Thursday, June 9, 2016

Building Apps to Help Kids Learn

Like all app developers, I want to make the best products possible. I have been creating media for young children from almost 25 years, much of it linear animation.  

For the past few months I have been working on our fifth app with new features in my development path. I realized I wanted to consult with experts who have much more experience than I do with the nuts and bolts of how kids learn. I had the good fortune to meet Beth Poss at the KID Museum's App Fair on May 1st when we were both making presentations to educators.

KID Museum website
Beth has over 16 years experience in Special Education, Early Childhood, Assistive Technology, Learning Disabilities, Multiple Disabilities, Universal Design for Learning, Educational Technology and Common Core State Standards Implementation. Beth's presentation was informative and I really appreciated some of her ideas that I thought were very relevant to my new work. I recently had a chance to meet with Beth in Rockville, MD. I wanted to share with her the current iteration of Birds, Birds, Birds and get her advice. My objectives with the apps are always to challenge and inform the kids. How was I doing? I wanted her advice.

It's Too Easy
One of the activities in the app is matching shapes to trigger an animation. I had drag and drop puzzle activities with only the correct pieces available to be put in place. I work with a group of four and five year olds as I develop my apps and for some of the kids, this was very easy. Beth affirmed my suspicion. Beth suggested that I add random pieces that were not part of the puzzle.

Free Play
I really appreciated Beth's idea that making rote digital exercises was really not taking advantage of what the iPad had to offer and not always in the best interest of the kids. Birds, Birds, Birds has a section of birds representing two octaves of a piano keyboard. This got good reviews and inspired me to add an additional play section where objects could be moved around. Beth suggested I include the ability to add and delete objects too.

Here the worms, second baby bird and sun can be added or taken off the screen.

All the Bells and Whistles
Beth suggested research is finding that lots of interactive features may detract from the educational value of an app. I do see this in some of the kids I work with, all they want to do is tap away. When something happens they are off to the next page in somewhat of a frenzy.

My Wonderful App Testers
I had a chance to implement her suggestions and test these new ideas with the children I work with at Elizabeth's Early Learning Center. It was very gratifying to see them really embrace the added free play section. Of course they are masters at free play in the real world and it's nice to help them find ways to do it in the digital world as well. 

Stay tuned for Bird, Birds, Birds. Sign up for our newsletter to be among the first to know when it is released.

What are your favorite apps for helping kids learn? What skill sets do you think are most important for children two to five to learn in a digital format?

iArt4Kidz develops apps for preschool children. Visit our website, like us on Facebook and follow up on Twitter.

You can find our apps here.
Duck Takes A Ride:An Art Story and ABC.DC:An Art Alphabet

Bees Buzz & Lions Roar: Animal Stories in English & Spanish

I Can Do That: A Kids World Art Game


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