The Ultimate Teacher’s Guide To Creating Educational Apps

It’s no secret that students love their smartphones. Most were seemingly born with one in their hand. They use them to chat, talk with friends, get news, and to learn. Wait, learn?!

That’s right, EduDemic is pleased to share with you some of the best ways teachers can make iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch apps that will help students learn and feel a bit more engaged in class. There are plenty of quality learning aids in the app store today, but is there an app specifically designed for your class?

We have tutorials for both tech experts and also teachers who are new to the tech game. Either way, there is hope and making apps is much easier than you think.

Why Make An App?

You may have decided to create an app simply so you would seem hip. Maybe it’s to relate to students better. Here’s some other big reasons you should be considering making your own app or at least implement more Apple products in your school:

A 24/7 learning store at your fingertips.

Shop the App Store on iPhone and iPod touch to find apps for learning. Read descriptions and user reviews. Flick through a few screenshots. Then download the app wirelessly to your iPod touch or iPhone and start using it right away.

Apps aplenty.

Whether students need help defining a word, locating the lumbar spine, or practicing French vocabulary, there’s definitely an app for that. And you’ll find it at the App Store. Tap Featured to get a list of new apps and see what’s hot. Peruse by category or check out the Top 25 apps. If you know exactly which app you’re looking for, find it with a quick search.

Wi-Fi wherever

Built-in Wi-Fi on iPod touch and iPhone means you and your students can do research on the web, write an email (even attach a photo or document), and chat or text with classmates or colleagues. iPod touch and iPhone instantly recognize nearby wireless networks. iPhone uses 3G as well as Wi-Fi to deliver rich HTML email, maps with GPS, and Safari web browsing over the cellular network. You can even email or browse the web while making a phone call.

Voice Memos

Record interviews, reading samples, study guides, or class lectures with Voice Memos — included on iPhone and iPod touch. You can even share recordings via email.

VoiceOver

Touch the screen to hear a description of the item under your finger with the world’s first gesture-based screen reader.

Zoom

Magnify the entire screen of any application up to five times normal size and move left, right, up, and down to view any portion of the screen up close.

White on Black

For higher contrast, you can change the display to white on black.

Mono Audio

If your hearing is limited in one ear, turn on Mono Audio to route audio into both earbuds, so you can hear both channels in either ear.

iTunes U

There are over 600 universities with active iTunes U sites. And most of these institutions — including Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, and UC Berkeley — distribute their content publicly. You can learn about the Galapagos Islands or learn a new language. In the Beyond Campus section, you can tour some of the world’s most famous museums or brush up on your leadership skills. Students and faculty can access a wealth of content from distinguished entities such as MoMA, the New York Public Library, Public Radio International, and PBS stations.

For Beginners: What You’ll Need

You won’t have to do any coding and you can actually make a pretty simple app for not much money. In fact, your app should / could be paid for by your school if you can make an app that can be used by all the classes in your school or if it could be used by all the teachers in your school. For example, if you spent $1,000 on an app that replaces even one computer purchase for your school in the teacher’s lounge or anywhere else, that’s already a savings. If you made a $1,500 app that replaced the need for a computer lab, well you can do the math.

Beginners don’t have to worry about writing the code for their own app. Luckily there are dozens of quality sites that create apps to your specifications for a moderate price. Here’s a look at some of the best places:

App Wizard

Cost: $99 (They try to bill you monthly but simply cancel your account after the app is uploaded to the app store and the app remains available for download without you having recurring payments)

A full-service site that lets you design the user interface (UI) for the app using simple drag-and-drop. App Wizard is one of the cheapest ways to go. It is definitely not the most powerful system to build an app but it should easily be able to create an app that takes attendance, let’s students share homework questions, contact teachers, or simply hear if school is closed for the day.

One of the main benefits of  utilizing AppWizard to build your iPhone Application is that it makes updating your app incredibly fast and simple. Since your application can be a website, blog, hosted game, social networking site, etc.. updating the app occurs almost instantly. Additionally choosing to host your app’s content on server (which we can help with) means much more editorial freedom from Apple. This makes getting into the AppStore incredibly simple.

Instead of paying several thousand dollars up front, AppWizard simply charges one monthly maintenance free. This includes the ability to :

-Create & modify your app around the clock
-Complete hosting and monitoring of your app on our dedicated servers
-Full assistance with designing and launching your app in Apple’s AppStore under AppWizards’s Apple Account
-Alternately for a one time fee of $399 we can create and publish your app under your own Apple Account.

iPhone Sculptor

Cost: From $199 (Price is based on how advanced an app you require.)

This service is straightforward, a bit more expensive than App Wizard, but worth it. Sculptor contacts about 200 developers, asks them how much they would charge to build your app, and then sends you a few of their quotes. You then work through iPhone Sculptor to have that developer build your app. You may think it would be easier to just work directly with the developer but this adds an extra layer of accountability. If you pay a developer and he or she suddenly loses interest in building your app (happens all the time) and becomes hard to contact, they might just ignore your emails. However, with iPhone Sculptor, the company works to be sure everything is progressing on schedule. A bit from their website:

We connect people who need an iPhone application with the world’s most experienced iPhone Developers. Unlike other firms, the developers in our network actually all have apps in the Apple AppStore.  Therefore we can promise a full guarantee that your app WILL be accepted by Apple.

The developers associated with  iPhone Sculptors have different areas of expertise. Several of our developers have concentrated primarily on games. While others have selected to pursue business and social media/content related apps.  Some other areas of  our core competency include:

  • GPS functionality
  • Push notification
  • Accelerometers/Motion
  • Graphic Animation
  • Apps requiring a server component
  • Audio & Video Streaming

To receive a free quote and estimated project time link simply fill out the form to the left. Alternately you can contact us directly at apps@iphonesculptors.com. We promise that any ideas submitted to us will remain entirely confidential. Also we would be happy to sign a non-disclosure agreement for serious clients.

uBuild App

Price: $199 (no monthly fees)

Probably one of the best deals for someone looking to have an app built for them, uBuild App does a solid job at a reasonable price. Unlike most app builders, uBuild actually has a money back guarantee. If you’re not 100% happy with the app (or your students hate it, etc.) you can get your money back. Definitely a big selling point to whoever is deciding on allowing you to purchase app creation.

While we are guessing most apps created by teachers will be free, there is a caveat if you’re planning on making your app available for a price. uBuild gets half the revenue from each sale. If the app is free though, this isn’t a problem. The other issue is you can’t change your app after a year without paying a small fee. They don’t actually say what the fee is, but we’re guessing it won’t be more than $99. A bit from their website:

After designing numerous iPhone apps, we realized that there was a need for a simpler way for the average person to create an app. We wanted to create a methodology that was not only cost effective, but also one that was easily changeable. We developed a patent pending technology to allow anyone to create an iPhone application and preview it on their own phone in minutes.

With the simplification of this development process and scale of hundreds of customers, we are now able to offer you your own custom iPhone application for as little as $99.

For Advanced Teachers: What You’ll Need

Making an Apple iPhone/iPod Touch app is not a venture that should be taken lightly. There are two significant investments that you must be willing to make:

  1. Financial investment: you will need an Intel-based Mac computer with Mac OS X 10.5.5 Leopard for developing your app, as well as a couple of test devices (preferably both an iPhone and an iPod Touch). Plus, you must be a registered member of the Apple iPhone Developer Program, which costs $99 for the basic edition.
  2. Time investment: even the simplest iPhone app will take a considerable amount of time to develop. Yes, you could blow a simple app out your posterior in about two weeks’ time, but a true sales contender could take a couple of months for development, testing, and distribution.

Get Started

Once you realize this is going to occupy the better part of your day, cost you a chunk of change, and that your app may not even get downloaded by many people…it’s time to get started.

First, go to the Apple Dev Center to view tutorials, learn some best practices, and to sign up for your Apple Developer account ($99) so you can submit an app to the app store. You can choose to visit the iPad developer center too. It’s much newer, obviously, but has plenty of resources for building the larger iPad apps.

Write The App

We have the best and official guide to writing the code for your app. Click here to download the PDF (54 pages) and learn everything from coding in C to how to implement the more advanced functionality available in the iPhone SDK. (You must be signed up as an Apple App Developer in order to do 95% of the functions in this guide.)

Click here to download the Official App Development Guide

The DOs & DON’Ts Of Designing Your App

There is a relatively popular app in the app store called PhotoKast. It’s a photo-sharing app but that’s not the reason we’re mentioning it. We are actually fans of the app because the developers created a DOs and DON’Ts of app development. From how to design a quality app to why you should feel embarassed by your first design of the app. Enjoy:

A 10-Year-Old Explains How To Make An App

Feeling overwhelmed by the app creation process yet? If not, this next video tutorial should do you in. That’s right, it’s a video created by a 10-year-old on how to build an app. Once you can get past the fact that he’s so young, it’s actually a very helpful video. There are tons of tutorial videos swimming around YouTube, so be sure to search for a helpful video as you begin your quest for app creation.

Tell Us About Your App

Have you built an app you’d like to show off? We will gladly add it to our Resources page and, if it’s super great, feature it on an article on EduDemic. Let us know about it by e-mailing edudemic[at]gmail.com or tweeting us @edudemic. Good luck!

9 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Ultimate Teacher’s Guide To Creating Educational Apps – Edudemic « Coolwired's Social Media Blog

  2. Andrew Milne

    May 30, 2012 at 9:55 am

    I built mine for free using ibuildapp . com. It’s not perfect but it’s a start.

  3. Pingback: Making Apps « Teacher Resources

  4. nancy gaspard

    June 12, 2012 at 8:12 am

    This website can useful for kids pre-k thru grade 5

  5. Pingback: Teacher-Developed Apps Fill Lesson Gaps « My Educational Technology Blog

  6. Pingback: The Best of What Tim Found Today #edtech 08/04/2012 « The Best of What Tim Found Today

  7. Glenn

    August 5, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    I am wondering why you are so apple centric. It is a given fact that almost 2x as many smart phones sold in the US are android phones, and when I ask my learners in my classroom, the number of android smartphones matches the sales numbers.

    If you are going to do an article like this, why not do an article for the majority of phones as well as the minority of phones? Apple makes a decent product, but there are far more android phones out there.

  8. Sean

    August 24, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Just wanted to share with you our new education pack for teaching App Building. You can read all about it here.

    http://support.theappbuilder.com/entries/21903223-teach-app-building

  9. ted

    November 29, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I recommend this Timeline Eons app, a graphic representation of the entire natural and human history:

    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/timeline-eons/id433352152?mt=8&ls=1