[IAEP] [UKids] "Top 50 Educational Apps Are Mostly All Stuck In The Stone Age"

James Simmons nicestep at gmail.com
Sun Dec 13 15:40:56 EST 2015

I wouldn't say that my opinion is well informed or anything, but I see
tablets being something you use to passively consume content created by
others. You need a real computer to do serious learning.

In the last two weeks I had to figure out how to convert an application
running on WebSphere to make it run on JBoss. The application used
transactions, MQ series, web services, JEE security, etc. so I had to learn
a great deal about how JBoss worked, as well as more than a little about
how WebSphere does things. The learning process involved much googling,
trial and error, plus swearing. At the end of it I had really learned
something. I don't think I could have learned nearly as much just passively
reading manuals, even assuming adequate manuals for either product existed.
(They do not. Software manuals for JBoss assume that the reader knows a
great deal. There always seems to be one vital piece of information
missing. Don't get me started on WebSphere manuals).

Rather than get kids tablets I'd have them use the cheapest ad-supported
Kindle (much better battery life than a tablet, lots of free books, no
games) plus an older desktop computer running one of the smaller Linux
distributions. I'd teach them Python and some shell scripting, use of Open
Office and The GIMP, plus Sugar.

James Simmons

On Sun, Dec 13, 2015 at 11:03 AM, Sora Edwards-Thro <sora at unleashkids.org>

> Thanks for passing this on; it's helpful for my research on technology and
> literacy.
> The authors of the report itself mention television programming as the
> gold standard for educational media. But accessing a television program is
> just a matter of tuning to the right station; you don't have to download or
> pay for anything if you've already got cable (yeah, people are using
> Netflix more and more, but let's talk about that another day).
> It would be more appropriate to compare apps to literacy games such as
> flashcards or puzzles that parents make the decision to purchase
> individually. I'd be curious whether the advertising for these traditional
> formats is any better or worse than what they're reporting from the digital
> "Wild West."
> It's interesting that the Forbes author talks about learning methods while
> the report authors are more focused on skills. The Forbes author is
> concerned that tablets are just a new way of copying / rehearsing, instead
> of offering opportunities for deeper engagement.
> But copying / rehearsing is a great way to learn basic skills like linking
> letters with the sounds they make. It doesn't make much sense to apply
> deeper methods for learning letter-sound connections. On the other hand,
> higher-level skills like comprehension and storytelling do require these
> deeper methods, and there definitely aren't enough apps that promote these
> skills.
> So, you can still criticize app developers for not doing something crucial
> for children, but you need to make sure you're going about it in the right
> way.
> On Sat, Dec 12, 2015 at 2:57 PM, Adam Holt <holt at laptop.org> wrote:
>> Not unlike stone tablets, used in classrooms since 1900BC, and similar
>> slates used in classrooms until about 1930- anyway that's the comparison
>> made here by* Jordan Shapiro* who reviews educational apps
>> professionally:
>> http://www.forbes.com/sites/jordanshapiro/2015/12/12/the-top-50-educational-apps-are-mostly-all-stuck-in-the-stone-age/
>>   "Ancient students and teachers of
>>   Mesopotamia used clay tablets for the
>>   same reason (and in the same way)
>>   that we still use dry-erase boards: clay
>>   allowed pupils to write, wipe away
>>   mistakes, and then iterate. The digital
>>   tablet now works in very much the
>>   same way. It’s beholden to same
>>   essential metaphors. Tablet computing
>>   with apps always maintains that same
>>   spirit of impermanence and
>>   ephemerality. Nothing is stored locally,
>>   everything hovers in the cloud..."
>> Perhaps more optimistically around our much-loved literacy apps:
>>   "The Joan Ganz Cooney Center
>>   report, *Getting a Read on the App*
>> *  Stores: A Market Scan and Analysis of*
>> *  Children’s Literacy Apps, *is full of tons
>>   more interesting discoveries, plus a few
>>   recommendations for app developers
>>   and the industry as a whole"
>> http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/publication/getting-a-read-on-the-app-stores-a-market-scan-and-analysis-of-childrens-literacy-apps/
>> --
>> Unsung Heroes of OLPC, interviewed live @ http://unleashkids.org !
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