Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Educational iTouch Apps... What's Out There?

Hardware issues aside (still no camera or voice recorder in the iTouch, which if added, would make it a more full-featured formative assessment tool to use in the classroom), I still am high on the iTouch at the elementary age. It continues to be a more intuitive interface for primary students to pick up and use, making the technology serve the curriculum faster.

But, educational software for the iTouch is still in its infancy. There have been some simple apps created, focusing on one particular skill or concept (like multiplication or state capitals), but we're a ways from a really robust educational app that could be the centerpiece of a curriculum. However, given the speed things are changing, that "ways" might be traversed in a few months.

Tomorrow, I'll touch on the things I'd like to see on an iTouch, some of which might exist today, but could use more development. Here, though, is what I've seen so far.

This teacher tube video describes what it labels as the iSchool initiative, a curriculum aided by the computing power of an iTouch

I've limited myself to free apps for now, and my target audience is ages 3-10 (the age of my kids, since they are my test audience). The older grade levels have more built in use, just as mere content vessels (like audiobooks or a referenced periodic table or historical maps)... if you are a secondary teacher, you are more likely to find something to use right away because you can use it as an accompaniment to your regular instruction easier. But I think the more interactive programs are definitely suited for younger learners at this point.
  • Google Earth - application for searching geographical information, including geocaching.
  • Basic Math, Brain Tuner Lite, Math Drill, Multiply Flashcards - applications for math fact drilling
  • gFlash and iFlipLite - programs that allow teachers to create their own flash cards
  • Flickr and Image Search - for finding images
  • aNote Lite and Evernote - two note taking tools for organization
  • Remember the Milk - organizational to-do lists for students to use
  • Blanks - a program that gives drills on vocabulary words
  • Spel it Rite, ShakeSpell, Spell - interactive spelling programs
The reviews are mixed on these... very easy for my kids to learn and become engaged, could serve for enrichment in many cases. On the other hand, some have been overly simplistic and not well designed. Blanks for example generates definitions from some a dictionary, so they'll occasionally list something like "a trait of being curious" with the correct answer out of the four choices being "curiosity" (and the other three being adverbs or something non-relative).

My two favorite have been great for my 3-year old. iWriteWords allows students to trace the path of letters and connect the letters to sounds and visual pictures (a bee for the letter b, for example), which has done wonders for Hannah learning her letters. And, HippoShapes allows students to select the shape described, using a variety of different textures and settings. Neither are very complex programs, meaning Hannah taught herself how to use them. Both isolate the skill that is part of the curriculum (pre-literacy skills such as letter recognition and shape recognition are pretty much universal).

Learning in Hand (a great place to start for an overview)
I Educational App Review
iPhone and Kids
Online Educational Database's Top 50 Apps
99 Apps for Students
Apps Hopper
Springfield, IL CSD

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