Let’s take a look... Was a rubric used? Are cross curricula activities applied? Is built-in differentiation of skills being utilized (is it a SMART app)? Is the app aligned to the Common Core Standards? What is the depth of the scope and sequence? Does the app have the ability to have multiplayer or collaboration? Is there intrinsic motivation embedded? Is the student assessment authentic? How is the experience, as well as the scores documented? Are they integrated along a continuum? What kind of supporting materials does the developer offer for the parent or the classroom? Is your head spinning yet?
As a long time veteran teacher, I can say the latest educational jargon may be baffling, but it beats the acronyms from an era ago. As an active teacher involved with the iPad, (...ah, is it still called pilot program?) I’m here to explain what you need to be looking for in a quality educational app experience for your offspring or students. We polled our EdAppTalk community and asked, How do you know if an app is truly educational? Here is the beginning of a list of components that make an app educationally sound:
1. Fundamental learning principles with well-defined learning objectives.
3. Curriculum connection
4. Authentic problem solving practiced in a way resembling the real world
5. Engaging and motivating
6. User Friendly
7. Differentiation of skills
8. Educational apps should tap into the audio, visual, and kinesthetic learning channels
9. Evidence of actual learning
10. It's not necessary for all educational apps, but those that monitor and track progress are a wonderful help in the classroom
11. Align app to the Common Core Standards
12. The only way to know for sure that an app is educational is to conduct efficacy studies.
So, that's the short list! Keep some of these basics on hand when you're looking to purchase an app. The article, Motion Math in Class by GameDesk.org, shows an exemplary app and research to back their statement that the Motion Math iPad Game Significantly Improves Children’s Fractions Knowledge and Attitudes. We weren't surprised the app studied was MOTION MATH. The app is one of our favorites and was developed by a group of graduates from the Stanford University’s Learning, Design, and Technology program. We think this is just the beginning and will continue to see more of this type of research being conducted.