A look at some new Apple and Android educational apps for 2013

It is always a little disheartening writing an article on new apps or websites as you always know in the back of your mind that, as a consequence of how fast technology improves and upgrades and the sheer avalanche of creativity that app designers apparently possess, you know that in a few months time newer software and upgrades will become available and eclipse those contained in this article. That said, it is always worth summarising useful resources to inform educational professionals of apps that they may wish to use with their students.

Math Bingo

Maths Bingo is all about numbers and aims to assist young students to learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide through the game of Bingo.

The application sets a series of questions dependent on the student's choice and their individual level of maths skills. The app contains a timer that counts down so the student can practice getting quicker by trying to beat their personal best; however, they can start using the app without the clock to begin with so that they can nurture their skills without that additional pressure.

This app is available for iOS and Android devices and is priced at 69p.

Highlighted Features

  • The app is colourful and features a series of small bug aliens to make the learning experience even more fun.

  • Students can win Bingo Bugs that they can then use in a game of 'Bingo Bug Bungie', which is a kind of pinball game where you fire your collected bugs to knockout coins to beat your highest score.
  • Math Bingo can be downloaded from The Apple App Store or The Android AppStore.

    Oxford Picture Dictionary, Second Edition

    This excellent application offers instant mobile access to Oxford's bestselling picture dictionary. The app can either be used alone or merged with Oxford's print dictionary to provide teachers with the perfect vocabulary resource for their students.

    This free app is available from the Apple App Store and is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad although it is optimised for the iPhone 5.

    Highlighted Features

  • The Oxford Picture Dictionary, Second Edition introduce students to over 4,000 terms, which is structured into 12 subject areas. These include Everyday Language, People, Housing, Food and Recreation etc. In order to assist students in placing words and images into their correct contexts, each of the areas includes common phrases and expressions from everyday life.

  • The app uses vibrant art and an easy-to-use format to assist in engaging students.

  • The software helps teachers by delivering unlimited independent practice and multiple exposures to the terms to their students.

  • The helpful zoom feature enhances the students' experience of the vocabulary within each scene and image.

  • The app features a bookmark tool, which offers the capability to store any entry that simplifies the searching for terms.

  • The app also features a helpful search function that speeds-up the searching for any any term in the dictionary.
  • The Oxford Picture Dictionary can be downloaded from The Apple App Store.

    POETRY from the Poetry Foundation

    This excellent app which will operate on all the latest versions of the iOS and Android operating system, allows students mobile access to thousands of poems by classic and contemporary poets, from William Shakespeare to César Vallejo to Heather McHugh. The Poetry Foundation’s app, which was nominated for a WEBBY award, turns any iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad into a mobile poetry library.

    The Poetry Foundation’s app is both compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad but does require iOS 4.3 or later. It is also available on all Android devices but does require version 1.6 or later. The app is completely free.

    Due to the language contained within some of the poems, the app is recommended for students who are 12 years old or above.

    Highlighted Features

  • The app offers a search engine that can search for poems, which are old favorites containing memorable lines.

  • If the student shakes the device the app will find new poems to fit any mood.

  • The app allows students to save their favorite poems if they wish to read or share later through social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter.

  • The app also allows the sharing of poems via eMail.

  • The app gives students the capability to access poems by T.S. Eliot, Pablo Neruda, Lucille Clifton, Emily Dickinson, and many others.
  • POETRY can be downloaded from The Apple App Store or The Android AppStore.

    See. Touch. Learn.

    'See. Touch. Learn.' Is a wonderful picture card learning system that is aimed at replacing physical flash cards. It is specifically designed by experts for young autistic students and those children with other special needs. 'See. Touch. Learn.' has been warmly received by special needs teachers and parents and has been the winner of numerous awards.

    'See. Touch. Learn.' is compatible with iPad only and does require iOS 5.1 or later. The application is free although a pro version is available the price of £27.99

    Highlighted Features

  • The application begins with a starter set of high-quality images and 60 exercises created by a certified assistant behavior analyst.

  • Teachers can also buy additional libraries that contain over 4,400 supplementary images and lessons. These can purchased from within the app.

  • Recently, the app developers have added the capability to link to the 'Brain Parade Community', which offers access to thousands of lessons shared by others.
  • See. Touch. Learn. can be downloaded from The Apple App Store.

    MathBoard

    MathBoard is slightly more expensive than other maths apps; however, this application has the additional benefit that it can be easily configured for students of any age. The app starts with simple addition and subtraction problems, multiplication and division, and algebra.

    MathBoard utilizes an interesting blackboard theme and a multiple choice question format; however, it does encourage students to work out solutions with a really nice scratchboard function where students can chalk their working.

    The app is only available on iOS devices and there is a free version of the app that only tackles addition so teachers can try the app before deciding to purchase. The full version, however is priced at £2.99.

    Highlighted features

  • The app incorporates a problem solver feature that guides the students systematically through the steps required to solve the each problem or equation.

  • Within MathBoard, there are quick reference tables to hand to assist students.

  • MathBoard is completely configurable, so that teachers can decide what the scope of learning will be by determining what number ranges to cover or take out negative answers, etc.

  • For an added element of pressure, there is an option to time the various activities and quizzes, by either a countdown timer or elapsed time.
  • MathBoard can be downloaded from The Apple App Store.

    If you would like to let other teachers know about an app you are using with your class, please let us know using the comments section below

    Written by Steve Gresty on September 18, 2013 09:46

    Game-based Learning

    “The difference between mere doing and learning, or between mere entertainment and learning, is not a difference in terms of activity. It is not that one is mindless and the other thoughtful, that one is hard and the other easy, or that one is fun and the other arduous. It is that learning – whatever form it takes- changes who we are by changing our ability to participate, to belong, to negotiate meaning. (Wenger 1998)

    In recent years there has been a considerable increase in interest surrounding the use of computer games for learning, mainly as a consequence of their ubiquitous nature among school-age students - ask any typical class ‘who plays computer games?’ and you’ll be unlikely to have any student without their hand up. Indeed, in a BBC research study carried out in 2005 it was found that 78% of 16-19 year-olds play computer games and 87% of 8-11s and 88% of 12-15s played games on a games console at home in the UK.

    Without a doubt, the attention and focus that games can command from students must be the envy of any teacher, couple this with their incredible power to motivate young people and instil in them a strong desire to progress and improve and the question that has to be asked is “what if we could somehow capture and use the thirst to learn that games manifest within their players, in our classrooms?”

    It is with the aspiration to tap into this high-level of engagement that educational computer games are now finding their way into teachers’ resource kits; however, what are the skills and attributes that students can learn from game-based learning?

    Observed and anecdotal research has demonstrated that engagement in computer games provides far more developmental benefits than just refined hand to eye coordination, offering genuine progression in spatial awareness; resource organisation; team-working and communication; literacy improvement and a variety of problem solving skills as well as encouraging players to reflect on their on-going performance within the gaming environment.

    Research also suggests that playing computer games can encourage students to deepen and broaden their learning experiences by developing their awareness and interest in other external subject content. In their article entitled ‘Public Pedagogy through Video Games’ (2009) Gee and Hayes describe the experiences of a young girl called ‘Jade’ who, developed her ‘Photoshop’ skills by designing ‘virtual’ clothes, for characters within the video game ‘The Sims’, which gave her advanced graphic design skills and by selling the clothes through an online store, also encouraged her to gain commercial knowledge and awareness too.

    So, if games can offer so much to education why isn’t there a rush to adopt the beneficial aspects of gaming in formal schooling? Well, here lies the problem! Research has clearly shown that the advantages of game-based learning are primarily situated outside of traditional pedagogy, the learning process and achievements manifesting themselves as incidental consequences of an activity rather than the main learning objective. This process is termed ‘informal learning’ and incorporating it into traditional school-based pedagogy has been shown to be fraught with difficulties due to:

    • Games not being an easy fit into school culture, curricula and practices,
    • A reluctance, within traditional communities of practice within schools, to embrace fundamental changes to teaching and learning practice as a consequence of the historically strong and deep links to long-established pedagogy,
    • A lack of knowledge of the learning potential of games within teaching communities, indeed a lack of knowledge of games, period!

    As a result of these points, a large number of attempts to incorporate games into the school curriculum have been unsuccessful, in spite of valiant efforts by innovative teachers and the gaming business due to the games that are solely created with the intention to educate failing dismally to engage their audience, the perception that genuinely engaging games don’t offer sufficient academic value and their inability to correlate well with the school curriculum

    That said, there are those, however, who continue to believe that games can be introduced into a rigid, curriculum-lead school environment.

    ‘Serious Games’ are games that have commercial gameplay and game environment but have genuine academic content fundamentally designed into them. An example of this type of educational game is ‘The Small Business Game’, developed by the same company who retail the previously mentioned ‘The Sims’ range of games. In this game, participants run a football retail shop and the focus is on the learning of students whilst maintaining the ‘feel’ of a commercial game that students will be more familiar with.

    Another method that has been employed to introduce games into the curriculum is the use of game-making software as the curriculum. ‘Thinking Worlds’ is a good example of this, whereby games design becomes a subject with formal curricular accreditation. An additional example is ‘Missionmaker’ from ‘Immersive Education’ a game design environment that is endorsed by one of the top three UK awarding bodies.

    It would therefore seem that games can play a role within the academic setting; however, it also appears that there is a long and complex path to tread to progress game-based learning from just another teaching resource to being a fundamental conduit to inspirational, engaging and motivational learning. As a final thought, there is a steadily increasing number of educationalists who believe that the benefits and opportunities offered by game-based learning is signalling a tipping point whereby the victorian model of education that has endured to the present day, must finally move aside to allow the creation of a system that has new technologies, such as games, at its very core and that can stimulate 21st century students with genuinely exciting and inspiring learning.

    If you have any comments or teaching tips on game-based learning, please contact E-safety Support using the form below

    Written by Steve Gresty on August 21, 2013 08:01


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