14 Days of #macul14 – Day Twelve – Paid Apps Showdown

Scan through some of the most popular blogs about educational technology and you’ll find two words that take up a disproportionate amount of the conversation; “apps” and “free”. I’m not going to place any judgement or question how the focus on those two terms helps or hinders the long-term pedagogical success of our instruction. At least not in this post. There are certainly many worthy free applications (for mobile and desktop platforms) that have both short and long term value in our learning environments.

Long time readers of my blog know that I’m curious. So I wondered what sort of excellent apps and tools we might be missing when we condition ourselves to automatically filter out anything that can’t be downloaded immediately for free. I use a wide range of rather low cost apps on my mobile devices (ranging from $.99 to $4.99) and a smaller number of more robust and expensive applications on my desktop platforms (anywhere between $19.99 to $99). Sure, I’m an anomaly; as the only instructional technologist in my district, serving all educators in the K-12 setting, I need to be familiar with a variety of apps and tools for a wide range of abilities and age groups. So I download, and pay, for apps on a regular basis to see how they work, and then advise my teachers which apps are worth spending their precious classroom or limited district funds on.


Walking away from all the “BEST Free App!” sessions at the MACUL 2014 Conference, I couldn’t help but ask what would happen if we took time to highlight and showcase the apps teachers use that AREN’T free. What if we took the word “free” out of the equation for app purchase decision making, and instead asked educators what applications they felt were so essential to their instruction (or just downright awesome) that they were willing to pay for it? I got a few answers to that question last week at the MACUL Mobile Learning Conference, a wonderfully intimate conference held each April in Kalamazoo.

I hosted a “Paid Apps Showdown” session, in which I invited audience members (we had about 20 or so) to show off the apps they valued enough to pay full price for. The thought of course being that these apps aren’t necessarily “better” than their free or “lite” counterparts, but that they had become so essential to an educator’s or student’s digital workflow that it was worth investing in the app. Below is a Storified archive of the #paidappshowdown Twitter feed that Steve Dickie helped me out with during the session. I hope there’s some value in the apps, and if you have anymore paid apps that you can’t live without, share in the comments!

I led a 60 minute app showdown at MACUL’s Mobile Learning Conference, and it went pretty well considering we only had a couple of dozen attendees at the session. These are the apps that were shared that attendees felt so passionate about, that they went ahead and plunked down money for them.