As former app developers ourselves, we have been there, done that and moved on. Back in 2009, we thought we were so on the cusp when we released our first app, ABC Shakedown – a FREE version of our reading readiness app. After many delays, we finally got ABC Shakedown Plus into the app store. We were ecstatic as we watched our “baby” soar from 80 to 50 to 20 something… only to awake the next morning to find out we had only sold 50 something apps at $1.99. We didn't give up. We fastidiously worked on what we were sure would be a huge hit, we revamped our original concept into a more “commercial version” and released ABC On the Go.
Needless to say, we never came close to breaking even. Still, we forged ahead and came out with something totally different. Let’s Bead Friends, our virtual friendship bracelet making app was released in 2010. We spent over a year tweaking this app doing updates after updates to include a wide variety of options. Initially, in theory, this app included many key educational components such as shapes, colors, patterning and more. Our coders didn't quite get-it and out of frustration, we settled for the virtual friendship bracelet sans most of the educational features. Hey, it still promotes creativity! And has many uses in a classroom setting.
It didn't take long for us to realize the market was flooded with ABC apps, 123 apps, and color & shape apps. Literally, every primary concept was covered. Adding insult to injury, apps that will remain unnamed remained in the top ten for months and years, despite their lack of educational content!
We took a long hard look at the situation and made a U-turn. We realized what was needed was a reliable educational app review site. Enter, Teachers With Apps - a site where every app we review has been field-tested with real children and students, vetted by teachers and made the cut. No stars or rating system for us. If an app makes it onto Teachers With Apps, we and the students consider it to be a great app. We apologize that we are slow in posting new reviews, but field testing apps take time and lots of it. However, we have recently added several reliable teachers to our team to help out with the review and writing process.
Developers, you don't have to be a teacher to see that this is the direction that education is going. For a refresher read this profound quote:
"Technological change is not additive; it is ecological. I can explain this best by an analogy. What happens if we place a drop of red dye into a beaker of clear water? Do we have clear water plus a spot of red dye? Obviously not. We have a new coloration to every molecule of water. That is what I mean by ecological change. A new medium does not add something; it changes everything. In the year 1500, after the printing press was invented, you did not have old Europe plus the printing press. You had a different Europe. After television, America was not America plus television. Television gave a new coloration to every political campaign, to every home, to every school, to every church, to every industry, and so on." Neil Postman
We know that apps are here to stay. Schools are jumping on board quicker than you can say, “WOW!” Our request? Please look at the gaps in education, as far as apps are concerned. ABC and Math apps are covered! How about some apps that address the various skills involved in reading, social studies, history, science, health, nutrition and physical education. There is a definite need for apps that cover content. Kudos to Bruce Brown, of e Skills Learning, for his extensive list of educational apps that address ELA. Thank you, Kyle Tomson, of Mobile Education Store, for all your of wonderful language based apps. Bravo to Suma Raju, of Cognitive Kid and her team at Ansel and Clair, who took their latest venture into archeology and will soon release the Paul Revere project. This is what we need more of. Heed this advice, schools are the next untapped market. I know first hand, the district I teach in will have one-to-one iPad's for all of our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders this coming year! The only thing paramount to training teachers how to utilize the iPad in the classroom setting is a dynamic selection of academic apps geared for all ages and abilities of each particular group of students. Apps that have a wide range of productivity and versatility are the only apps that should be present on a mobile device used by students. In a perfect world, all educational apps should have the following criteria:
- Multifaceted- scaffolding and differentiation should be provided within the app and incorporate several levels of learning
- Promote Critical Thinking- 21st Century skills such as collaboration, innovation, communication, and self-assessment need to be addressed
- Promote Problem Based Learning- too much skill and drill will deter students from much-needed exposure to problem-solving skills
- Provide Feedback/Assessment- subtle feedback to the learner and to the teacher is necessary
- Data Collection- student’s work and on-going progress needs to be documented and easily retrieved
- Engaging/Student Motivation- learning activities must be FUN, apps that motivate will continually be replayed
- Age Appropriate- MAJOR issue, qualities that are appropriate for the age level of the students who will potentially be accessing the app are imperative
- Reliable- apps need to be free from bugs and crashing
- Field Tested- developers MUST test apps with students and teachers
- Intuitive- apps should be so user-friendly that it is completely intuitive for the user
- Instructions- should be included and be child-friendly, if an app is designed for an emerging reader, the instructions should be provided in a format that an emerging reader can access
- Ability to Share- sharing work with other devices, desktop, email, and social networking sites
- Tied to Learning Targets/Standards – The app must be relevant to what all students are learning and be tied to a learning target or standard