Project Outline

Technology is rapidly becoming an essential teaching tool in a variety of fields. Recent advancements in mobile hardware, notably smartphones and tablets, have led to increasing interest in educational applications for these devices. I developed an interest in this area from my work on a mobile game, called Präpp, that teaches German grammar. Dr. Katrin Völkner, who is also my adviser for this project, had the idea to create a smartphone game to learn German verb and preposition combinations. German verb and preposition combinations need to be memorized, so we thought that games, rather than rote memorization, would be a more interesting way for students to learn these combinations. While this first version works well, I would like to add features to this application that have been found to be effective in other apps. By researching these features I could find methods to improve on the current prepositions app.

I’m interested in researching specific features of mobile applications that help users learn the content taught by an app. I would like to find out how to make users feel that a learning app is fun to use, as opposed to a chore. In order to discover these features I plan on scanning educational apps for smartphones and tablets, such as Duolingo, Babbel, Scribblenauts and others. For my research I will also explore literature on the topics of mobile learning and educational gaming. This is a very interdisciplinary field with contributions from researchers in computer science, cognitive science and language education. I will study papers and books that analyze data from mobile learning games and ones that study the effectiveness of features of educational apps.

My research on features of education apps will aid me in improving Präpp. After researching other apps and reading papers I will have a list of features and design ideas that are common in successful apps. I hope to contribute to the field of educational technology through my analysis of mobile apps. Anyone who wants to build or improve on an educational app will be able to use my research on features and design to create apps, which are enjoyable, easy-to-use and most of all educational.

Ben Meline

I'm a student at Northwestern University majoring in computer engineering and minoring in German. I'm interested in studying the usage of mobile applications for learning.