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Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world
Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world

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1.1 ‘There’s an app for that’

Photograph of an iPhone, open on the home screen. A variety of app tiles are visible.
Figure 1 Apps

You may have heard this phrase a lot over the last few years. In fact it’s been used so many times that Apple – who first used it in 2010 as part of an advertising campaign – have actually been granted sole use of the phrase as a commercial trademark.

Apple might have the monopoly on the use of the phrase ‘There’s an app for that’, but they don’t have the monopoly on apps themselves. Apps are created for each platform, such as Apple’s own OSX and iOS, Android systems and Windows-based platforms. Most apps use the internet to retrieve or share data.

During this week, the terms app and tools are used to mean the same things. So let’s take a moment to look at exactly what they mean.

‘App’ is short for an application, which is a computer program designed to fulfil a very specific function, such as retrieving data from Facebook to your smart phone. The implication is that an app will do one thing very well, although many do more than one thing. Although they are commonly used on mobile devices, whether tablet or smart phone, they are also used on a desktop PC or laptop.

‘Tool’ has broader definitions, but in computing terms, Google define it as:

a piece of software that carries out a particular function

(Google, n.d.)

It is generally defined as an implement to help with a particular task. Within this next activity we use the term ‘tool’.

Activity 2 Thinking about your own use of apps

Timing: 20 minutes

Many people use particular apps or online tools to help them get more organised. This activity helps you reflect on the online tools you currently use and to start thinking about areas where you might want to explore some new apps.

In your Digital plan, use the table to help you think about the different areas of work, study and home life where you might currently use apps to help you. Use the questions below to help you complete the table.

  • How often do you use the app?
  • What do you find particularly useful about it?
  • What do you find particularly annoying about it?

You might be surprised when you complete this table at just how many online tools you currently use.

Select ‘Reveal feedback’ to compare your responses with John’s.


John has thought about the different areas of his life in which he currently uses apps and has completed parts of the table.

John’s app list
Function: what are you doing online? Which app? Which device? Work/study/daily life? (Can be more than one.) How often? What do you like about the app? What do you not like?
Money management
Online banking Website based online banking; PC. Daily life Once or twice a week Remembering all the complicated passwords! But much better than going into a branch.
Pingit; phone. Daily life Rarely Added to help a mate out who’d lost his bank card. Don’t really need it at the moment.
Leisure – music, video and games
Music online iTunes; phone. Daily life Daily Syncing is useful.
Soundcloud; phone. Daily life Weekly Great for dance stuff and free music that you can’t get on iTunes
Bandcamp; phone. Daily life Weekly Having to create an account was a bit annoying but you need to do that to get band updates.
Games Temple Run; phone. Daily life Weekly Adverts are annoying with free version.
Video and audio iMovie; phone. Daily life; work Weekly/monthly Really easy to use; just got a friend to video me while cooking!
Audio Recorder for iPhone; phone. Daily life; work Monthly Recorded tunes for adding to video.
Video editing iMovie; phone. Daily life; work Monthly Use this for adding sound to my videos before uploading to YouTube.
BBC news and weather Free BBC apps or PC based website; PC and phone. Daily life Daily I have set the font size higher so it’s easier for me to read. I like the videos and audio rather than having to read all the time.
Picture and video sharing Snapchat; phone. Daily life Weekly This was funny at first but now the app keeps freezing. I haven’t used it in a while.
Instant messaging and group chat Facebook and Facebook messenger; PC and phone. Daily life Daily Great free messaging tool; group chat great for nights out. Not dependent on platform like some messaging tools.
Blogging software Blogger; phone. Daily life; work Weekly/monthly I’ve only recently started my blog, this was fine to get me started but already I want to embed video. I am thinking I might want to do more than this app will enable.
Text to speech software OS X; phone. Daily life; work Daily Love this: helps me digest text differently when the dyslexia is slowing me down a bit.
Travel Google maps; phone and PC. Daily life; work Weekly What’s not to like? It’s like having a free sat nav!

Your table will look different according to your individual circumstances. When John was thinking about what he liked about these apps and how frequently he used them, he decided to uninstall a few as he realised he didn’t use them very often. He also found alternatives for apps he found annoying.

Did you feel the same about some of the tools on your list? Are there any apps that you have heard of, thought might be useful but have never found the time to explore? Are there any that you have come across while studying this course that you would like to explore?

You will build on this activity and your answers to some of these questions as the week goes on.