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eLearning Update: School Apps for Summer

While this week's issue of Education Week features formal summer programs that are taking advantage of technology, that's not to suggest there aren't also informal ways students can harness digital power for learning during the summer months.

In fact, while we've written about using mobile apps for learning during the academic year, Scott Meech, founder of the I Education Apps Review, or IEAR, says apps may be best used to educate during the dog days.

"A lot of tools can be effectively used with their summer activities," Meech said, "because a lot of those things are built on their creativity and what they find most interesting. ... You don't sit kids down and say I want you to do your multiplication tables for an hour and a half."

Instead, Meech says there are plenty of apps for iPhones, iPads, smartphones, and other devices to help children harness their creativity and try their hand at making music, designing video games, or blogging about summer travels.

And Meech, who is also a school district technology facilitator at District No. 38 in Kenilworth, Ill., says the break is also an excellent time to work on children's "executive functioning skills" like scheduling and keeping time by using apps to plan and schedule summer activities.

"I think the key is that summertime is for fun, but we want [kids] also reflecting and creating," Meech said. "There's really those three things that they continue to use [apps] for."

Most of this, Meech admits, is interaction that would be fostered by parents, not teachers. And that's going to probably benefit families who both have more access to technology and more leisure time to spend with their children.

But that doesn't mean there aren't steps schools can take to facilitate productive educational app use for the next three months.

For example, schools can send out recommended apps lists, similar to reading lists that typically accompany students home during the final days of the term. And more adventurous chief technology officers may even create a device loaning program for students who otherwise wouldn't have access to that technology.

"Schools are and should be doing more," Meech said. "A lot of technology school districts have will sit over the summer. Depending on the situation, they will lend it out."

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