Making sense of educational apps

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash
  1. Pre-assessment: Can the program/application figure out a student’s level before they do any work? Some web-based programs such as ones offered by Reading A-Z and Moby Max give kids a “test” so that they can be started off at their level. This is crucial in making sure that time spent in educational technology is worthwhile for students.
  2. Differentiation: Will the app present information to the student on their level, or is it a blanket presentation? Many apps that I have encountered start children at a basic level. There is a “tutorial” of sorts so that navigating the app is understood, but then children might start at a level that is too easy for them. This really hurts their engagement, and leads to less interest over time.
  3. Data: Will the application collect data? We all need data these days! If an app or program can collect data, it is treasured by an educator. Anything that allows the teacher to track progress and be able to report it easily is gold. While some apps track data, reporting it is not simple to access. Being able to batch data from multiple sessions/interactions into one report is priceless for an educator. Some offerings from Super Duper Publications do just that.
  4. Principles: Is the work/lessons in the app based on sound educational principles? Here’s one of the biggest challenges. Not all developers have educational backgrounds or consult with educators. Beyond that, there are different teaching styles and learning styles. It’s impossible to account for all of those things when making a program. However, some “universals” can be accounted for and added. Repetition of material (or at least the ability for a student to access a “repeat” button). Multi-sensory presentation is essential. When working with students with typical materials (i.e.; paper and pencil), multi-sensory techniques involve tapping out on fingers, looking at visuals to represent words, auditory presentations of more challenging materials, or text to support auditory directions. Overall, multi-sensory presentations mean looking at the initial presentation of your material and then thinking of a way to support it. (i.e.; if presenting text, could there be an auditory support?).
  5. Post-assessment/Review: This is important when thinking about changing levels of difficulty. How can students move up levels or seek out challenges? Are there “quests” to increase difficulty? Do students feel appropriately challenged? When considering this aspect, principles of games can absolutely be incorporated. For example, earning badges for completing quests or earning special points or incentives (fun videos or side games) for completing all parts of a quest. Can concepts be reviewed or tested at the end of a “quest” or unit? These are all crucial things to consider.

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Helping kids communicate is my day job. Wading through my thoughts to get them out here.

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Dan Fitch

Dan Fitch

Helping kids communicate is my day job. Wading through my thoughts to get them out here.

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