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Posted by Tom, August 17, 2012

Using apps in schools

Children’s Technology Review have posted a very thoughtful video review of Rounds: Franklin Frog, featuring editor Warren Buckleitner (off-camera) and kindergarten teacher Chris Crowell discussing the use of the app in the classroom.

Crowell says, “You always struggle to find good non-fiction books at the pre-school and kindergarten or first grade level. It presents a topic that could be difficult to explain in a non-fiction book if it’s not written well and often times at this level they try and keep out words, they make it simple and straightforward and use the pictures. Here this combination really shows how the potential of using a tablet and an app can help to get much more in-depth than teachers can at this point … I’m looking forward to using it in the classroom.”

It’s wonderful to hear this from a teacher like Chris. What he says echoes so much of our own apps-thinking, and not just in relation to Rounds: the idea that iPads can do different things to books is exactly what motivates us to make the sorts of apps that we do, from The Three Little Pigs to Franklin Frog.

We’ve received similar feedback about some of our other apps from teachers, educational specialists, speech therapists and child psychologists, in the UK and the US (and we’ve posted guest blogs by individuals from two of these backgrounds here and here), but we’ve also quite deliberately not made claims about any specific didactic value in the apps, for several reasons: firstly, although we do pay great attention to elements that will make a story easier to understand for young children – like language, length and duration of text, and typography – we’ve not developed any of our apps for the express purpose of (for instance) teaching your child to read, and secondly, apps that do promise such things often make me suspicious.

We put extra thought into developing Rounds, our first non-fiction app: our aim was to create something that would inspire enthusiasm and a love of science in children, would share some information about frogs, and would also have an interesting and engaging narrative. The dialogue that’s prompted by touching the main character is a mix of frog facts and conversation with Franklin, and we considered the balance very carefully. As Chris says in the video above, doing all this in an app meant being able to do things that would never be possible in a book: to be able to make metamorphosis happen, for example, by tapping a screen rather than showing a sequence of images seemed a hugely exciting way to use touch-screen technology.

We’d love to hear from anyone else who uses apps in the classroom or any other professional setting – you can email us at [email protected], write to us on Twitter or Facebook, or leave a comment below.

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