App Technology: How It Can Improve Learning

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Using mobile phones has usually been frowned upon within a school setting, and making Chromebooks or iPads an available resource would never have been considered viable – or necessary – in the past. But, as more educational apps are launched and become accessible to the world, attitudes are changing.

Forward thinking educators are actively embracing them and exploiting the numerous educational apps, especially as many are free. People’s first-hand experiences of apps for learning, along with many research findings, are supporting this move towards using all available technological resources.

Studies have underlined the huge academic potential that mobile educational apps can have to enrich the learning process for children, by engaging them in the process with active learning tools. The National Council for Curriculum Assessment in Ireland is carrying out research into the use of mobile apps to support the teaching of the Irish language, as they hope this will be a way of encouraging the link to Ireland’s cultural past. Initial findings suggest that children are accessing this form of learning with new motivation.

This change is certainly welcomed by supporters of using of ICT, and new resources not available ten years ago. In 2001, acclaimed US education writer Marc Prensky warned us “Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.” He explained that “children are being exposed to more gadgets than was ever thought possible” and predicted that children would be more actively engaged in their learning if they were allowed to use the latest technological gadgets. He explained that this was because it was more relevant to the children’s first-hand experiences and was how most children interacted with one another and the world around them. He suggested that children did not only want mobile apps to support their learning, but needed them.

More recently, The Department of Education has carried out its own research into the uses of mobile phone apps and found that learning was significantly improved.

One app they looked at to assess the impact on learning was the PBS Kids’ educational gaming app, Martha Speaks Dog Party. Their study showed that children aged 3 to 7 who had used this app every day for 2 weeks had widened their vocabulary by as much as 31%.

When using the Statistics 1 app, a study carried out by the Abilene Christian University reported that, whether using it in the classroom or at home, students remarked that they understood the content better and also felt more motivated to achieve better results. Teachers who were part of this study commented that they experienced students who were more prepared for lessons and better-equipped to learn the new material that was available.

Mobile apps are enabling children to access an enormous array of educational tools. Here’s a few of the most useful apps.

My Story – Book Maker For Kids. A really simple way of creating an ebook, with tools for drawing, photography, voice recording, writing and sharing. Promotes literacy and creativity in children, ideally in Key Stage 1. The child’s book can then be shared within the app directly to iBooks.

Animate It. Make your own animations with the help of world famous Aardman Animations Studios, creators of Wallace & Gromit. The easy-to-use app will have kids creating their own stop-motion animations in no time!

Brushes. Designed for the iPad, Brushes is an easy-to-use drawing app that gives you advanced colour pickers, realistic brushes and a host of features that’ll make art lessons more exciting!

Google Earth. Has obvious links to the Geography curriculum but can also be used to promote global awareness.

Quick Graph. Can be used by children to present data in different ways.

Nasa. An app that allows children to find out about the space mission and would link to the curriculum topic of Space.

Spellanywhere. The Lite version of the spelling test app is free; the full version, which allows you to create your own spelling tests with any words you wish to test your children on, is just 89p.

For more great educational apps, www.cambridgeenglishonline.com has an extensive list of apps for teaching spelling, early numeracy skills and many more.

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