Thank you for visiting my blog. My role as Curriculum Technology Coordinator is to provide teachers and students with support in integrating technology with curriculum. The CEE community is fortunate to have access to a wide range of tools that enrich and strengthen learning experiences. With these tools we are preparing our students for a that future depends on the three C’s: creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. By taking advantage of how today’s digital tools provide opportunities to exercise these skills and by also fostering responsible use, we meet this goal.
I look forward to using this space to share resources, thoughts, and news with you.
Sincerely, Matt Arguello Curriculum Technology Coordinator
At last count, there were approximately 1 million apps in the Apple App Store for iOS devices. While many of these serve little purpose but to entertain for a few minutes, there is an increasing number of quality apps that allow users to explore, create, and learn. It can be daunting to decide which apps to spend money on and which are worthwhile for kids.
Here are some guidelines to help you select apps for children:
The best app does not exist. People learn differently and prefer information organized in different ways. A person's favorite note taking app may not be intuitive for someone else. The same goes for educational apps. Find apps that your children connect with while also meeting learning goals.
Look for apps that engage and challenge. Games that only require the user to repeatedly tap or shoot objects don't require much thinking. Find apps that have an element of critical thinking involved. Look for apps that require thinking ahead and strategizing.
Encourage creation over consumption. Mobile devices are typically seen as consumption devices, but there are amazing apps for creation available. Encourage your children to use devices to create photography, puppet shows, movies, or 3D objects.
Games should provide feedback. Well-designed learning games should provide appropriate feedback and guide the user to learn from mistakes. Children love succeeding at games but can't if they don't understand what their mistakes.
Look for collaborative, multiplayer games. Sometimes the interactions that happen around a device are more important than what's happening on it. Single devices can be used to encourage teamwork and collaboration. Better yet, encourage children to create together with a device. Games that allow multiple players on the same device are great for group activities.
Take online reviews with a grain of salt. Like the comments on a web page, app reviews can be left by anyone, including children. Don't assume that reviewers have your same goals in mind.
Here are some great sites for finding educational apps:
Common Sense Media App Reviews - A great collection of reviews that includes ratings for ease of use, violence, sex, language, consumerism, substance use, and privacy. Apps are also given a "learning" rating.
Appitic - Teachers contribute to this large site featuring in-depth reviews that include lots of information and screenshots. Filter apps by categories such as grade level, multiple intelligences, special education, etc.
Digital Storytime - This site focuses on interactive storybooks for children up about 10-years-old. Filter reviews by app features like animations and interactivity. Many reviews include videos of the app being used.
iEar- A growing site with reviews of educational apps for all ages.
When most adults today were growing up, we were given the freedom to explore our neighborhoods. I remember my bike being my ticket to freedom and new adventures.
Today’s kids certainly have a different experience. Parents’ legitimate fears keep many children indoors after school or participating in organized activities under watchful adult eyes. Unstructured time can be rare and freedom for risk taking is even rarer. But kids are natural risk takers and like to test boundaries, and make their own connections. So for some kids, online games have become their outlet for exploration and play.
There’s a trend in gaming now toward open-ended, creative play. For a long time, first-person (usually shooter) games in which play follows a linear progression have dominated the industry. But players are becoming more sophisticated and demanding more from their games. One that does offer more by actually offering less is Minecraft. In Minecraft, users can collaborate in shared environments to build worlds, block by block (think LEGO), in order to escape the zombies that come out at night. That’s it. Build and avoid the monsters.
Minecraft has become so wildly popular because it’s a simple concept with endless possibilities. In typical fashion, players of Minecraft have taken advantage of this open-endedness and run with it, creating amazing virtual structures including replicas of real life and fictional structures like Hogwarts.
I’m pleased to see gaming moving in this direction. Instead of just consuming, kids are creating and building things together they can call their own. There’s much more to come, no doubt, and I look forward to it.
Have you ever found yourself so engrossed in a documentary or Discovery Channel special that, upon its end, you think to yourself, “I’m going to quit my job, go back to school, and study _______?” Then you come back to reality and realize the kids are waiting in the car or your dinner just burned.
Before the Internet, people who wanted to learn more about a particular topic, beyond what was available at the local library, often enrolled in courses at community colleges or university extension programs. Using the internet for research is not new, but it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start or how to proceed.
Much of the Internet has always been free for consumers. It’s how the Internet started and it’s what we’ve come to expect. Now there is a trend emerging among companies like Apple and major universities, but also individuals and other knowledgeable groups, to deliver high quality online courses for free. It’s an exciting development and affords many people who, for one reason or another, would not be able to take actual courses the opportunity to learn in an online “classroom.”
Here are some links to investigate:
1) iTunes U - Available through the iTunes Store. You can access a huge library of courses or stand-alone lectures. There are courses available from Yale, Harvard, Cambridge, The Open University, The Art Institutes, and others. Like with other content available via Apple, videos and materials can be synced with iDevicesfor a special iTunes U app.
2) Coursera - This is a somewhat new site that also delivers courses from universities like those mentioned above. Lectures come with quizzes to be taken afterward and there are discussion forums for users to discuss answers and content.
3) MIT Open Courseware - MIT’s offering is similar to those above but with the addition of lecture notes and exams from course professors for many classes.
Of course, there are others out there. These seem to be among the best. Happy learning!
Popular author Jonathan Franzen, (The Corrections, Freedom) recently raised some hackles by saying that “serious readers” prefer paper books. He argues that ebooks have an impermanent quality because they are digital and that the permanent nature of paper books renders them preferable.
I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change...
Someone worked really hard to make the language just right, just the way they wanted it. They were so sure of it that they printed it in ink, on paper. A screen always feels like we could delete that, change that, move it around. So for a literature-crazed person like me, it’s just not permanent enough.
Like many people, my immediate reaction to this was very negative. Implying that dedicated readers don’t use ebooks is insulting and is a pretty sweeping generalization. We all know voracious and intelligent readers who prefer ebooks, just as there are similar people who prefer paper books. But after thinking about it for a while I realized that this is really just the same old story: New technology never takes hold without some push back from those of us comfortable with the old one. Telegraph, telephone, vinyl record, cassette tape, MP3, Betamax, VHS, DVD. These are only a few, but in each case there were people who claimed these new technologies would have some hugely negative impact on society & industry. I would argue that in each case our experiences were enhanced.
I think eBooks have their place. The portability and storage capacity of eReaders provides readers with more access. Self publishing via eBooks also affords writers an option not previously available. There is also the issue of textbooks. We’re seeing more “open source” textbooks that rival traditional textbooks in quality but at a fraction of the cost. And out-of-print books are becoming a thing of the past when everything can be digitized (Side note: Google is attempting to slowly convert all printed books).
Conversely, I think paper books will always be around. People like to touch and hold things and books offer their own unique, tactile experience. They are my preference.
So what do you think? What do you prefer? What do your children prefer? It will be interesting to see where this goes. Stay tuned...