So, I just got back from the last class of my final semester of coursework for my Ed.M. from Columbia. I had a wonderful semester, and the whole two years, really, were quite wonderful. I met amazing people, worked on inspiring projects, and grew in ways I didn’t know were still possible. That being said, it’s time to go “back to work” and I fear I will have even less time to update this blog, as it’s already been quite a few weeks, with the hectic nature of finals and just life in general. For now, I think I will leave it up and post occasional awesome links to share with my readers and so that I may find them again later (though I usually use Diigo and Pocket (formerly Read It Later) for that). I’ve become more active on Twitter lately and see that as my main outlet for sharing professional resources, as I don’t know WHO has the time to blog anymore! I’m still going to be blogging at two other organizations (a non-profit and a Games and Learning research blog), so I decided the one that had to go was my own. Thanks for two great years in the blogosphere, and I’ll definitely still be around!
Follow me on Twitter to share awesome #edtech and #engchat links and sources: @lindseyedixon
Photo Credit: Me
Grimm’s Red Riding Hood – is an animated, interactive storybook for young kids that features some of the coolest use of the accelerometer (for the background shots) that I’ve seen in a kids app. You can read at your own pace or have a narrator read along with you. After each page or two, you are shown a wonderful, 3-D ‘pop-up book’ scene that goes along with the story and has games within it or interactivity to enhance the story for the reader.
Pros: Great animation, graphics and sound. The story is a classic, and is smoothly narrated when that option is selected. The pop-up scenes are fun to interact with and some even feature built in mini-games that help advance the story. The user-interface is slick and bug free and quite intuitive for kids: you can either use the arrows along the bottom of the screen or just drag the pages forward and back, as you would a real book.
Cons: It would have been nice to have a few more ‘game like’ features in the app to keep kids attention and allow them to interact more with the story.
Score: 4 and ½ out of 5 paperweights
Price: (as of March 1, 2012) Free
Sleuth, aka: 5 minute mysteries, bills itself as the “The world’s first interactive educational ebook game”. It is an app that is also a book of short-stories that is also a game. Thanks to the clever use of a “clues” page and a “solve” page, the app is able to be 99% pure text yet feel like a real ‘game’ at the same time. After reading a story, or case file, the reader can proceed directly to the “solve” screen to try to solve the caseor can utilize the “clues” page which zeroes in on specific, pertinent clues and details that were sprinkled throughout the story.
Pros: This is a truly great app for what it is built for. The main purpose of this app is to get users reading and enjoying stories. By adding in the ‘interactivity’ of clues and a solve feature, it turns a story into a game. The stories themselves are short, well-written, and logical enough to satisfy many an armchair sleuth. The sound effects are nice and only used sparingly, which is to good effect in a text-based environment, so that the senses aren’t overwhelmed. Though it may not look like much (mostly just text on a screen), this app represents something very exciting to me: a way to get kids reading and enjoying reading more.
Cons: Though it is great to think of kids, teens and adults reading several pages of a story and enjoying the process purely for itself, adding a few nice visuals or even a well animated cut-scene at the end of each clue or case could go a long way for this generation’s digital kids. Also, there are some spelling and grammar mistakes that I’ve seen in a couple of the stories, but none that interfered with understanding.
Score: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 paperweights
Price as of February 2012: $0.99 (Though there is a limited FREE version I think you can try)
Photo Credit: Mine all mine!
After scouring the app store for four hours (literally) I was able to identify and download 15 apps that I thought (and hoped) would promote literacy and a love of reading for kids and teens that used the apps.
This was initially a homework assignment for my “Mobile Phones and Learning” class at Columbia, but I found myself wanting to go far beyond the required review of a single app and look at as many as I could find.
The BAD news is that there really aren’t that many apps out there that focus on literacy and reading, especially when you consider the amount focused on math and other subject areas. There are, of course, many apps devoted to teaching kids the basics of phonics and letters, but few apps or games were to be found that helped or encouraged older kids to read and to love reading and find it an enjoyable past time.
The GOOD news is that I *did* find a few apps that I consider to be amazing and would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone with kids or who teaches reading or English.
So…in the coming days and weeks, I will share a review of each of the apps I test out. Hopefully you will be able to benefit from the reviews in a variety of ways, even if it’s just learning what app should be on your ‘must have’ list for your kid’s upcoming birthday.
Stay tuned: the first review will be out tomorrow!
Photo Credit: The Australian (National & Business News)
I found the following link on Twitter (see previous post about the awesomeness of Twitter as a learning tool) and wanted to share it with all of you:
The One Laptop Per Child program’s model of “drop off technology and hope the kids learn” deployment has deservedly been under fire for years. Despite the, I believe, truly good intentions of Nick Negroponte and those working on the OLPC project, there have been many, many problems with the program over the years. A lot of those problems stem from the way they view the device and ‘install’ it into developing country schools around the globe. In a nutshell: OLPC has a relatively ‘cheap’ kid-friendly laptop (with a new tablet coming ‘soon’) that they convince education departments in developing countries to buy. After that, they may or may not provide technical support and other services. The main thing is the thing itself: the XO laptop.
So Unlearning Blog’s article about Australia’s twist on the usual model is refreshing and hopeful. Please check it out for yourself and see how they intend to get buy in from the local level and train teachers first, before paying all that money and having the laptops sit around in corners or have the entire program deemed not worth continuing (as it was in Alabama in where 15,000 laptops were ordered but only used for a year, since the project was shut down).
Let me know what you think of it!
Two years ago today, I started this blog. While you might be thinking “Really, she’s celebrating after only 2 years?” it truly represents a fairly significant milestone for me. With all of the options out there (Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Scoop.it, RSS, Blogger, YouTube, Vimeo, etcetera, ad infinitum) for viewing and sharing media and viewpoints, it can be difficult–at least for me–to stick to any one thing overly long. I even recently used NetVibes to aggregate all my feeds and promptly abandoned it after three days (which isn’t a commentary on NetVibes so much as it’s a commentary on my own reading / researching habits).
So anyway, I just wanted to mark the occasion and re-commit to blogging about my research and interests where educational technology and international education are involved, and keep sharing great stories and findings with all of you. Thanks for joining me on this little journey in my tiny corner of the web.
Back from a long, mostly restful holiday break. School just started back up yesterday and I’m already enjoying my classes very much. I’m studying virtual worlds, mobile phones for learning, interactive media, and instructional design of ed tech.
But as much as I learn from my classmates and professors, I also learn a lot from Twitter. I’m still relatively ‘new’ to the Twitter scene, but I’ve already made some fantastic connections and picked up some great resources that have informed my research and studies. Twitter, despite my initial misgivings (aka: social media fatigue), is actually a wonderful way to start your personal learning network (PLN). It is truly easy to find and connect to other educators, researchers and #edtech gurus who all post excellent articles and provide a lot of ‘food for thought’ throughout the day. While at first, my English-major tendencies scoffed at the miserly 140 character limit, I now view it as one of the greatest benefits of Twitter: you can follow leaders in your field and other contacts, get their take on issues and avail yourself of their shared resources, without having to have long, protracted conversations with each of your followers or those you yourself follow. For a busy world, Twitter is perfection personified.
So, on that note: Follow Me @lindseyedixon and help me stay up on all things #edtech and I’ll do the same for you. I’m especially interested in the topics listed on my Twitter profile, but I’m also a musician, artist, polyglot (in training), multi-sport athlete and lover of all things pinot noir, so feel free to chat me up about those things, also.
I have to admit, after seeing the reading list this week, I squee’d like a little girl and ran right to the Kurt Squire article (“Open-Ended Video Games: A Model for Developing Learning for the Interactive Age”). I am a recent convert to the idea that gaming can be transformative in the education sphere, but like any good convert, I’ve imbibed more than my fair share of the Kool-Aid.
I’m currently taking another class at TC called “Video Games in Education” that has looked at a lot of Squire’s work (along with Salen, Jim Gee and the other gaming in ed ‘gurus’) and I have to say, I’m convinced. Not *every* iteration or implementation of gaming in education is on the mark, of course. But then, neither is the inclusion of technology in general a panacea or even a boost. I can’t tell you how many Smart Boards sat unused for *years* in my old school because no one knew how to use them and none of the teachers were ever trained in how to make the use of them relevant and new for students.
In this week’s article, Squire points out that “Video games, like any emerging medium, are disruptive, challenging existing social practices, while capturing our dreams and triggering our fears.” I think that is the perfect distillation of people’s opinions on gaming: they recognize them for their potential disruption (which I believe is a GOOD thing where our monolithic education system is concerned) and/but also fear them at the same time. Squire also points out that gaming shows what education COULD be like–full of exploration and discovery and *fun* (gasp! How did THAT get in there?)–if we would only let it happen.
To close, I’ll provide a brief anecdote. I stayed up until 3am on Black Friday to score a Play Station 3 bundle for a song on Amazon. I only made this purchase (the first ‘real’ gaming system I’ve bought since the Nintendo 64 I wore out while playing Zelda) to play one game and only that game: SKYRIM. I have since logged more hours playing Skyrim than I am comfortable admitting when it is finals season, but all that playing *has* given me a look into what education / schooling could be like if we thought outside the box like game creators do on a daily basis. See, Skyrim is all about exploration and NOT following the beaten-path. “Students” could get a few tutorials (lessons) and then go on their way, allowing their interest and understanding to guide their quests (activities, homework, etc.) and come out at the end just as “educated” as someone who followed the main “storyline” (curriculum).
So, in a nut shell: Games have some of the answers and we just need to open our eyes and pick up our swords! …so to speak.