Apps as a Learning Tool for Education

As back to school approaches, the topic of learning takes center stage. Lynn Rasmussen; parent, app developer, and creator of math apps Arithmaroo and MathGirl Number Garden, offers her insight on how characteristics of apps can open up new pathways for learning and new resources for traditional education systems.

Apps offer an entirely new medium for education. App developers have only scratched the surface of what’s possible. Just as Wikipedia and Google have changed how people get information, apps can change how people learn.

Apps have the capacity to offer inexpensive, individualized, engaging, and efficient learning experiences. Tested in the marketplace, they succeed only if they are easy to use, enjoyed, and recommended.  In contrast, traditional classroom settings encounter challenges and limitations that make evolution difficult.

By looking at features of apps, a new view of what’s possible in education emerges.

Customized and Progressive Navigation

Many schools place children in levels by age. Some children are stuck in levels they’ve already mastered. Some are advanced before they are ready. Too many students experience continual failure and then discover that the offered solution is more hours in the same game.

However, in a well-designed game, you advance as you master a level. If a game is poorly designed, or if it’s too hard or too easy, you simply find another, better game.

From Top-Down Systems to Self-Organizing Networks

State and (as of last month) national standards determine what each child should learn in each grade and in each subject. Teachers are expected to teach the curriculum, redesign it as needed, and customize it to each student’s needs – all with limited resources.

With apps, kids can empower themselves. Thousands of individual apps meet the particular needs of particular users. It’s possible to envision how apps might compliment a teacher’s instruction, enabling a teacher to become more of a curator of knowledge rather than a student’s sole source of instruction.

From System-Centric vs. User-Centric

Tired? Sick? Hungry? Not a morning person? A death or divorce in the family? Most schools conform to a fixed, inflexible schedule.

You can play an app whenever and wherever you want. It’s there for you when you get back to it. It can track where you left off. You progress at your own speed and determine your own level of difficulty.  You can always replay to get it right.

From Learning as Work to Learning as Play

The job market is constantly changing and becoming more competitive. People with jobs are required to not just fill their job positions, but to also redesign them as they go. People without jobs have to create their own work.

As we move from the traditional systems of work into new evolving systems, we need to play. Great design requires play. Play helps us open up, connect, discover, and create.  With apps, learning can be diverse, expansive, engaging, and fun.

From Mass Assessment to User Feedback

The education system decides exactly what and when students learn. Teachers sometimes remain in the system whether they are effective or not.  Massive corporate testing can be an underlying presence throughout the school year.

If an app doesn’t work for you, you find another app that will. If it plays well and if it adds value to your life, you support it. You and other players rate and recommend apps to others. Users provide immediate feedback to app developers. Good developers respond with revisions and with new, more effective apps. The feedback of the market, the users, drives the system.

Summary

After comparing how education works to how apps work, the possibility of a new, improved system emerges; one that thrives on the experiences and feedback of its students, that supports and evolves the roles and responsibilities of teachers, and that taps into the power of play.

App Friday: Arithmaroo

Welcome to App Friday, our weekly link exchange of family-friendly apps. Today we are featuring a counting app from Arithmaroo. Creators Lynn and Molly Rasmussen, a mother-daughter team based in Maui and Los Angeles, work together on this series of inspiring and educational math apps for kids. Want to get your little kangaroos excited about math? Then c’mon – let’s go counting with Arithmaroo!

What is the app about? Arithmaroo Counting so simple that it’s genius. At first kids count how many rocks and how many hands and fingers. Then they discover that seeing patterns is easier and faster. They start with 1 to 5 and work up to seeing 50 on the screen. Even adults feel the brain workout!

Why is it special? Watch the “ahas” kick in. Arithmaroo is a right brain approach that fills in the missing steps to mastering addition and multiplication. Kids start to add and multiply without even knowing that’s what they’re doing. Arithmaroo develops number sense, that all-important “feel” for numbers that is found in every state’s math standards. The soon-to-be-released Arithmaroo series–adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing–will prevent the “bad at math” syndrome that haunts too many smart, capable people.

What in it for me? ZERO! That’s right! DOWNLOAD ARITHMAROO FOR FREE this App Friday. No counting required, until you download the app, of course!

Related Apps? Interested in math? Check out this feature Lynn wrote earlier in the week, highlighting some of the terrific kids math apps we have from developers in Moms With Apps.

App Friday Link Exchange Our goal at Moms With Apps is to spread the word about family-friendly apps. Do YOU have a favorite app to share? One about math, or just one your kids enjoy? Then please post your favorite apps in the comments down below. The more great apps for kids and families – the better!

5 Cool Ways to Learn Math with Apps

Our feature this week is from Lynn Rasmussen, creator of Arithmaroo – a math counting game focused on number patterns and relationships. The Arithmaroo team is working on an entire series of educational math apps that engage the user to explore and experience numbers.  Today Lynn highlights the many different ways math is being presented with mobile apps, which makes it an exciting time for students and educators.

Many of us were taught math in classrooms. Everyone was given the same worksheets, drills, homework, and tests at the same time. If you didn’t get it, the class kept going.  Too many of us were either “bad at math” or bored.  Apps offer a solution. They are personal, interactive, and provide instant feedback. Most of all, they are fun.

Here are five ways that Moms With Apps developers apply math to apps:

  1. Apps offer a beautiful introduction to math for little ones.  TickleTapApps’ Counting Caddy is a simple, fun counting game. With their Pattern Painter preschoolers learn to identify shapes and then they learn to draw shapes.
  2. App games are great for practice and assessment. Kids can start at their own levels. Incorrect answers are challenges, not failures. The KidsMathFun series  separates math operations by grade level and replaces grades with wins. They even have an app for Telling Time!
  3. Some apps are real tools that can be applied in fun ways.  Using Percentally kids can tally basketball stats or tally how many times someone says thank you, and then see how tallies convert to percents.
  4. Apps bring math alive. The iLiveMath series is not only graphically beautiful, but their app design and navigation is fascinating. Word problems with gorgeous photos are way more fun than standard worksheets.
  5. Apps offer diverse learning experiences.  Using a “right brain” approach, the Arithmaroo series replaces rote memory methods with increasingly complicated rock and hand patterns, all presented as games.

Apps offer powerful new ways to teach and to learn. We developers are just beginning to explore the possibilities!