Our feature this week is written by Jane Scarano, creator of iTouchiLearn Words which is holding an impressive position on iPad App Store for educational apps. In addition to developing apps, Jane is a devoted grandmother, and writer at her iPhoneKidsApps blog. Jane’s dedication to using technology as a learning tool is evident in this article and provides an exemplary model for emerging developers.
A friend recently told me that she did not want her preschool kids “hooked on technology”. She saw how her teenage nieces and nephews were immersed in the culture of texting and video games. This turned her off to raising “wired kids”. Since I am an iPhone developer of educational content for kids, I wanted her to understand the difference between living a virtual life versus expanding the young mind through technology. I showed her how books, games, puzzles and other learning activities were coming to life through mobile touch technology. I agree this is not a substitute for playing with traditional educational toys and reading, but is an excellent supplement if handled properly.
Whether parents embrace it or not, today’s generation of kids are being raised with mobile touch technology. Compared to desktop computers that are tethered to a mouse and keyboard, kids today are treated to on-the-go devices that provide an all-in-one enriching experience. iPhones/iPod Touches/iPads are designed perfectly for tiny fingers complete with an intuitive interface. These “mobile Kids” are the first generation to be raised with mobile technology from an early age. It will be interesting to see how this will effect learning compared to the previous generation.
It is no surprise that there are hundreds of apps targeted toward this emerging market. In fact, more than 60 percent of the 25 top-selling paid apps in the iTunes store is geared for the education category, focussing on toddlers and preschoolers. If done in moderation along with the personal contact from a caregiver, handing a preschooler an iPhone could be a great tool to enhance a child’s development.
With the iPhone’s multimedia capabilities, kids can receive a multi-sensory experience. They can hear a word spoken, see the letters of the word and then can watch an animation of the word in action. As the whole experience unfolds, the child is in control through touch. If the iPhone can do for preschoolers what television shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers did for kids in the 70s and 80s (before the introduction of the personal computer), it will have a huge impact on the way they learn. With the introduction of the iPad, mobile learning has reached another level.
To help parents sift through the thousands of apps in the iTunes store, I compiled a list of criteria to look for. Here are just a few of the important elements:
- App activity should be pleasantly challenging
- Customizable to scale to the level of ability
- Provide a virtual reward system to encourage learning
- Interactivity that provides feedback
- Allow players to experience risk taking and consequences
Hopefully, we will begin to see this technology emerging in the schools to provide all kids with an opportunity to to be a part of this revolution in learning.