2014
  • There is a lot of debate about app vs mobile website - which is better, when should one or other be used (some say museums should *never* make an app). [- ewallis ewallis Oct 30, 2014]
  • The amount of resources required to create a mobile app should not be underestimated - particularly if the museum is going to do it inhouse rather than outsource. Content creation requires vast input, particularly to get images (and after all, who wants an app that's all text?!). Then there's decisions about what platforms - Apple/iOS, Android are the default two. No-one much is releasing apps for Windows or Blackberry. Every new platform added means extra cost and resources [- ewallis ewallis Oct 30, 2014] I agree with is being a big issue - mcollerd mcollerd Nov 5, 2014
  • Coupled with the resource issue is the timeframe-- what is the length of time for realization by the museum sector and what is the timeframe of the mobile app itself? Museums would likely benefit from a shorter time to development, more lightweight products that can be more quickly produced, and a willingness to recognize that certain apps/projects need to have a short lifecyle to adjust to audience needs and programming content.- AHelmreich AHelmreich Nov 2, 2014
  • Why aren't we working together?! I find is frustrating every time I see yet another museum announce proudly that it's launching a mobile app. I can add up the dollars being spent over and over to create essentially the same thing multiple times. Lucky vendors, I guess. As a sector, we should think a lot more about pooling our resources and building "apps" that apply across multiple institutions. That would mean fewer apps on users' devices, standardized interfaces, a focus on features sets instead of just getting an app built, etc. - dhegley dhegley Nov 3, 2014
  • Ditto on many of the above comments. Many museum apps can be accommodated in a mobile website or are just that in an app wrapper for the particular OS. - mwall mwall Nov 4, 2014
  • I'd also like to add that any mobile experience whether app based or mobile requires the information and data that museums are distributing to be efficient, up to date, and clean. If you don't have digitized collection information, high quality images, and an up to date collections management system, a mobile project becomes nearly impossible to complete - mcollerd mcollerd Nov 5, 2014

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • Emerging technologies such as the mobile app will likely have a large impact on teaching, learning and creative inquiry on education and museums. Nowadays, people depend on their phones because of its ability to make delivery more efficient. It has quickly become the most common and affordable way for millions of people to access information.- luannel luannel Oct 22, 2014
  • An excellent way to introduce inquiry. Someone needs to create an app on looking at a museum - select sculpture/painting/mixed media, then representative/abstract, and a list of possible ways to "look" at the artwork. Connect it to social, have conversations with others looking at similar works. Pintrest of museums! - Jenoleniczak Jenoleniczak Oct 30, 2014
  • Apps provide the ability to move education out of the museum building. As they're downloaded on to a device they can be used somewhere that has neither a phone signal nor wifi. This provides flexibility in the learning environment - e.g. you can still use an app in a local park. It also provides flexibility if your local wifi is problematic - and for many museums it is. [- ewallis ewallis Oct 30, 2014]
  • As the name implies, it is mobile and is a boon for repatriating collections into their original/natural context (particularly natural history collections). - mwall mwall Nov 4, 2014

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

Please share information about related projects in our Horizon Project Sharing Form.se last three links could equally be applied to the gamification topic [- ewallis ewallis Oct 31, 2014]