With all those letters to learn and numbers to know, primary school can be a challenging time for new students. But learning by repetition (or rote, as it’s also known) doesn’t have to be boring in the digital age.
Kate Highfield, technology researcher at Macquarie University’s Institute of Early Childhood, says there’s a great range of apps out there to make learning more exciting and more interactive. Talking with Kinderling Conversation, she says creativity is the key when it comes to apps.
“Kids who are creating rather than consuming are more likely to engage in more advanced or ‘higher order’ thinking,” she explains.
Here’s her Top 5 picks for educational apps. She recommends using them on tablets rather than phones so you can join in the fun too
1. Up to 100
“This is my favourite new counting app which gives kids different ways of playing with numbers. I spent a long time teaching kindergarten and one of the things that lots of children struggle with is learning how to rote count and learning how to match numerals – like the number nine - to the quantity that figure represents. With Up to 100, kids can use numerals to represent a number, say 60, and then draw in 6 lots of 10. It’s a great open-ended way of exploring counting.”
Available on iTunes only
“Another skill kids have trouble with is recognising a letter and matching the letter to the sound it makes. This is a great app which literally goes through the alphabet and kids watch as the letters morph into different things. For example, the letter B might grow a beard or metamorphose into a swarm of bees. It’s really delightful and surprisinh, but what’s exciting to me is that there’s not just one representation for each letter like A stands for Apple. It gives multiple representations of the sound.”
3. Reading Eggs
“What’s great about Reading Eggs is that your child can play either the app version or play it on a regular computer. Reading Eggs, which is used in many Australian schools, gets them to practise letters and sounds and then gradually moves them onto sight words. It uses a series of games to promote practice and the kids really enjoy playing them. It sometimes surprises me how engaged kids can be as they’re doing something which is essentially very repetitive. Another lovely thing about this app is that the voices have Australian accents.”
4. Book Creator
“One of the things I discovered as a kindy teacher was that kids often have a special skill or interest which doesn’t always fit with the school curriculum. For instance, your child might be fascinated about space and know all about planets or they might love animals and caring for pets. This app allows the child to be a creator of their own books. It gives your child the opportunity to be a leader, someone with really deep and incredible knowledge. One of the things I love about Book Creator is you can add a photo or a drawing and then record a sound, so if your child can’t read yet s/he can still share their knowledge.”
5. Explain Everything
“This app allows your child to add photos, video, text and drawn pictures. It’s also got a really clever screen capture feature so, for example, if your child’s explaining the water cycle, they can draw and record what they’re saying talk at the same time. They can create a little video or an animation as they go. This is an app mums and dads would have to help with initially but once kids have had a go, they get independent very quickly. You can do anything with this app from creating a book about the letter B, simply adding a series of photos of words that start with B, or do something more elaborate like creating an entire book about space.”
Tune into Kinderling Conversation weekdays at 12pm and subscribe to the podcast
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