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It may seem odd given my recent post explaining why I will not be buying an app that I would encourage my dear loyal reader(s) to buy their mobile apps but a recent discussion with my children has prompted me to do so.

“Dad, what will your next vehicle be…a truck?”

Me: “A truck would be nice, it sure would make towing the camper trailer easier.”

“If you buy a truck, you should buy a Dodge.”

Me: “Why is that?”

“They can tow anything!”

Me: “Thanks, buddy…how do you know that?”

This discussion leads me to the first reason I believe schools (and school districts) should buy apps for their students, children are extremely susceptible to advertising. This should not be news to anyone. In fact, in Canada, advertisers have been governed by the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards since 1963. The code states “advertising that is directed to children must not exploit their credulity, lack of experience or their sense of loyalty, and must not present information or illustrations that might result in their physical, emotional or moral harm.” This is good in theory, and we can see these standards play out in broadcast media, but I would challenge anyone using a “free” children’s app to look discerningly at the in-app ads and maintain that they meet this standard, and in a world of rotating push advertising, that they meet this standard all the time. The response I hear most often to this concern is “we just ignore them.” I refer back to the Code and highlight the “lack of experience” children have. As adults, we recognise the almost coercive power of advertising, all the hooks that are specifically designed to get us to click through. Children have not yet developed this “muscle” but if anything, it would be an excellent topic for class discussion. According to the Ontario Ministry of Education’s Paying Attention to Literacy Literacy involves the capacity to access, manage, create and evaluate information. This could lead to some fascinating and helpful discussions around advertising and its role in the new digital media.

Let me be clear, I do not have anything against content creators getting paid. In fact, it is the opposite. Have you ever tried to program an app? It is hard work, even harder to make all the visual elements of the app appealing. An article in Venture Beat reported that app store superstar Supercell, makers of Clash of Clans, Boom Beach and Hay Day, made profits of $964 million on revenue of $2 326 million in 2015. To put that another way, Supercell had expenses of $1 362 million to create and support just three apps. That is an oversimplified view of their operations to be sure but it gives an idea of the cost and effort it takes to create compelling apps. A Business Insider report pegged the cost to produce Grand Theft Auto V at $266 million. Again, an extreme example but the point is, developing an app is challenging and the people doing it deserve to be compensated. I think the best model for allowing that to happen in a mobile app store is the in-app purchase of advertising removal. In a school, this would allow the teacher to try the app at no cost and if deemed appropriate for the classroom, remove the advertising with an in app purchase. Unfortunately this method does not work well on a school district level where Apple’s Volume Purchase Program (VPP) is typically used to purchase apps. Recommendations for a work around are described on Jamf Nation

Finally, app advertising can create security risks. This will get a little bit technical but some of the new attack vectors related to app advertising are worth noting. Cloudflare details on their blog how an ad network can be leveraged to kick off a distributed denial of service attack. While one of the appeals of the iOS App Store is that it is curated and secured, there is a much lower level of security and curation on the ads that are served. In fact, iOS 10.3 rolled out with support for 3rd party advertising. This opens the door for exploits similar to Stegano which targeted website banner advertising. This attack vector could be used to exploit a future vulnerability in iOS or Android.

In summary, there are three reasons to purchase apps for our students (free apps are not free):

There is a cost to allowing our children to be bombarded with ads
There is a cost to develop the apps we want to use
There is a cost to opening up an additional attack vector into our devices

What do you think of ad supported apps in the classroom?

Categories School, Educational Technology

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A few weeks ago, I received an email from one of our most talented and dedicated librarians requesting that the board consider purchasing “Explain Everything” for our Chromebooks. If you don’t know about Explain Everything, pause here and watch this video

Explain Everything™ – Interactive Whiteboard for iPad from Explain Everything™ on Vimeo.

Also, before I go further, I have to declare a bias…I love Explain Everything. In fact, this is the only app that our school board puts on every single iPad (almost 2000 of them now). It is an app that by its nature encourages students towards higher thinking… the creating, evaluating and analysing end of things if you are a fan of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Our french consultant was looking for a french specific app to recommend to our teachers: Open your iPad Settings -> General -> Language & Region -> iPad Language and choose the language you would like to start using. Open Explain Everything and c’est voila. Long story short..this is my deserted island app, if I could choose only one app for our students this would be it.

Having now come clean about my love for Explain Everything, and honestly willing to do just about anything to support this librarian, I started to look in the Chrome store for Explain Everything. Three stars out of five. I ask myself, how could that be? No Google Drive support. How can you launch a program for a Google Chromebook with no Google Drive support, I did not even think that was possible. Regardless, I am willing to overlook this as I love the program and have faith that this feature will be forthcoming in a future release. I email the folks at Explain Everything to get pricing and inquire about a bulk purchase and this is where the wheels fall off. They have changed their pricing model since we purchased for all our iPads. Now they have developed the application so that it stores all your data on an Explain Everything account and without an account, you cannot run the app. I really do understand why they would want to do this, it means more stable revenue for them, better metrics on usage and presumably a better user experience for those people who are using multiple devices that cross platform/os lines. Here is the company’s take on things

To make matters worse, all the comments decrying this change, hundreds of them, have been removed from the iTunes store. The developer appears to have re-enrolled their app under a new name and removed their old app. Dirty pool if you ask me. The bottom line is that they are now looking for $2.67 per named user per year. I have 14462 students and about 1600 employees who should have access to this wonderful app. To date, I have spent about $10K on Explain Everything which (I thought) would give us perpetual access on our iOS devices. Now I am being told that I have to pay $43K every year and that our “perpetual” licensed app, now being called Explain Everything Classic will, in their words, “ride off into the sunset.”

What do you think? Will you be subscribing to Explain Everything or moving to a different product/service? Do you see other apps moving in this direction? Tell me in the comments.

Categories Educational Technology, School

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One of my courses this semester is “Digital Media in Practice” and while we just started, it already has me thinking in a different way. I am going to warn you though, once you read this blog entry you will start to notice something that may take away from your enjoyment of the Stanley Cup playoffs. My enjoyment of the playoffs was taken away by Anaheim when they beat Edmonton in Game 7, but that is another story. This is the kind of thing that you have probably ignored but once you see it you will be amazed at how often it appears in the arenas of NHL teams. So, with that forewarning, here is a photo of a rink board at the Boston Garden:

After a little googling I discovered that ORG Packaging is in the business of beverage packaging (Bloomberg, 2017) and has annual revenue of 6 billion yuan or 1.2 billion Canadian dollars (ORG Packaging, 2017). This begs the question, why is a B2B firm that operates in China spending millions of dollars on rink board advertising. This article in the Hockey News sheds a little light on his motivation, linked to growing the game in China and also being a superfan and player himself. I still cannot imagine why a businessman would spend this amount of money. It is difficult to find out how much rink board advertising costs for this season’s playoffs but if this article in le Journal de Montréal is any indication we can estimate $350 000. ORG has advertised in every arena in the NHL playoffs so we can conservatively estimate the company has spent $5.6 million on advertising (16 teams X $350K per arena).

He is advertising a product that no one in the target market will or is even able to buy and in a place where he has zero market share and seems to no have no intention of wanting to grow market share. Is this simply a case of a wealthy Chinese businessman trying to get in on the ground floor of what might be explosive growth in an untapped market? Why else would Zhou Yunjie of ORG spend millions of dollars on advertising that he must know will have little discernible impact on his company’s sales numbers. Perhaps it is the same reason Billy Ngok Yan-yu, a Chinese oil and gas investor, sinks $40 million into his Chinese entry in the KHL. Either stands to make a lot of money if the sport takes off in a market of 1.4 billion people.

Categories School, Personal

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