Computers and, later, Web 2.0 have changed the way young people learn. Now apps are set to do the same. My colleagues Heather Singmaster and Honor Moorman have been investigating apps to help teach for global competence.
An "app" is short for software application. For example, Angry Birds and Facebook are popular apps on mobile devices. More than 30 million apps are downloaded to mobile devices every day. There are apps to help manage time, convert measurements, lead a healthier lifestyle, and for fun. A good percentage of apps are by nature educational.
Most teenagers have cell phones. And iPads are outselling personal computers. There are now an estimated 1.5 million iPads in U.S. classrooms, and with new digital textbooks introduced this year, that number will likely grow.
Before using apps, remember that learning objectives come first; recommend specific digital tools and communicate clear guidelines to help students meet expectations. Consider, too, whether apps should be used in guided instruction, or if they should be relegated to self-directed learning time. Many teachers now use the Flipped Classroom model, where class time is used primarily for discussion and collaborative work. Digital tools help students develop knowledge and skills prior to class, and help them contribute more substantively to discussions and project work.
So which apps can help build global competence? With a world of possibilities, what follows is a short list of mostly Apple iOS apps to help you get started. To download, go to the Apple iTunes store, search for the app by name, and click on the price button to synch with your device. Several of these apps are available for Android and other devices, too.
Art View: artworks and artist bios from around the world. Play a quiz game; high scores can be linked to an online social gaming site. Parental controls allow teachers and parents to censor nude forms in art as necessary. (Grades 6-12/iPhone/$0.99)
Love Art: National Gallery London : With one of the greatest collections of Western European art in the world, the National Gallery app shares over 250 pieces in a way that allows kids to touch the art. Includes commentary by artists, writers, and experts. (All ages/iPhone, iPod, and iPad/$2.99)
The Elements: A Visual Exploration: This one helps students learn about the periodic table in a hands-on way. Each element has various objects associated with it—many international. For instance, copper (Cu) features a Persian weave chain, a Chinese ritual bronze, and more. Each object can be rotated or viewed in three dimensions. Get current market prices for some elements, like gold. (Grades 8-12/iPad/$13.99)
iLiveMath: Animals of Africa and Asia: This app series combines math and zoology. Going beyond math equations and flash cards, iLiveMath tests students with illustrative questions and challenges their applied math skills. The iLiveMath series (including Animals of Africa and Animals of Asia) uses photos, videos, wikis, and sound to stimulate learning via various levels of difficulty. It targets 1st through 6th graders on basic concepts of calculating time, weight, and other measures. (Age appropriateness vary by app/ iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad/$4.99 each)
Jungle Fractions: This multilingual, talking app helps students learn fractions in English, French, or Spanish. It has multiple levels. (Ages 4-12/iPad/$2.99)
English Language Arts
StoryKit: This app by the International Children's Digital Library allows students to create their own storybook by adding text and images (including photos or images they draw), and sharing their books via email. (Grades K-12/iPhone, iPod Touch/Free)
Toontastic : Another storybook creation app, this one allows students to create their own stories as cartoons. Students learn about a story arc, how to create characters, and about other cultures, customs, and lifestyles through stories created by their peers around the world. (Grades K-12/iPad/Free)
Flat Stanley: The Flat Stanley and Flat Stella characters have traveled the globe connecting children to the world. Students track their travels and document their adventures. No longer confined to cardboard cutouts, this free app enables students to create their own digital Flat Stanley or Flat Stella. Students can customize the character's hair, features, and clothes and superimpose Flat Stanley or Stella on photos. Share photos and stories via email, Facebook, as well as the Flat Stanley map and network. In combination with a digital storytelling app such as StoryKit, VoiceThread, Animoto, or Scribble Press, the possibilities are endless. (All ages/iPhone, iPod touch, iPad/Free)
ICDL Books for Children : The International Children's Digital Library brings thousands of children's books from over 60 countries to young readers. (Preschool and Elementary/iPhone, iPod touch, iPad/Free)
Come back on Friday for apps for the Languages, History and Social Studies classrooms.