Action Graphing, winner of the Apps for Class Challenge which was organized by Innovate+Educate and sponsored by the Verizon Foundation, is a unique and FUN way to learn about motion graphs. Motion graphs portray and record time, positioning, and velocity of objects in order to identify and predict their movements. The ability to record and interpret data is an essential skill to master when learning any of the physical sciences. Matthew Blackman from The Universe and More created it, and the idea began to form after an observation he had made while teaching. He discovered that kids intuitively learned the functions of graphs better when they physically acted them out with a motion detector in real time during class. He then embarked on a two-year exploration in how to incorporate that kinesthetic learning and extend it into practical life through play. In talking with Matthew Blackman, you can hear the passion and his love of teaching in his voice. What was most impressive is that he not only created the idea for this app, but also taught himself how to program and illustrate to bring this app to fruition. The app itself reinforces two main concepts in motion graphing: That the slope of line equals velocity and the “Y” intercept is the object’s position. There are 5 chapters with a number of lessons to be accomplished. Each lesson is graded to help students deepen their understanding gradually and one lesson builds upon the next, by making sure each student understands the material thoroughly from the previous levels. If stuck, which I was, there are handy guided hints under the question mark, as well as a “Slope Helper” to help you work out the equations. The marvelous thing about Action Graphing is that even with these aids, kids are not spoon-fed the answers, playing still demands engaging thought and the need to apply lessons learned to an actual problem. One of the thoughtful additions to the gameplay itself is its own inherent sense of timing. There are many “breaks” built in to give kids time to process. For example on the Candy Planet, there are cotton candy clouds to pop, ice cream to eat, and other objects in which to interact. After being stuck again and then tutored by an eighth grader, I realized these were not just gratuitous hot spots but actually served a purpose for scanning the page and actually looking at the detail in the equations. Music and sound effects can be turned off initially for sensory sensitive kids and then resumed once some mastery has been accomplished. This would increase the complexity by adding in increased auditory demands and input while still needing to focus and complete the task. On opening, meet Ruggles, the main character that helps kids get moving. Kids will need to know his initial position and his velocity in order to match coordinates on the graph below. A one-finger movement represents Ruggles' initial placement on the graph, and a two-finger swipe sets his velocity. You are then able to see his actions once you’ve hit play. A successful trial will lead you to the next challenge, but if defeated you can work out the equation under the Slope Helper or try to problem solve what went wrong. Success on the first tries awards you with 3 quarks. On an unsuccessful attempt, one loses a quark for the round, but for kids that are perfectionistic, you can replay the round for the maximal quarks (3 in all) again. I love how this is built into the game, as the motivation for the quarks results in better comprehension and practice for learning the material. Every kid I tested with could not put this game down…and, in fact, one asked if I needed any more “help” with the game. The levels, whoops I mean lessons, are set with first practicing the layout and drawing for the graphs. An interactive feature is next to where one moves Ruggles about in synch with a graph. It is pretty tough to coordinate, but you really get the feel of how velocity and movement through space feel. The next part of the game is to apply knowledge of graphing by dodging meteors and attacks from the pesky Space Shark Boss, who is constantly firing lasers at you. Clues for the attacks are placed in the dynamic data tables that show incoming meteors and the time of their arrival. This mini game by using both sides of the body together helps seal the information gained from graphing into memory and making it easier to access, because one knows what it feels like. Progress to the next chapter is made after beating the Space Shark. A feature I’d love to see in updates is the ability to add students or kids from a family so that more than one person could play. This would also help itinerant teachers keep track of student’s progress in one place. In summary, Action Graphing is a great app filling a niche that hasn’t been completely explored. It is not only educational and challenging but it is really FUN. The gameplay and graphics were superb, but I also really loved that the integration of using a variety of systems/senses to help maintain proficiency and application of the material. Matthew Blackman is one teacher who set out to make a difference, and did so brilliantly! Check out The Universe and More's YouTube Video here. This app is Highly Recommended and a TWA Top Pick!
Written by Jo Booth
Jo Booth has been an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years and currently works in Pediatrics with early intervention. She sees kids newly diagnosed on the spectrum as well as medically fragile kids. She loves to move, explore and play every day; so that “her kids” grow up to be healthy independent learners.