I have had a few requests and inquires over the last few weeks about making or how to make apps for education. All of which i have answered as best i can. My journey into this came from a constant search for games to play in my classroom, which is why i have also lists of the ones i use on the site as well. I really struggled to find ones that I thought were suitable for my learners.
Why I started making educational apps.
I understand why, most of these apps are made to teacher either adults or Native Children English. these are all well and good but not always suitable for ESL students, which is my specialty. So i looked into how to make them them, my plan was originally to just make them for use in my school but when i did and showed teachers they asked for them, and their friends asked for them so about two years ago i decided to look into putting them firstly on to the Google PlayStore, then onto Apple and then online. I am still trying to work out a way of getting them actually hosted by my site rather than on someone elses. So if you know how feel free to advise me! These are mine online so far: Online English and phonics games.
Eventually i put them on Huawei and Amazon mainly just because i could and started making paid versions, using adverts etc. Eventually i started letting people know about them, and joining Facebook groups etc, and they started to grow. So now, as of January 2020 i have had over half a million downloads across all platforms, though of course just like any app people download and keep for a while, then uninstall. This is perfectly normal.
Options for making online games or apps.
I will go through some options open to you if you want to delve into the world of app making, but it will have to be briefly as there are way better people giving way better information on each of them out there online. I will just approach it from making educational apps, rather than making the next call of duty etc. Those of you that did stumble upon this article hoping to find how to make complex apps I will leave the YouTube channel of a great guy who gives advice on making way more difficult apps than i do, and all other app related content.
Unity Game Engine:
This is the platform I use. It is a full working game engine that can make games for mobile, PC, web and Facebook, among others. At its most complex it can make full commercial multiplayer games, and at its least complex, well, it can make ones like my early ones. It has the advantage of having templates, if you look at the unity store you might well recognise some of mine from there, that require the user to have only a basic understanding of coding and the platform to make a working game.
If you take a look at these templates you can find, quizzes, matching games, platformers, word searches and many more. There are also serious numbers of forums and sources of advice all over. The unique selling point of this platform though, its free if you are a hobbyist or if you have a company making less than 100,000 USD a year. That is a very good deal. It also has its own ads network that can be integrated relatively easily. I did change over from their ads to Adsense but mainly to link YouTube, the site and the apps altogether.
Hire a Developer:
This option has the potential to be the most expense option, though there are ways to keep the costs down. If you want something made for you however, without having to get involved this is the better option. How much it will cost can be as little or as much as you want. However, with this kind of service you get what you pay for doesn’t always follow. I have used developers to either help or in one case make a full game. The quotes i got for exactly the same work ranged from 5000 US dollars to 150 US dollars, it is not that difficult to guess which one i went for.
Now just to be clear when i did hire a developer i also have some skills in the platform they used so i knew i could add my own images, data and other less code reliant aspects. This means they could concentrate on just making the frameworks. If you are new to it you might need a little more support from them. There are many sites like Up Work , Freelancer and Fiverr. I have used Fiverr and tend to pick a developer who has more than 10 decent reviews. (in fact i have 2 i use all the time as they know me and how often i change my mind!) So far, and you can judge it from my later apps, I have been very pleased with the work i have gotten back.
With Fiverr they don’t pay the developer until you sing off on the project so it is also worry free.
Smart App Creator 3 – currently unavailable
I would put this in the ground between applications like corona and unity and the drag and drop applications like AppyPie and TinyTap. It is still drag and drop but it is a little more in depth than the previous two and a little easier to use than the first two. There is no coding skill needed, and has been used by students to make applications. You can produce apps for both app stores, which is a whole other article as there are pitfalls and difficulties with that. It seems to have disappeared from the internet but i will leave this here and see if it comes back as its pretty good once you get your head around it. .
This cloud based app maker does have a free option, but it is for basic apps in HTML5, no option to put on the app stores at this level. The price rises fairly swiftly after that to 36 dollars a month., and even then it still keeps the AppyPie branding, and doesn’t allow you to upload to apple. It is feature rich and the video tutorials have got better, but it is not state of the art and some look a little dated so if your plan is just to make something for the classroom then this might be for you, if you are looking to get something released commercially you might need to look elsewhere.
This is a multi functional too that can be used by teachers to create applications, and by students for project work. Teachers can use it to make games and online books suited to their specific needs. There are also a huge number of pre-made games and applications. These can be searched by keyword and age to make it easier to find what you need. This is good if you don’t need to put your apps to a wider audience. It is restricted to the templates and features that they provide, and it requires a subscription if you want to monitor student progress. However if you are not a techy teacher this may be worth a few moments to check out. Developers can charge for the content they have made , but there is plenty for free as well. It does offer flexibility, as you can search for a pre-made, make your own or even have students learn by doing and have them make an app for themselves. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube as well. ( i will link one) so you can get access to support pretty easily.
Should you do it?
Those are a few options you could consider if you have the creative urge to make an app or a game for your students. I can assure you it is a lot of hard work, especially if you go the Unity direction. However, seeing your app or game being played by students, as you designed and intended is a great feeling, as is your friends and colleagues asking you to use it, and to most people what you just managed to do is one step below wizardry! This is likely the better reward than the monetary one, you might strike it lucky, but the app store is a crowded, crowded place. 3 million apps, the big ones made by multi million ( or billion!) dollar companies tend to top the charts with their teams of developers and huge marketing budgets. You might break through some of those barriers, but its not a quick route and for me to rank in the top 10 for key words like phonics games, or for CVC took the last 2 years, and trust me i don’t make much cash at all from them! Even with those half a million downloads!
Can you make cash from your apps.
In a word, yes, but the question should probably be can you make a lot of cash from them? The answer to that is probably not. I do this as a hobby, its just me, I don’t know personally any other person who does this, though i have met a few through groups or YouTube etc. So for a one person operation i manage to cover costs, cover getting help from a professional developer now and then and maybe get myself a coffee every other day. Be patient and try to improve them and they will get better, but unless you get the next Flappy Bird hit you are not going to be driving that Ferrari for a while yet.
If you get luckier than me please tell me how! If you want anything answered i can try my best, I am a teacher after all, please leave a note in the comments below.
About the Author
Hi I’m Marc. A teacher of over 15 years, mostly English but dabbled in outdoor pursuits and media. Thought is was about time to sharing both what I have learnt during that time and the resources I have put together. On this site we aim to teach the theory and share our thoughts, but also go that one step further and give you access to the hard resources you need for your class or for you children. Feel free to take a look at our resources, email us on email@example.com, or jump on the Facebook group to ask questions. Happy learning, teaching or playing!
Post by Marc of Making English Fun