There’s an app for that (and a generation)
Here’s a summary of some of the apps on offer and the level they cater for:
Here’s a summary of some of the apps on offer and the level they cater for:
I’m a father of two girls (7 & 10) and like many fathers in developed world in 2015, school holiday time has become “constant screen time” for my kids. Unless I painstakingly structure every minute of their day, given the choice, they pick screen time before considering other activities. They are kids after all and it may have been 1987 and it may have been an Atari ST, but I was just the same.
The 70s gave us screen time, the 80s brought it home, the 90s expanded the choice and the 21st century has now given many young people the power to download further screen time options when they feel like it.
If most parents are allowing it, is it ok to deny your own kids (as a parent or teacher) the access other’s enjoy? What long-term effects will show themselves in 20 years? Will they be positive or negative? You can find news stories and studies to prove any case you’d like to.
So, what do we parents and teachers do with a generation who have increasingly higher expectations for how much screen time is considered normal? I have written before on categorising screen time to give more value to creative pursuits and this has helped family time in my house considerably. But here’s other ideas I’ve had that help in this increasingly challenging debate about what is good or not good for children.
Children generally think of the games first but are also naturally curious and creative and often just need reminders of the more productive activities available. Here are some ideas for how to structure these reminders.
Realistically, most families I know would allow a couple of hours in any day for iPadding. Organise apps into folders based on family rules about screen time. As examples: 20 minutes playing games; 40 minutes playing ‘thinking’ games; 1 hour of these creative apps. Using the Control Centre (swipe up from bottom of screen) you can quickly access the timer to ensure the kids get an alarm to say ‘time’s-up’. I also use Emoji characters to help the kids remember why they’re categorised (see pic). It seems sometimes that screen time becomes the issue more than worrying about exactly what’s on the screen. and my kids will move onto more productive activities, if it means more screen time. (Sad, I know)
Yes, they will do almost anything for screen time and so use this to your advantage and make them earn it. The parenting advice on this also changes week to week, depending on which book, expert or website you follow but generally, publishing a list of ‘good citizen’ tasks that all earn screen time works well. It puts the onus on the child to carry out good deeds before the earn device time. My daughters have very tidy bedrooms, we have an automatic filling dishwasher and the fire wood was transferred to it’s winter location all because of the desire for the screen. I’ve had no arguments about work around the house if it’s weighed up against iPad time.
Here are some games I’ve recently become very good at, so as to spark discussion and competition within the family.
Math: The Land of Venn – Geometric Defense This is a great game where young kids learn and draw geometric shapes as weapons against monsters. It quickly had my 7-year-old daughter using math vocabulary she might never have used at home. Lots of extras to win and spells to purchase with your winnings. Cleverly designed to award more power to the more complicated shapes. Great fun and sparks good conversation.
English : Sentopiary
This was a great distraction that both my daughters enjoyed as it reinforced things they’d studied at school and was interactive enough that even I learnt a few things regarding grammar. As the app states: “Guided by Common Core standards, it is intended to be used both at home and in classrooms and works well in environments where iPads are shared.” This is true as it also sparks conversation between 2 people looking at it.
Languages: Duo Lingo
We’ve made it a family challenge to learn Spanish using this app. My elder daughter has now decided that after Spanish, she’s ‘gonna learn Russian’ :-). Make it a weekly challenge to work through a particular number of lessons. The app is very carefully crafted to make sure you build your knowledge and skills in successfully in written, reading and spoken forms. There is discussion about the teaching of languages dying out in schools but this app and gasified online system could be the saviour for language learning.
Art: Sketchbook Express
This free app gives you advanced tools presented in a straight-forward fashion. Even I could reignite my liking for art with some nice first steps tracing a photo using the layers available (see pic). This immediacy and extra safety (kids don’t like to mess up their pictures) of this layering made it an instant hit with my 10-year-old daughter.
Movie making: iMovie
Using siblings, pets or classmates to put together a story introduction using iMovie’s Trailer option is a popular activity that I find with some theme prompting from me always gets my kids outside and ‘acting’. The other day, all I had to say was “what about using our chickens for a trailer?” and they were off!
Both these apps challenge the brain for logical thinking. They present themselves as games but in such a way that the kids have to pause and think rather than just react on instinct like typical gaming.
Kodable is a great introduction into coding that both my daughters will play for the full 30 minutes overtime they’re reminded of its existence.
Thinkrolls 2 looks easy to start with but quickly gets very challenging and is cleverly designed to deliver challenges in quick succession that my kids will choose to play this without reminding.
This means WAR!
Yes, as a parent or teacher you might feel you are in a constant fight and you may win some and loose some battles but if we are careful, I believe we will win the war. With some thought and a positively mindset, this screen time might create a generation of thinking, creative and collaborative people. By setting up structures to help the children self-manage their screen time, I am hoping that I can already see the benefits of what these apps have to offer transferred to ‘real-life’ with two girls who are happy to help, keen to solve problems and create projects of their own design. Make sure you make some time to showcase the results of their more productive device use and it will encourage more.
Good luck everyone !!!
“Did you know, there’s an app for that?” In fact, there’s 100s of new apps everyday and many teachers are put off technology because of it’s rapidly changing landscape. “How can I possibly keep up with what I should be asking the kids to use?” is a common question. The secret is to not worry about which app is the right one. Let the kids collectively do the ground work and worry about keeping abreast of the generic technologies and capabilities that numerous apps are making available.
But before you even worry about overall technologies, worry about what skills your teaching (regardless of content) might be developing. It is becoming a much talked about subject that any particular content schools might have “delivered” in the past is diminishing in value as A) it all becomes available on-demand on the internet in both written and video format and B) the world changes at an increasingly faster rate and priorities change year-on-year.
I also then ensure I have answers for the kids regarding why this is a skill worth practicing. Much of how I operate is around student devised projects but I work with the students on what they might focus on if I feel they or their team are not proving strong at a particular skill, like those I listed above. In a rapidly changing world, these are the skills that help develop what for me is the key skill: learning to learn. Why? For example, recent research is showing that unto a 3rd of jobs that exist in western countries will be replaced by automated robots or computers in the next 2 decades! Picture Credit
Universal Content – add purpose to education
What information is most important these days? That’s a hard question. Given the uncertainty over even the next 5 years, how does any teacher know what they are teaching will be both paramount or relevant in five years. In New Zealand, I’m lucky that the National Curriculum took account of this uncertainty over where the future might lead and in 2007 removed nearly all content to focus on universal skills relevant to improving communities and the economy in the 21st century.
The freedom the iPad brings to each student’s learning experience is key when the skills and content being dealt with can be so varied within a class. Let the students find relevant apps whilst teachers focus on knowing the available technology types that they might be expect to see or encourage as options for dealing with material, even if it’s just occasionally. Here is my list of technologies that iPads now offer to a student:
An open ended challenge
There are thousands of apps that offer entertaining and even interactive experiences with specific content. The issue for schools is becoming too reliant on a specific app’s existence. It is hard more most app developers to maintain the business and compete in such a difficult market and they often disappear after 2 or 3 years. Allow students to discover and use content apps but don;t centre your teaching on them. Focus your energy on universal skills and technologies and allow the students to practice and showcase their innate curiosity and talents for mastering specific apps collaboratively. in short, future proof your learning environment.
Please let me know if you have ideas for other technology types and I’ll add them to the list. Thanks.
I’ve been asked a number of times to help with iPad “unboxing” sessions in schools and it can get messy if you try to do too much. It is temping to download and run through numerous “amazing” apps and quickly showcase all of their abilities in transforming the classroom. But from my experiences, I have learnt that many teachers are unaware of fundamentals that others understand as everyday knowledge, so be careful. Keep it simple and avoid needing the internet as much as possible during the session. I know of a school where they asked everyone to get iMovie, which is 500MB! This not only killed the internet but the rest of the session also! For me, the important fundamentals are iCloud, Photo, (small) App download and messaging. Photo Credit.
I recommend everyone get a new iCloud.com email during the iPad setup screens and use this as their Apple account to ensure they aren’t restricted from using any of the Apple services. Restrictions can crop up later if you use something like a Gmail. The smallest of task can take a while when a number of people attempt it at once. A simple task that more advanced users can help the novices through works much better.
Introducing teachers to the idea that free web-based messaging is available using the iCloud accounts is something I think is important. It can greatly reduce the pressure on the school email and people quickly get used to it and many often prefer the format of messaging over email. Group messages can be started between 3 or more, which can help department discussion too. Get your school leaders messaging as a group and they will love iPads forever 🙂
The main aim is to have a task that everyone can enjoy, regardless of the ability level. Photo Booth and Pic Collage are both simple but fun apps that all can enjoy and this is why I included them in my resource below.
I thought I’d put together a quick resource that you might use if issuing a number iPads to teachers in your school. Hope you find it useful and good luck! This JPG links to a PDF version.
So, I’ve got kids. 2 girls, 7 & 10. We’re a normal family with normal issues, including the worry about screen-time. I had a good conversation with my girls and we all agreed what was useful for young brains and what was not. I started by comparing how much they created inside the game with how much everything was given to them by the game. In Moshi Monsters Village, for example, we agreed that there was no trick to it, it was just buying or choosing from all the stuff to give to the monsters etc. Nothing in the game was made by my girls.
We talked about how amazing they feel when they’ve actually made something or finished a drawing and how much they always want to show me. My girls agreed that they didn’t always get that feeling from the games as much as they did from making real things or even making stuff in Minecraft.
I told my girls that I would be happy for them to have more iPad time if they were creating things, experimenting or learning new things. We needed to restrict the amount of time gaming as their mum and I could see it having negative impact on our girls’ relationship as they often fought over who’s turn it was or that one would not share access to an iPad. (They don’t have their own at the moment, although that’s just about to change!)
I said we would decide on a total amount of screen time for a day and then decide how much could be spent gaming and how much extra we’d allow if they were making things.
This was a tricky one. Yes, Minecraft is used by millions and seems creative and open-ended but I pointed out that after hours of playing it, the girls rarely rushed to show me their creations and this might have been because they sort of made things up as they went along and never knew when they’d finished. This aspect put it more in the gaming category as they were not yet building planned or team projects. We decided we might change which category Minecraft fell into if they were more organised about what exactly they were going to build and why.
In a previous post, I’ve highlighted the positive effect that comes about from playing puzzle or logic games. I can see at home how calming the right game can be and sitting with my girls trying to conquer levels together is a great experience. Saying that, they do still add to overall screen-time and without having a direct creative output, they seem to add to what seems like a minor iPad addiction. I must admit that this addiction is also seen in the parents to and is common to many families in 2014.
The result of these debates was our collaboratively designed family poster to remind us what we could do on the iPads and for how long. It was difficult for me to consider time-limits on something like reading as this seemed counter-intuitive. But given a free reign on iPad reading time would often mean 20 minutes of gaming followed by 60 minutes of movie making followed by hours of reading resulting in whole evenings looking at the screen and no time conversing with the family. My daughters, of course, have many standard paper books to read and have free reign on those.
Some parents might find it useful so here it is. Note: Making Games is fine!
I’ve outlined in a previous post, my findings that quite obviously, the moment that any individual learner is ready to listen, read, watch or even learn will vary. To expect any class to turn up at a scheduled hour and fully engage in the same learning activity is literally treating them like products on a factory line and not the humans they enjoy being. Photo Credit.
I have 2 daughters, both brought up by the same parents who approach everything in life very differently. Why would we expect 30 young people form different life situations to behave and have the same needs for an hour?
When I regularly divide my classes into groups, I often notice that a number of the groups have a member who seems distant or unengaged and I wonder how I can energise these kids to engage with the group or task during the short time that I’ve got them? (I teach in a high school still restricted by segregated, hourly subject lessons) Most of my class activities involve an element of problem solving. Examples might be, How are we going to reduce cyber-bullying in the school? What do the students need in a school app? Or even, How can I start my music career in New Zealand? It is the problem-solving part of the brain I want to activate in my students who are not in that frame of mind when I need it.
The other day, I noticed one of my daughters playing a puzzle type game on my iPad. It was obviously challenging and often frustrating but she kept at it regardless. The game was direct problem solving and my girl was deeply engaged. It was then I had an idea. If any learner who found themselves disengaged from a school task had permission to select from a list of problem-solving, “brain igniting” games, it might mean they return to the task more energised to tackle it or suggest other solutions.
To carry out an initial trial, I projected a problem-solving game on my board and invited individuals to have a single turn to complete the puzzle/level. After 2 minutes, pairs were coming up to have a shared turn. This turned into small groups and after 10 minutes had 8 people competing to make suggestions for the next move. What I noticed was that these 8 were not a normal grouping within the class but had selected themselves to share an experience. This had an immediate effect on the dynamics in the class. I have found that after this exercise, new pairings started appearing in the class and it definitely made it easier for me to suggest new groupings without any backlash.
So I set about searching and inquiring after entertaining puzzle games I could issue as an endorsed game list. These are just suggestions but will give you a starting point.
Sometimes we consider the term team-building as only something employers organise. I’ve found this to be powerful in my classes, especially with boys, who are often less social and likely to work well in new teams. You may have heard of Google 20% time, well this is an endorsed form of team-building / brain ignition time. Give it a try!
EXTRA LINK: Games are good for you
How might we develop young people’s obsession and engagement with social media and texting into a deep desire to learn and create together?
My first thought is to ask why people become so obsessed. In my digital citizenship programme, we cover social media addiction and why it effects people of all ages. One key issue is that when a post or message is sent into the system to people who can’t be physically seen, the unknown amount of time it might take for a reply keeps people watching. We all want to be appreciated and of course “Liked!”
People get locked into a “have I had a reply or a like yet?” universe and they develop habits for needing connection & recognition. Rather than worry and scorn, this might be a situation teachers can use to their advantage. I’m always keen on students working in teams for everything they do – Yes, an author might write a novel alone but they still need an editor and publisher to finalise it.
My observation of teamwork in many classrooms, including my own is the lack of space and time for each member to contemplate what another has said or done. There’s often a rushed atmosphere of trying to get the work done quickly. More ongoing reflection from each member can result in higher quality outcomes. It is often the case that someone shy in public is confident online and this has a lot to do with the extra time they have to reflect and consider their responses. Social media creates a more level playing field where the more outgoing and confident are less obvious and the quiet can contribute fully.
One idea to combine the positives of remote connection in social media and productivity at school is to physically separate team members and organise projects over 2 or more classrooms. Students from different rooms or even schools come together online to use their well honed social media and texting skills to build a more professional 21st Century view of workflow. It’s important to highlight to young people that these tools and systems are being used by adults to carry out projects around the world and that in many occasions this connects people in several countries.
Yes, this is an iPad photographing an iPad filming an iPad – normal in my existence!
At first, you may have to allow a little more time for a project you normally carry out in one room but the students will develop these skills in a productive sense and experience the need to allocate roles and work efficiently. The students love feeling connected to the world outside the classroom, even if it’s people next door!! I also find they read and ‘listen’ to each other more intently due to the nature of these communications.
I can highly recommend it for some projects. It helps keep things fresh and connects both students and teachers. I suggest the teams ensure they are putting together a ‘package’ of all media types they can publish or present to both classrooms online. Another reason for trying this is that a teacher confident with technology can join their classroom to a less EdTechie teacher and help with the learning process. The irony is that social media removes much of the social distractions evident in face-to-face interactions. After some initial excitement, the communications eventually become more considered and task focused.
Don’t necessarily subscribe how they produce output or communicate. If they’re obsessed with Snapchat then have them sketch ideas with it. It will educate them into seeing anything as possibly productive and not just frivolous.
How about 4 teachers specialising in each of 4 rooms as mentors for Leadership, Research, Technology & Presentation. Each student team members are also divided into classes along the same lines. The teams can then rely on their team’s specialist knowing they have a mentor in their specific role.
Have one room speak a different language and use either Apple or Google’s translation tools. It’s good preparation for world collaboration. (I personally have sent several tweets recently in French without speaking a work myself!)
Evernote is also good at sharing all media types and having shared work spaces. It’s also cross platform too.
Google might be my preference but if you understand iCloud well and the devices are logged in. Then sharing video, photos and docs is already build into iPads and Macs.
This is just a quick nod to my EdTechTeacher friend Beth Holland, who has written another excellent post updating ideas around what teachers might do in the first 5 hours, days and weeks with iPads in their class. The original post can be found here on Edutopia.org.
Beth and the EdtechTeacher team are an excellent source of ideas and inspiration. Beth asked me to update my infographic for the post and so here it is:
When kids are learning to code, it’s better to get on with things as quickly as possible. In lesson 3 of my Hopscotch course, I get straight into making it look like a game. This involves adding sky, ground and moving objects. My students are keen to get the project looking good but in doing so, they learn the basics behind achieving what they want with logical thinking.
Life is Random
They key feature introduced is the Random option when adding numbers. Without the Random number option Games wouldn’t seem very realistic as background objects always appeared in the same places every time they repeated their animation.
In this help sheet, I colour in the background and add floating objects moving both right and left. Objects move 1000 or -1000 across the screen but have a slightly random Y value to change their height on the screen for each repeat.
Adding Emoji Keyboard to your iPad
Here’s the step by step on adding the Emoji keyboard (Sorry that’s it’s in iOS6 format)
The iPad coding app Hopscotch is now able to teach kids about the primary way coding is organised. Procedures (abilities) can be named and referred to by name when needed by multiple characters. My 2nd lesson shows how an overall task can be broken down into it’s smaller stages and these stages are called upon to perform the larger task.
Here’s my help sheet showing how procedures can be built from smaller procedures: