Designing a Rubric for Preschool Bilingual Apps

March 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, DLL
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Girl with an appBy Karen Nemeth, Ed.M.
Co-Founder and President
Language Castle LLC


I’m writing this on the day of the release of the new position statement from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center (FRC): Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children Birth – Age 8.

Fran Simon and I have been watching the growth of this document and the tremendously rich and intense process that brought it to life. As participants in that process, we have come to really appreciate the kinds of questions that are faced by early childhood practitioners in deciding how to spend their limited technology money and time. That’s what motivated us to create this website. Our blog allows us to get more into the details of the kinds of questions we hear and the kinds of answers we propose. Fran comes to this project from years of experience and leadership in early childhood education, developing technology resources, and professional development across social media. I come from years of experience as a professional development provider, college instructor and writer focusing on supports for young children from different languages and cultures. I’ve gotten involved with evaluating and recommending technology in presentations and via social media because digital resources can greatly expand our ability to meet the needs of growing and changing diversity in early childhood programs. We bring different perspectives but equal commitment to supporting administrators and teachers in their work with young children.

Today’s article is an example of how we see the new NAEYC/FRC position statement can be used by practitioners on the front lines. We’ll take a look at some apps that are designed to support dual language learning. Let’s see how well they fit the guidance for appropriate technology use in the early childhood classroom. This is an area of consideration that has not been covered in the recent national studies of technology availability and use such as Common Sense Media and The Joan Ganz Cooney Center for Educational Media and Research.

My goal is to be able to recommend apps for supporting the different home languages of children in English-speaking classrooms or for apps that would support the learning of new languages by English-Speaking children. I will leave questions about basic functionality and appearance to other reviewers. Here are the questions I propose to use. I hope you will respond with your comments and suggestions. In an upcoming post I’ll show you how some bilingual apps pass this test!

Initial items to be checked for each bilingual app:

  1. What languages are available?
      1. Are additional languages free?
      2. Provided via in-app purchase?
      3. Available by downloading purchasing different versions?
  2. What is the complexity of the language used in the app?
      1. One word at a time?
      2. Simple vocabulary that is traditional for preschool but adds little to the child’s ability to communicate or process knowledge (like names of animals, shapes, or colors)
      3. Sentences?
      4. Stories/songs?
      5. Complex activities that require thought and response?
  3. In what language was the app written?
      1. Was the app written in English, then translated?
      2. Was the app developed in another language, then translated to English?
      3. Does the developer offer any documentation to support the accuracy of the translation?
      4. Is the whole app available in the two languages?  Or
      5. Are the instructions in English, and some of the activity is provided in another language?
  4. Is there any way for the app to grow with the child?
      1. Are there multiple levels?
      2. Is there a way to track what the child has learned or accomplished?
  5. Does the app meet with Developmentally Appropriate Practice?
      1. Does the app take a flashcard approach? Or
      2. Does the app engage the child in activity such as singing or solving puzzles or problems? Or
      3. Are there opportunities for children to choose, plan, or create?
  6. Are the images and activities culturally appropriate and free of stereotypes?
  7. Is there a way to record the child’s productive language in the context of the app?

Please use the comments section to share your thoughts about these questions!

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