The app store contains over 100,000 educational apps. Here at eSpark, we’ve identified the very best of these apps, narrowing to approximately 750 unique apps that appear in our curriculum. From there, we refine even further, identifying particular sets of 8-10 apps that meet individual student needs.
So how exactly do we approach the daunting task of combing through thousands of apps to find those that are truly the best?
eSpark has a dedicated team of experienced teachers who continually monitor the app store for content. When they discover a new app, they evaluate it along 5 dimensions.
1. Common Core Alignment
46 states have adopted the new Common Core State Standards, which contain hundreds of detailed benchmarks for K-12 math and reading. At eSpark, our first step is to ensure the app we’re evaluating aligns tightly with at least one Common Core Standard.
2. Authenticity of Task
We know that kids learn best in a real world context. As we’re evaluating apps, we ask ourselves: are skills practiced in isolation or are they part of a real world problem-solving environment?
One of the great promises of the iPad is that it allows children to take ownership over and direct their own learning. We look for apps that students can navigate independently, even at a young age.
At the very core of eSpark is a belief that learning can be fun! We evaluate apps for their engagement and interactivity.
5. Scaffolding of Learning
Learning from mistakes is an age-old lesson that we take to heart. We love apps that 1) support student learning by providing some form of instruction, 2) alert students when they’ve made a mistake, and 3) allow students to try again if they’ve answered incorrectly.
On a practical level, we always consider student-appropriateness (for example, we filter out apps that reference crime or drugs). In order for schools to expose their students to a wide variety of content, we also prefer apps that are under $5.00 and are sized around 50MB.
With an iterative eye, we take eSpark teacher and student feedback seriously. Our app vetting process is constantly refining and improving as we get word on how apps are received in the classroom.
Developers, teachers, students, friends: please comment or reach out if you have questions about our process or want more details! We’d love to hear your perspectives.