As technology has been transformed in the last thirty years, so has education. Classrooms are beginning to change as the students' needs and abilities have also changed. While traditional teaching methods are still in place, there is so much new learning potential in the form of mobile and tablet applications. A study on iPad applications in 2011 showed that there were 40,653 educational apps. That number increases to 166,000 when you take into consideration e-readers and productivity apps. It is clear there are many options, but how are these applications useful?
They promote literacy
In one situation, an elementary school student who was usually disruptive and bored in class benefited from being allowed to use an iPad. The teacher handed him the iPad during the times she noticed he got particularly restless and let him download any book he wanted to read for 20 minutes. Not only did his behavior improve, but his reading level went up.
There are many different types of applications that promote reading:
1. E-readers: applications that allow you to download and read books.
2. Interactive stories: applications that are based on one story and include games and quizzes.
3. Phonics and spelling games: a wealth of games that are dedicated to improving spelling and phonics. They are usually simple as well as customizable. Teachers/parents can make lists of words that they want their students to practice using the game application.
They create interactive learning
There are many apps to choose from and some of these can be used to cater to the different types of learners in the classroom. For example, kinesthetic learners will appreciate being able to interact more with their lessons. As mentioned earlier, many educational applications include gaming elements. Thus, students are not just reading text or solving a mathematical assignment; they are going on an adventure. The information or skills they need to learn are packaged into the game. Children respond more positively to learning when they associate it with something they consider fun.
They inspire student motivation
Children should be excited about learning. It shouldn't be something they have to do that takes away from their play time. Mobile applications allow students to view learning as something they want to do. Not to mention the fact that, because it is on a platform they already understand, it is not viewed as undesirable and unapproachable. These applications also empower students by making them independent learners.
While there is great potential for children to benefit from applications in the aforementioned ways, it is important to remember that not all apps are equal in their usefulness. Parents and teachers need to be vigilant in the types of applications they allow their students to use. The best ones will come with built-in features that help parents and teachers monitor students' progress. These applications should always be viewed as supplements to learning, not replacements. Children should not be left alone to extract their learning from these apps — they still need guidance from an adult.