There have been many definitions of the App Gap or Gap App, they all amount to the same thing at some point. Some group is missing out and this time it is our tweens and teens. The app market is saturated with ABC & 123’s… These apps are being developed over and over again even though the necessity for apps for older students is so evident. We need content for the middle grades, as well as for high school and college. We have some initiatives, like the NYC launch called Gap App Challenge promoted by Mayor Bloomberg. But honestly, the present day app store is mostly catering to the preschool population and good apps for the middle and upper grades are much harder to come by.
Yes, I am in total agreement that the early years are clearly the most formative; this EdWeek article on language acquisition verifies that. “Vocabulary is the tip of the iceberg: Words reflect concepts and content that students need to know. This whole common core will fall on its face if kids are not getting the kind of instruction it will require.” It has always been my belief that learning begins in the womb. Annie Murphy Paul reinforces this theory in this riveting TED talk – What we learn before we’re born.
No doubt there is a need for the disadvantaged to get a jump-start, and apps can fill that void. To err on the side of being politically incorrect, it seems the story is always the same: poverty breeds poverty. Presently, iPad deployment is happening in the intermediate grades much more rapidly than in the elementary or preschool. Special needs students’ rank highest in priority when distributing mobile devices. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center recently did an analysis of the top paid apps available in the education section of the iTunes store. They found that the vast majority (80%) of educational apps are for children—and within that group, the bulk of the apps are aimed at pre-school or elementary aged children and cover general learning goals.
Efforts to help schools have been going on for what seems like forever. Now, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a new program giving grants of up $6 million to organizations that develop software that supports students in 4th-8th grade “mastering literacy skills for writing, writing to read, and writing to learn.” This is “an invitation to publishers, developers and entrepreneurs to submit proposals for awards in the amount of $25,000-$500,000″ for “engaging, personalized digital courseware that helps students master the 4th-8th grade Common Core State Standards for literacy.”
Many schools by design are standing in the way of learning. Pockets of innovation exist, but they are rare. A recent tweet stated, “This is the YouTube generation and these students need to be creating content, not consuming it.” I couldn’t agree more! As a teacher in the trenches, once again I will refer back to what is needed most: time for teacher training! We’ve all read about Finland, we all know that their scores are remarkable and there are no standardized tests being administered.
App developers, a word of advice – when developing an app with schools in mind as your audience, keep in mind this App Gap or Gap App, and if you need help with curriculum ask a teacher…