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.
Content taken from ComputeEd Gazzette….
Tablets in the Classroom
Computing has taken on a new face, due to the popularity of mobile devices which Steve Jobs referred to as post-PC-era products. Some researchers feel the new tablet devices* represent a change in consumer behavior: It’s not just the device, it’s the social behavior; it’s a social trend.
School districts intending to use the new technology must decide between the two market leaders: Apple’s iPad (running Apple iOS) or the Google Android tablet (from Samsung, Motorola, Hewlett Packard and others). Proponents for digitizing classrooms believe it could eventually save schools as much as $3 billion a year in textbook costs, etc. Others caution that drawbacks exist, such as ongoing software and/or hardware support; surviving ownership by toddlers and teens; infrastructure costs, e.g., replacing broken tablets…
On the assumption that integration of digital technologies into the learning environment and embedding these technologies into a teacher’s pedagogical practice can have a positive impact on student engagement, motivation and attitudes, we have selected two iPad entries that merited awards in this year’s EDDIES:
For teachers struggling to select from among the thousands of educational apps for the iPad, eSpark Learning has a solution: The program, designed for ages 4-12, offers personalized learning plans embedded with links to relevant third party educational apps (available/downloadable from the iTunes Store).
Students are given “quests” to complete. Assessment tools enable teachers and parents to see reports and recommend areas for improvement. eSpark’s approach is the following: Diagnose learning level; enable academic goal setting; recommend the best educational games, apps, podcasts, & eBooks; challenge students with daily quests; report & celebrate success.
The apps that accompany the learning plans are graphically appealing, comprehensive and creative. For example, in the Language Standards Grade 4 unit:
- BrainPOP provides daily movies that are designed for kids, using multimedia, educational cartoons to teach Science, Social Studies, English, Math, and more
- iTooch English Grade 5, which is comprised of 44 chapters/lessons, has examples, illustrations, practice questions and tests, and utilizes 3 thematic units – grammar, verbs, vocabulary & spelling.
Children will find the design of the learning plans easy to follow, and much is to be learned from the multi-subject, interactive educational activities provided by the apps.
We are excited to be featured in TechCrunch again. This article mentions our work with teachers and schools, like the Chicago Public Schools, to develop personalized iPad learning programs. This article asks the really big and fundamental question of: how can primary & secondary education in the U.S. be more effective and competitive globally?
We didn’t want to get into a debate about measuring U.S. education against other countries or a comparison of virtual school and traditional bricks & mortar school, but for us, this article highlighted the issue of innovation in education.
eSpark is focused on using iPads to engage students and enhance learning, and we are seeing encouraging results, but this new approach to blended learning is just one piece of the education innovation puzzle.
In Chicago, we are moving to a longer school day. More time in class should help kids learn more and make schools more effective. Should we also think of the longer school day as innovation? What do you see as some of the most exciting trends or innovations happening in education today?