3 Reasons Apps Foster Effective Learning

By Marie Mérouze
Founder and CEO of Marbotic

As technology continues to evolve, it’s not surprising that apps are starting to be incorporated into daily classroom activities. With more than 80,000 apps considered “educational” in Apple’s app store, educators will never have a shortage of applications to use with students while teaching various lessons.

And, while most educators welcome the regular use of applications in classrooms, some educators and even parents are hesitant to leverage technology to support curricula. However, when used in the right way, apps can complement lessons and help teachers. A recent study found that the use of tablets and apps improved both classroom learning and engagement. There are many reasons, and here are three:

Enjoyment

It’s been proven that the release of dopamine has an effect on students’ desire to learn. Dopamine is released when students are engaged in an activity they enjoy. For example, when they play an app that is fun, the released dopamine encourages them to keep learning to maintain the level of enjoyment. When learning feels like a chore, many students lose interest in the lesson. With apps designed as games, learning is no longer a chore but, rather, a fun activity.

In order to avoid apps that are solely for entertainment, I recommend apps that are not distracting to the learning environment. When classroom apps are carefully reviewed, students will have fun and look forward to playing games while learning at the same time.

Diversity

These days, educators are stretched thin. They’re working to provide the best possible classroom learning experiences for children, but the problem is that students learn in different ways. What works best for some children might not work for others. Thus, the introduction of a variety of applications provides different ways for students to learn.

Some students learn best by writing things down. Others, with visual games. Still others, with tactile activities. Because apps are so versatile, they can address various learning styles without the need for educators to print a wide range of worksheets.

Repetition

Repetition is not only a key component of learning, but it reinforces it. Contrary to popular belief, repetition doesn’t have to mean doing the exact same exercises again and again but, rather, engaging in practices that work the same skill group.

On the one hand, while worksheets are a prime practice tool for lessons, they’re typically a “one and done” activity. On the other hand, apps are meant to engage students again and again. Beyond being environmentally friendly, apps provide reinforcement each time they’re played – especially apps that automatically adjust difficulty levels to match ability. Quality apps for the classroom usually incorporate a wide range of activities for different levels, providing fun, new ways for students to grow again and again.

At the end of the day, apps aren’t solely about entertainment. They can be helpful in the classroom, too! When looking for complementary activities to support lesson plans, don’t forget to consider apps and how they can positively enhance the learning environment.

Children Need More Than Apps in the Classroom

marie-merouze-80By Marie Mérouze
CEO/Founder of Marbotic

Our teachers are no strangers to technology with laptops, tablets and projection devices infiltrating the classroom. As technology is increasingly relied on in the classroom, teachers and students are as connected as ever to digital devices. It’s been proven that this digital connectivity is one of our most valuable resources in providing high-quality learning experiences for students.

When employed in the right manner, edtech applications can facilitate interactivity, content personalization, immediate feedback, and motivation for students of all ages. Thus, a large majority of teachers confirm that ed tech in the classroom allows for a more hands-on learning experience.

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With the current abundance of tablets and smartphones, kids today are constantly inundated with apps and how to use them. A recent report suggests that kids are using apps for at least three hours or more each day, which totals six and a half weeks per year.  Continue reading

English on the Internet, Game-based Learning, Kids’ Coding

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English is losing its status as the universal language of the Internet by Leanna Garfield at Tech Insider 1/3/16

Leanna Garfield makes the point that the presence of the English language on the Internet is dropping from about 80% in the mid-1990s to about 45% today. She proposes that translation tools and a greater web presence by other languages “could create a more democratic web in the future.”

Other interesting stats: “Chinese, the most widely spoken language, makes up just 2.1% of the internet. The world’s second most widely spoken language, Spanish, encompasses 4.8% of the web. Hindi, spoken by 260 million people, makes up less than 0.1% of the internet.”

Game-Based Learning Has Practical Applications for Nontraditional Students by Marguerite McNeal at EdSurge 1/20/16

McNeal reports on a study, “The Potential for Game-based Learning to Improve Outcomes for Nontraditional Students,” which focused on whether game-based learning helped nontraditional students improve outcomes. One finding of the study is that game-based learning is more effective when it is part of an integrated curriculum, not just as a stand-alone strategy.

A Kids’ Coding Expert Says We’re Making Computer Class Way Too Boring by Anya Kamenetz at nprED 12/11/15

Schools in the UK and Australia want to expand kids’ use of computers to go beyond fun and games in the classroom. Michael Resnick, head of Lifelong Kindergarten Group, associated with MIT’s Media Lab, says that “Coding is not just a set of technical skills. It’s a new way of expressing yourself. It’s similar to learning to write — a way for kids to organize, express and share ideas. But instead of putting words into sentences, now they can create animated stories.” He cautions, however, that what schools are doing is too simplistic to the point of being boring. “Many popular apps for teaching programming are structured more like games, with a simple set of instructions to reach a predefined outcome.”

CFE 2015 Faculty Showcase at UNC: ‘Teaching Less in More Depth’

By Stefanie Panke
Editor, Social Software in Education

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 5th annual Center for Faculty Excellence (CFE) Faculty Showcase at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This event is indispensible for those who want to gain a concise overview of emerging trends, proven approaches, best practices and innovative experiments in Carolina. CFE organizes the gathering to offer faculty an opportunity to learn more about specific instructional techniques or technology from their peers. For many attendees, showcase talks are the spark that ignites interest in considering changes for courses they teach. It also serves as a reminder for faculty to make use of the many instructional design and pedagogical consulting services the campus has to offer.

The day provided a chance to hear firsthand about the capabilities of the University’s Makerspaces, how teachers use Google Earth’s Liquid Galaxy display and Lightboard, which is currently being built on campus. What makes the showcase an exceptional learning opportunity for instructional designers is the mix of cutting edge technological innovation and low- or no-tech tips and tricks – be it gender neutral language, better writing assignments, role-play or reflective teaching practices and course evaluation. The showcase event closed with a presentation format I particularly enjoyed: Five-minute-long introductions to a variety of topics and projects with the explicit invitation, “Steal my idea!”

mary-huber 2The keynote speaker, Mary Taylor Huber, consultant at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, characterized the CFE event as the “greatest illustration possible” for the theme of her talk, “Building an Academic Commons Through SoTL.” Huber stated that the relationship between teaching and the institutional environment has changed noticeably over the past decade. Teaching is increasingly recognized as a valued academic activity in both general public debates and in the scientific communities. “Teaching is on a fast train,” explained Huber, and pointed out several catalysts for change: diversity, technology, new pedagogies (i.e., undergraduate research, service learning), authentic participation and educational research. Throughout the day, many examples of exceptional teaching brought these concepts to life.  Continue reading

Language Learning: Games, Social Media, and Apps

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Memorize a list of vocabulary words or do a crossword puzzle? Which is more engaging? In “Try this game in your next vocabulary lesson” (Multi Briefs: Exclusive, 14 Oct. 2015), Debra Abrams refers to some recent research that shows the importance of using games and puzzles in the classroom. She goes on to explain a strategy she uses with her English language learners where they identify words they want to learn and create their own crossword puzzles.

In “Getting Started With Game-Based Language Learning” (Edutopia, 16 Oct. 2015), David Dodgson points out that, while GBL (game-based learning) has been receiving quite a bit of attention, little has been written about how it can be used with English language learners. He recommends four resources for GBL with a focus on language learning.

In “New app connects Valley high school students to English learners” (KPHO, 11 Oct. 2015), Erika Flore describes an app that is being used by students at Desert Vista High School to connect with students in other parts of the world to help them learn or improve their English. The Desert High students are volunteers who use a website, mobile app, and/or social media to connect mostly with students in China.

In “New ISU software helps students learn english” (Iowa State Daily, 12 Oct. 2015), Jake Dalbey describes CyWrite, a program “developed by students and professors” that gives specific feedback on writing errors. He explains that this program works better than others like it because the developers started with English linguistics and developed the program around it, unlike most other programs that start with the software and plug linguistic features into it.

‘Peer Reviewing in Political Science’ – April 2015 Issue of PS

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In The Profession section of its April 2015 (v48, 02) issue, PS: Political Science & Politics (PS)1 scrutinizes the peer review system, a core value in the research community. Some question whether or not peer review is sustainable given the increased and unequal burdens placed on reviewers. In “Peer Reviewing in Political Science: New Survey Results”, Paul Djupe of Denison University argues that the common perception that reviewers are overburdened with requests has never been tested through reliable data collection. He finds, contrary to the conventional wisdom, that most scholars appreciate peer review, and that most peer review requests by journals are accepted. The only common complaint is that peer review is not considered as part of the tenure and promotion process.

Also in The Profession, the right time for associate professors to go for promotion is considered by Kurt Weyland of the University of Texas in “The Logic of the Promotion Decision: In Dubio Pro Patientia”. Weyland argues that it is in the associate professor’s own interest to establish a convincing case before they bid for the rank of full professor and efforts to ‘force’ a promotion prematurely can leave a bad impression and damage the career. Accumulating a strong record in research and publication is the best way to assure a smooth path to tenure.

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In the Profession Symposium, see the articles on “Reinventing the Scholarly Conference: Reflections from the Field.”

In The Teacher , Matthew Woessner of Penn State shows how computer games like SimCity can be used to engage young people to think about politics, governance, and the challenges of managing cities in the real world.  Continue reading

Video Games, Smartphones, Language Learning, Technology and Learning

lynnz_col2Playing High-Action Video Games May Speed Up Learning, Studies Say by Sarah D. Sparks in Education Week 11/13/14
Sparks reports on a study in the December issue of Human Movement Science that contradicts earlier research which connects extensive video game play to attention-deficit disorders and other impulsiveness disorders. The authors contend that “game playing can improve students’ attention control” and create better learners.

Smartphone addicts: A project-based learning activity by Alexandra Lowe in TESOL blog 11/5/14
Lowe describes how she used the idea of a Smartphone survey to move English language use outside the classroom. In groups students developed and conducted surveys about Smartphone use.

Learning languages is a workout for brains, both young, old by Victoria M. Infivero from Science Daily 11/12/14
Using MRI scans, researchers at Penn State have demonstrated that even the adult brain grows and changes when learning a new language. They are also using “virtual 3-D-like environments with situation-based learning to help the brain make some of those new connections more effectively.”

Report Urges Caution on Approaches Equating Technology in Schools with Personalized Learning by William J. Mathis and Noel Enyedy,  from NEPC 11/24/14
This policy brief addresses the increased use of technology in schools and questions its effectiveness. The authors point to a number of factors, including the fact that teaching practices and learning outcomes often have not changed.