There are so many great apps for kids using iPhones and iPads, but how can you separate the good stuff from the junk? Our expert offers her recommendations in our series on educational apps. This is the third in a six-part educational app series--our first talked about "Remembering" apps, and our second recommends apps for "Understanding."
Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy* breaks each learning stage (remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create) into four separate levels of knowledge. These levels include the factual, conceptual, procedural, and metacognitive. Together the levels of knowledge are making incremental movements from a factual understanding, to the personal command and realization of the learning process.
The revised taxonomy also lists two cognitive processes within the applying stage: executing and implementing. These two processes illustrate the range of thinking skills possible within a stage. Executing requires the application of factual knowledge and refers to the ability to carry out learned procedures such as solving a long-division problem. On the other hand, implementing reaches up into the metacognitive level and demands that students be able to apply learned skills to a task that initially appears to be unrelated to prior learning experiences.
In Bloom’s original 1956 taxonomy, the description of the third stage “application” is more similar to implementing in that it focuses primarily on the ability to apply learned facts or content in a new situation. Bloom clearly states that the only way to really know if students have truly mastered content is if they can independently apply it to solve a problem.
Furthermore, the situation in which a task takes place should not resemble the content’s initial learning conditions. Only when students can take an abstract concept and use it in a concrete way will the teacher know if his or her instruction was successful.
“If the situations...are to involve application… they must either be situations new to the student or situations containing new elements as compared to the situation in which the abstraction was learned.”
As I re-read the original Bloom’s Taxonomy, my 21st-century mind began to scream, “That sounds like inquiry-based learning!” Could it be that back in 1956 Bloom and his cohorts were encouraging teachers to seek out novel situations resembling the real world in which to evaluate instruction? If so, why is it taking so long for schools to change the design of classroom instruction? Could mobile technology refresh our minds and help us locate these novel situations?
In asking these questions, my thoughts returned to the potential benefits of game playing. Could mobile app games effectively simulate real-world problems that secretly require the application of skills and knowledge taught in school? Could a playful app promote inquiry-based learning? In order to write this article, I went searching for apps that ask students to apply knowledge in unique environments that do not resemble the traditional learning experience.
Apps that fit into the applying stage provide opportunities for students to demonstrate their ability to implement learned procedures and methods. They also highlight the ability to apply concepts in unfamiliar circumstances. Verbs commonly used to describe this phase include showing, executing, calculating, solving, dramatizing, demonstrating, discovering, employing, manipulating, illustrating, implementing, exhibiting, operating, producing, adapting, using, and experimenting.
Disguise reading fluency in this fun teleprompter. Provide a reason for kids to read with expression and fluency when using i-Prompt for TV reporting, presenting, or giving speeches. Youth can write original scripts on i-Prompt or cut and paste in existing text. The font size, color, and type are adjustable as is the background color of the screen. This app will offer a meaningful reason for students to develop reading fluency. (FREE.)
Students may not realize it, but this app is full of opportunities to apply knowledge of geometry, area, fractions, and percentages. The goal is to slice a given shape equally into a specified number of pieces. The shapes, number of cuts, and pieces change with each new turn. The puzzles vary in complexity and become progressively challenging. Invite youngsters to play and then listen carefully to their conversations. Without prompting, look for evidence of math concepts previously taught. Ask them to take a screen shot of a solved puzzle and then have them discuss the reasoning behind the placement of their cuts. Teachers may have their classes write step-by-step directions to solve a given problem. What math terminology is necessary in order to do this? How many students will independently choose to use these mathematical terms? This addictive app at the outset appears completely different from the traditional geometry textbook or worksheet, and yet it will provide a reason for students to access knowledge from prior math lessons. ($0.99)
Project Noah connects kids to real-world learning while promoting environmental stewardship. With this app, they can join the forces of other nature lovers across the world and collect photographs of local plants and animals. Children can collect photographic evidence on their own or for organized projects, or “missions,” set up by scientists. Each time users take a photograph, they are documenting that particular species. They will need to be able to classify, describe, and create search tags for every image they submit. Project Noah can automatically access a mobile device’s location and include that data with each sighting, or users can choose to enter it manually. Geography studies quickly transform from an exercise in memorization, to purposeful understanding of how different locations support unique life forms. With this project, your children will need an understanding of Life Science classification systems and be able to observe and describe the similarities and differences of a species. (FREE.)
ABC – Magnetic Alphabet
Here is an open-ended letter app where youngsters can independently build words without prompting. As a former Reading Recovery teacher, I am accustomed to asking children to “show me” what they can spell. When I sit back and watch students demonstrate their spelling, I can immediately recognize what letter/word knowledge they already have. Letter tile apps without game restraints are useful when teachers need to evaluate how well students can make analogies between words and transfer their understanding of spelling patterns. Teachers of primary age students will find the Magnetic Alphabet app a “must-have.” I especially like the fact that when I transport an alphabet app in the trunk of my car its contents will not spill! ($1.99)
Kathy Burdick, app reviewer for IEAR.org, suggests Numbers League as an “applying” app and is right on! What originally was a card game by Castle Bent Workshops is now an engaging interactive media app. This phenomenal math app invites users into a comic book world that uses superheroes to fight evil number villains. The ability levels within the game range from minion (basic addition) to superhero level (multiplication with positive and negative numbers). The design of Number League is unlike the format of traditional algorithm on a worksheet and initially kids may not realize they are practicing math facts. In order to succeed in this game, they will need to have the ability to perform mental math and apply number knowledge in creative ways. ($3.99)
The Mind Research Institute is now creating apps. In this game, a cute little penguin named JiJi needs help crossing the edge of a blocked grid. Users need to open the path by properly placing laser beam reflectors on a gird. When a light beam hits the angle of a reflector panel, it can bend, and hit a target that will open the path for the penguin. KickBox requires procedural thinking and develops a child’s ability to read points within a graph. The Mind Research Institute also created ST Math, whose games are based on the premise that math understanding can be developed through a student’s “spatial temporal reasoning abilities.” The learning environment of this app is completely different and offers a refreshing alternative to learn and apply math knowledge. So far, the Mind Research Institute has created only one app but I am hoping that a much larger library of games is in the works. ($1.99)
Invite students to document the steps and procedures necessary to solve math equations with ScreenChomp videos—perfect for school projects or tutoring time. Within minutes, this app will have kids creating their own Kahn Academy-style screencasts. Users write a given math problem onto the screen, press the button, and record the steps needed to solve an equation. ScreenChomp records both an audio narration and can film events happening on the screen. This app also has the ability to import images from the camera roll. When the video is complete, upload it to ScreenChomp.com and they will provide a URL. It is also possible to directly post the video to Twitter. Every screencast made on ScreenChomp is stored within the app itself. (FREE.)
Diane Darrow is an artist, reading recovery teacher, and library media specialist. You can follow her on Twitter at @dianedarrow, and find more of her valuable educational insights at edutopia.org.
*Without getting too technical (hey, we’re not all certified teachers!), this series on apps is based on an updated version of Bloom’s Taxonomy—an educational theory which essentially delineates the six cognitive processes that lead to true learning and critical thinking: Children must be able to remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create.