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Tools of Change
Career educators and life-long friends, Jayne Clare and Anne Rachel were already in the vanguard in 2009 when theirs were among the first education apps to hit the App Store.
"We knew from the very beginning that this was the future. There was no doubt in our minds that this was the way children were going to be learning. We wanted to be on the cutting edge. We wanted to be where everything was happening and maybe a few steps ahead," Jayne states in a recent interview debuting today on this blog.
"We are both dedicated to the idea that quality mobile educational apps are not only the tools of the future, but the tools of today. That with them, we can reach children well beyond the classroom," adds Anne.
Branded under their joint venture, i-Itch Inc: Apps that Delight and Develop, Anne and Jayne’s reading-readiness apps – ABC On the Go, ABC Shakedown, and ABC Shakedown Plus – were instant hits. They all rose quickly to the top of the education category. But the voices of these apps were soon shouted down by the mob of products, many (if not most) of questionable educational quality, that continue to flood into the education category, and that now number in the tens of thousands.
As Anne and Jayne watched more and more “truly educational apps” get swept aside by big-brand, big-budget bullies with little educational value, they decided it was time to stride forward again. They saw the need for a resource site where teachers, parents, and app users could reliably discover great educational content. And so they resolved to create it.
In 2010, Teachers With Apps was born with the goal of showcasing top-of-the-class apps and, later, top-of-the-class developers. The site aims to help teachers and caregivers source App Store gems that have become lost from view. The site is a safe haven for educational app developers, working on a shoestring, who are in the business of changing lives, first. But the main objective of Teacher With Apps has always been to ensure that educationally sound content finds its way into the hands of children and youth.
What makes Teachers With Apps stand apart?
Founded by educators, the company worldview is grounded in age-appropriate educational theory and practice.
All reviews are contributed by teachers.
All reviewed apps are field-tested with students.
Only recommended apps are featured on the Teachers With Apps site.
If you find an app on Teachers With Apps, you can feel confident it’s worthy of your child’s or your students’ attention.
I am honored and delighted to launch this new interview series, TEACHERS IN THE VANGUARD, by introducing you to Anne Rachel and Jayne Clare of Teachers With Apps.
Enjoy! And please don't hesitate to leave your comments for Jayne and Anne.
Authors of all stripes – fiction or nonfiction, picture book to YA – have a fantastic opportunity to create a Win-Win-Win for themselves, teachers, and students, alike, by crafting quality teaching aids to supplement their books.
Here are some tips we picked up along the way that might help you turn your book into a teaching tool too…
Tip #1: Start by focusing on learning outcomes for your grade or age group.
Educational systems the world over – and I’ve had access to those on four continents! – lay out learning goals for students to reach and the desired milestone dates and times for attaining them. Teachers use these goals when developing their classroom curricula. So you should too.
The best place to start, therefore, is by researching the desired skills and learning outcomes of your particular target audience. To help get you started, here’s my personally developed general outline of skills-based goals shared by both the US Common Core State Standards as well as the International Baccalaureate Early Years, Middle Years, and Diploma Programmes:
Learning Outcomes, Primary:
Developing visual literacy: What does a picture communicate?
Recognizing text features: Action words vs. describing words, for example, as well as metaphor, simile, personification, alliteration, etc.
Understanding voice and point of view
Identifying connections and relationships, both within text as well as between texts
Comparing multi-media examples of text, such as the book vs. the movie
Learning Outcomes, Secondary (add the following to the list above):
Critical thinking skills
Intellectual inquiry: Asking inquiring questions
Research skills: Finding answers to your questions
Scientific process: Developing a hypothesis and trying to prove it
Interpretation, analysis, synthesis, and communication of meaning in text
Communicating understanding in writing and other presentation formats
Tip #2: Consider the steps a student might need to take to reach those goals.
Tip #3: Then prepare tools that will guide them there.
To make meaning of a text, students need to be able to recognize the key ideas and supporting details.
Trick #1: Create a set of discussion questions to accompany each of your book’s chapters. Cue these questions off scenes and/or illustrations in your book to inspire students to make predictions. Asking them to guess what might happen in a story not only verifies baseline understanding, but also exercises the comprehension of story structure in a non-didactic way. Always a plus!
To understand what’s happening in a book as you make your way through the plot, you need to be grounded in the setting.
Trick #2: How about a simple word-search game whereby students are asked to identify the phrases and vocabulary that provide clues to your story’s place and time?
Similarly, to really empathize with a protagonist – to walk in her shoes and see the world through his eyes – a reader needs to have gleaned many details from the text:
The main character’s age, and that of the secondary character(s);
The historical time in which the characters live;
The main character’s personality traits;
His or her motivations;
The conflict, problem, or challenge he or she is trying to overcome.
This lends itself the to the examination of “voice” in a story or text, and asks students to focus on such literary elements as word choice, point of view, language devices, and, once again, story structure.
Trick #3: Here’s where an author could create a worksheet— or even better, a smart board-compatible graphic organizer—on literary features and how they are used. Include examples from your book. Students may then be asked to write their own scenes, using these features, perhaps even in the “voice” of your story’s main character. Fun!
As for activities that aid in interpretation and finding deeper meaning in a text, point students to web-based aids that will enable them to design treasure hunts – my specialty!
Trick #4: Send them to Google Maps, for example, to plot the course of your main character’s journey. Invite them to search Google Images for pictures of how the story world might have looked, especially if it's historical, and what clothing styles were worn. Allow them to continue to explore from there. You may find them on YouTube searching for examples of popular music from that time. It may seem like play, especially to your students, but research shows that compiling visuals and playlists extend and deepen a reader’s sensory experience of a story. Besides, we learn through play. Even adults. So it's all good!
Finally, suggest other texts or media that students and teachers can view as a complement to your story. Movies and plays are especially fun.
Trick #5: Ask them to highlight the connections between these media as well as the contrasts. Compel them to explore the differences in voice by considering the personality of the writing in each format: Who is speaking? How do you know? How does the writing in each make you feel?
Or, you could really get really creative and use your book as a catalyst for turning the classroom into a stage just as Marcie Colleen has done with the Beware Madame la Guillotine Curriculum Handbook.
But more on that particular stroke of genius in a future post by the creator herself, Marcie Colleen…
It's not to late to get a FREE pdf of
Beware Madame la Guillotine.
We're offering a download for an Amazon review through August.
It's conference time again and I'm off! This time to...
...the annual Institute of designers, researchers, and reviewers of
interactive media (IM) for children and youth.
So stay tuned for blog posts from historic Lambertville, New Jersey, including:
updates on the latest product releases and their use in schools;
observations on the intersection between child development theory and emerging interactive teaching-and-learning tools;
highlights on what's new in interactive design; and
interviews with others who are passionate about the potential of interactive media for children
Meanwhile, I invite you to check out my blog post in O'Reilly's Tools of Change for Publishing about the 3rd, and last, TOC Bologna Conference, where I met many of the fine folks who are the magic behind Dust or Magic.
Your comments welcome!