President Obama had fun playing with a student’s iPad on a visit to Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Maryland. “Valerie is doing outstanding calculations here, describing right angles,” the president said. Valerie had divided 360 by 4 to get 100 degrees for a right angle, notes Alexander Russo. Which is wrong.
When the iPad first came out in 2010, Jennie Magiera made fun of her friends for buying them: “Nice job–you got a giant iPhone that can’t make phone calls!!” But when a grant bought iPads for her fourth and fifth grade class, the teacher quickly found a path to transforming her teaching and learning practice. While tests are only one measurement of success, she went from having just one student out of 15 “exceed” on state tests in fourth grade, to having 10 “exceed” the next year.
Magiera is now the digital learning coordinator of the Academy of Urban School Leadership, a network of 29 public (non-charter) schools serving low-income students. She’s seen technology reveal hidden talents.
A disruptive, low-scoring student used “screencasting” to create a video explaining his math strategy.
“The answer was 15 cents and he wrote $16. . . . when I go into his screencast video, it was 60 seconds of the best math I’ve ever seen as a math teacher.”
The student had arrived at the wrong answer because of a tiny mistake, but he had devised his own original path through the problem, using his knowledge of fractions to create a system of proportions, a concept he wouldn’t be introduced to for another year or two. “He solved it completely on his own, narrated it beautifully, had the most amazing thought process.” From watching this one minute of video, Magiera got insights into this student’s math skills that she hadn’t learned from having him in the classroom for over a year.
When the student rewatched his video, he caught his mistake.
She saw his reactions go from defiance (“lady, I already did it for you once, you want me to watch it now?”) to pride (“yeah! I got that!”) to dismay (“Oh my god, I messed that up! I can’t believe it! I was so close,”). And finally he asked her, “Can I do it again?”
Another student was afraid to speak up in class. Magiera used the iPads to let students participate in a text-based chat as part of the class discussion. The shy student was “the best in the conversation . . . thriving and flourishing in a community of thought.”
Long before they start kindergarten, American children are playing with education tech at home, writes Alex Hernandez in Toddlers and Tablets on Education Next. At the iTunes store, “9 of the top 10 paid education apps are designed for small children, ages four and up.”
Touchscreens are the most intuitive interfaces ever created for small children. I still remember the weekend morning in 2008 when our 18-month-old padded into our bedroom, grabbed his mom’s new iPhone off the nightstand, turned on his favorite song, and began pawing through photos.
. . . Leading app developer Duck Duck Moose believed it was designing for four- and five-year-olds when it noticed two-year-olds using its math apps. Dragonbox, an algebra program for children eight and up was being used by five- and six-year-olds. No one informed these kids that they weren’t ready for higher-level math.
Children do incredible things when they are free to explore and learn.
Parents are dubious about young children using technology, Hernandez concedes. He thinks tablets are seen as too expensive for grubby-fingered preschoolers. There’s also a backlash against excess screen time. Education apps should supplement, not replace, hands-on play, Hernandez writes.
App creators shouldn’t just try to teach pre-academic skills, such as categorizing objects or recognizing letter sounds.
. . . research suggests that children’s ability to pay attention and control their impulses (i.e., executive functions) are better predictors of future academic success than IQ. Children’s ability to manage their attention, emotions, and behaviors; learn appropriate ways to interact with others; and be creative are equally, if not more, important but often harder to target than pre-academic skills.
But not impossible. App maker Kidaptive recently released a turn-taking game in which children paint pictures alongside two animated characters. Children using the app must literally sit and wait for the animated characters to complete their turns before resuming their own painting (defying many conventions of good game design). The metrics don’t lie. Kids are being patient and taking turns.
The best new apps will develop preschoolers’ executive function, creativity, number sense and phonemic awareness, Hernandez predicts. Schools may be slow to use these games. Parents already are buying them.
Technology can free special education students from worksheets, writes Anya Kamenetz in The promise of iPads for special ed on the Hechinger Report.
When Neil Virani walked into his middle school special education classroom at Mulholland Middle School, part of the LA Unified School district, three years ago, he encountered a roomful of students with a range of cognitive, emotional and physical challenges. But the most toxic problem they had to combat was the low expectations from the school system they’d been in since kindergarten. “All they had was coloring books and watercolors. They were not working on any academic aspects of the curriculum,” he says. “When I saw a [previous] teacher had written of a student, “they don’t require ELA writing instruction because they’re never going to manipulate a writing device,’ I said, before I met him, this kid is going to write.”
Today, not only are most of his students reading and discussing stories, producing sophisticated written essays, and scoring proficient in math, they are drawing mind maps to organize their thoughts, building catapults in class to demonstrate physics principles learned from the game Angry Birds, and shooting and editing video documentaries of their experiences, which they storyboard in advance with cartoons.
The iPad and its wide range of apps has enabled students to meet the “highest possible realistic expectations,” the teacher says.
A student who has control over only one finger was unable to write with a $15,000 assistive technology chair. One involuntary movement would erase what he’d typed. After an hour with a $500 iPad, he wrote his name for the first time.
The iPad has changed his students’ thinking, says Virani. “They believe in themselves; they can do what anyone else can do.”
In The Touch-Screen Generation in The Atlantic, Hanna Rosin visits a Monterey conference for developers working on phone and tablet apps for children, starting with babies and toddlers. Some brought their own children.
The 30 or so children here were not down at the shore poking their fingers in the sand or running them along mossy stones or digging for hermit crabs. Instead they were all inside, alone or in groups of two or three, their faces a few inches from a screen . . . A couple of 3-year-old girls were leaning against a pair of French doors, reading an interactive story called Ten Giggly Gorillas and fighting over which ape to tickle next. A boy in a nearby corner had turned his fingertip into a red marker to draw an ugly picture of his older brother. . . . Some of the chairs had pillows strapped to them, since an 18-month-old might not otherwise be able to reach the table, though she’d know how to swipe once she did.
Rosin, the mother of three, worries that digital technology will turn out to be bad for children’s development. The developers worry too, she discovered. A mother of four, who helped develop an app that teaches spelling to preschoolers, said her children don’t play many games.
“We have a rule of no screen time during the week,” unless it’s clearly educational.
. . . “On the weekends, they can play. I give them a limit of half an hour and then stop. Enough. It can be too addictive, too stimulating for the brain.”
Other developers who were also parents had similar restrictions. “One said only on airplanes and long car rides. Another said Wednesdays and weekends, for half an hour. The most permissive said half an hour a day, which was about my rule at home.”
Yet interactive games can help children develop skills, writes Rosin. And they can be a lot of fun. She likes a Swedish game called Toca Tea Party, which lets kids throw a party for their dolls and stuffed animals, spill all the tea they want and wash up afterwards.
The game is either very boring or terrifically exciting, depending on what you make of it. . . . Maybe today the stuffed bear will be naughty and do the spilling, while naked Barbie will pile her plate high with sweets. The child can take on the voice of a character or a scolding parent, or both. There’s no winning, and there’s no reward.
When she let her toddler son play with the iPad as much as he liked, he devoted three two-hour sessions a day to it — for 10 days. Then he forgot about it for six weeks. “Now he picks it up every once in a while, but not all that often.”
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E-textbooks for K-12 schools aren’t ready for prime time, reports Ed Week’s Digital Education.
Interactive screen time can be educational for toddlers, writes Lisa Guernsey in Slate. But . . .
Seventy-two percent of iTunes’ top-selling “education” apps are designed for preschoolers and elementary school children, according to a recent report. Yet we don’t have much research on interactive apps for preschoolers.
A 2010 Georgetown study found children 30 to 36 months old were better at remembering where puppets were hiding if they had to touch a space bar to spot the puppets (or saw a live puppet show), compared to toddlers who watched a video of the puppet show.
In earlier studies, slightly younger children—24 months—struggled with these “seek and find” tasks after watching non-interactive video, unless they had a guide on-screen, a person or character, whom they felt compelled to respond to or communicate with. Even easier tasks, such as pointing to an object introduced a few minutes before, are more difficult for very young children after watching video compared with being taught face-to-face. It is this “video deficit,” which has cropped up in numerous other studies with infants and toddlers, that partially informed the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation against screen time among children younger than 2. (The AAP has other concerns, too, such as whether parents are replacing human-to-human connections with screen time.)
The pediatricians were focused on “passive” media, such as TV and videos, not interactive media, Guernsey notes.
Still, interactive may be more distracting than educational, Guernsey warns.
. . . the wow factor of the device and the presence of interactive “hotspots” on e-book pages may interfere with children’s ability to recall the story line of the book. This isn’t just a problem of electronics. Even traditional print-and-cardboard pop-up books can lead children at 2½ and 3 years old to learn less from the story than they would have otherwise, according to research at the University of Virginia conducted by Cynthia Chiong.
Most education apps now on the market dictate how children will play, Guernsey writes. Instead of exploring, kids must follow the program. However, new products are being introduced that encourage creativity, such as “DoodleCast, ItzaBitza and in-development computer programming software for preschoolers called Scratch Jr.”
This is off-topic, but fun:
Intel will sell a $200 “studybook” computer, reports Ed Week. The 7-inch tablet will be encased in rugged plastic for durability.
The studybook comes with front and rear cameras (which can be turned into microscopes for science experiments with a special lens), a microphone, and an LCD touch screen. The tablet is designed to withstand falls from student desks and is water and dust resistant.
Can it compete with the iPad? And the smart phone?
Don’t expect to see the all-iPad classroom any time soon — at least not in cash-strapped California, reports the San Jose Mercury News.
Apple has partnered with three big K-12 textbook publishers to provide digital textbooks that require the iPad.
What puts educators off is not just the $499 sticker price — $475 if purchased in batches of 10 — for the basic iPad (add $35 for a case) It’s also the requirement that schools buy the textbook software as vouchers for individual students, who will download the electronic textbooks onto their own iTunes accounts.
Every year, the school district will have to buy more $14.99 textbooks that it will never own.
“Everybody’s going to go to open-source textbooks” — which are free predicts Ann Dunkin, technology director for the Palo Alto Unified School District. “We’ve already bought textbooks. We’ll use them until they fall apart.”
Of course, the iBook can do things a standard textbook can’t do, such as show things in three dimensions and link to videos — or to social media sites. Most teachers at Palo Alto’s Gunn High don’t let students use their iPads, issued as a pilot project, reports the Mercury News. Too many students were checking out their Facebook page in class.
Despite the cachet of Apple, “districts shouldn’t get crazed by technology. They should figure out what they want, then work backward,” said Michael Horn of the Innosight Institute, a Mountain View think tank promoting “disruptive innovation” in education. “The iPad is getting a huge amount of attention, a lot of districts are spending money on it, but they haven’t thought out why.”
Archbishop Mitty High School, a Catholic school in San Jose, is renting iPads for all students and teachers next year after a two-year experiment.
Tim Wesmiller created an online textbook “as a dynamic mashup of content from the Library of Commerce, YouTube and Google maps” for his religious studies class.
Valerie Wuerz, 17, peers into her iPad, where an app called 7 Billion breaks down the global impact of overpopulation in text, slides, video and forums where students can share ideas and develop projects. She calls the iPad “a great resource, because textbooks are expensive and heavy to lug around.”
Down the hall, science teacher Kate Slevin’s class focuses on the subject of momentum.
“OK, guys,” she says. “Open your iPads.” They use a note-taking, audio-recording app called Notability that lets users write notes with their fingers over text on the screen. They can import a syllabus or a book chapter, create bullet outlines, and record the lecture in case they miss something.
Mitty is adding the cost of iPad rental to tuition bills, figuring that parents will save money in the long run by having to buy fewer expensive textbooks.
Apple unveiled a new version of its iBooks digital book software that supports textbooks featuring quizzes, note-taking, study cards and other features like the ability to interact with a diagram of an ant.
The service will launch with a small number of high-school titles from McGraw-Hill Cos., Pearson PLC and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Textbooks for courses such as algebra 1, environmental science and biology will be available first, priced at $14.99 or less. Eventually, Apple said, it expects textbooks for almost every subject and grade level. The company also announced iBooks Author, to help developers create interactive titles.
In a media event held at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, Apple executives said textbooks should be portable, searchable, easy to update and provide immediate feedback.