By Karen Nemeth and Marc Björkman
Have you ever said “I should make an app for that”? We did it! We put our idea into action and… it wasn’t as easy as you might imagine. Language Castle LLC just released our first app for iPhone and iPad. It is called 20 Welcome Words, a bilingual app designed to give early childhood teachers easy access to the top 20 words/phrases they need to learn in Spanish or English so they can help new children (DLLs) feel welcome in their programs. The idea was simple, but the app development process is not simple at all. For those of you who are not app developers, we thought you would like to see what goes into their work. Here is a to-do list for you to consider:
- Determine the purpose of your app.
- Clarify who your audience will be.
- Create a name for your app.
- Create a shortened name that will have fewer than 13 characters to appear under the icon on your iPad or iPhone.
- Choose what language(s) your content will use.
- Consider writing the content in simplified language to be accessible for people with lower literacy levels.
- Decide if you want to hear the words spoken – especially for young children – then who is going to record the sound… and in what sound studio?
- Decide if your app needs special effects, bells, whistles (literally), beeps or blinks… or music.
- Will you need graphics? Or will you need animation? Photographs?
- You should have a company logo.
- Plus a specific logo/icon to represent your app.
- List key words that will make your app searchable on Google or on the iTunes app store.
- Write a help menu with instructions.
- Write an iTunes store description.
- Write an introduction on the app.
- What markets will you sell it in? – which countries?
- How will you categorize it on the app store? Education? Game?
- You should have a company name to back up your app.
- You will need a support website that people can contact if they have questions or problems.
- You will need an account to sell your app on iTunes.
- You will need to link that to a bank account where your money will go.
- Write press releases or social media announcements.
- Write ads.
- You will have to be prepared to go into a marketing frenzy. No app sells itself these days – there’s way too much competition.
- If your content is available in different languages, all of your help info and marketing text should be as well.
- You’ll have to be prepared to answer questions and complaints as they come up.
- You will have to be prepared to write updates.
- Pricing. Learn about app aggregators and search engine optimization to determine how you will address the pricing issue. Start low and go up? Start high, then put it on sale or offer free trials? So much to consider… and when you have all of these things covered…
- Then you can actually do the work of developing your app!
This is just meant to be an introduction – a glimpse into what it takes just to get the app development process started. It’s a lot to think about. Knowing a little more about how the process works might help you become a more educated consumer – and might make some teachers or parents think twice about refusing to pay more than 99 cents for an educational app. We know these questions are on the minds of a lot of visitors to www.ecetech.net.
If you read all this and still want to proceed with your app idea, we would love to hear from you!
Response to Lisa Guernsey’s A Role for Early Ed Tech: Strengthening Connections Among Teachers, Librarians and Coaches
Response to Lisa Guernsey’s A Role for Early Ed Tech: Strengthening Connections among Teachers, Librarians and Coaches
By Cen Campbell
“In a presentation for a meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers in Indianapolis, I talked to early childhood specialists in state education agencies about some untapped areas for enhancing training and forming partnerships among educators, including librarians, via digital technology… But it was the section on “the role of states” that probably had the most relevance for the policy experts in the room. Based in part on recent policy brief published by the Education Commission of the States, Technology in Early Education, I singled out two areas that state-level policymakers could focus on: building partnerships between libraries and early education and improving professional development and teacher training. Libraries should be seen as integral partners for early education programs, especially in the area of technology given the online curating skills and technical know-how that many children’s librarians possess today.”
One of our recent #ecetechchat sessions sparked a very hot debate. The topic was “How do you know when technology has been used effectively? Or that there was learning transfer?” One of the reasons it was such a tricky topic is because simply by asking this question, it could be inferred that technology is being held responsible for learning. Of course, within the context of #ecetechchat, where developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) is the gold standard, the question assumes technology is being used only as a tool to facilitate and enhance learning. Therefore, the question is really, how can we measure and understand whether technology is being used as a tool in a way which enhances or increases learning? Ultimately, this type of measurement requires demonstration, documentation, and criteria.
This topic is of particular importance as classroom technology becomes more prevalent and tools like mobile apps (many of which claim to “teach” things) become more and more pervasive in young children’s homes. How can parents, educators, and caregivers know what “educational” or “teach” means in these contexts and how can they help to ensure their children are being exposed to tools that will help them become creators instead of consumers? The recent end of “Your Baby Can Read” is a great example of an instance when a tech tool (videos) claimed to “educate” babies and “teach” them to read. Yet, researchers found that, in answer to the chat topic, learning transfer was not truly occurring and the technology was not being used effectively. Unfortunately, most families and educators do not have the same resources or time to examine the facts as those who investigated the “Your Baby Can Read” videos. Luckily, our chat participants had some other suggestions and ideas to determine whether learning has occurred and if tech tools are being used effectively.
These suggestions and ideas included:
- Asking open ended questions to check for learning (e.g., Tell me what you did with that?)
- Creating situations where children could apply knowledge gained through a tech tool in a new context
- Taking detailed observation notes and documenting what children are doing with technology and other materials in regards to specific skills
- Checking to see if a child can generalize skills used with a tech tool beyond that tool
- Using measurement tools built-in to the technology to review and examine what has been learned and how it was learned
- Asking yourself whether the tools are creating and deepening positive relationships between children and between children and teachers
- Reflecting on whether the technology is being used as a tool and not the goal of an activity or singular method to teach a concept or skill
- Discovering if you can engage the child in a meaningful, open-ended dialogue about their learning
- Observing whether children know if a tech tool can help them, if they volunteer a tech tool as a way to help them/others work on certain skills
- Engaging children in reflection about what they have done and discovered after using a tech tool
- Asking children for their evaluation and opinion of a tool
- Setting specific and clear learning goals
One of the key takeaways from all of these suggestions is the importance of knowing which skills (e.g., social and emotional, mathematics, literacy, etc) you are hoping to enhance or support through the use of a tech tool and therefore which ones to document and assess in other contexts. By knowing what you hope or want children to be learning from tech tools, you are able to ensure that those skills and knowledge are age appropriate and relevant to children’s contexts, needs, and lives.
Some other issues that were raised included the need for there to be accountability around the appropriate and effective use of technology across staff, from directors down to classroom teachers. Part of this accountability requires the ever-needed professional development (PD) that is still missing (in many areas, not just tech) for early childhood professionals. One solution is to work hard to increase pre-service teachers’ knowledge and experience selecting developmentally appropriate technology tools and applying them in early childhood classrooms so that those entering the workforce will require less PD. Additionally, some chat participants raised the idea of creating more of a common framework for all technology tools created for early childhood contexts and more universal criteria to measure or determine whether these tools fit DAP. Finally, the idea of continuously monitoring, documenting, and revisiting each child’s learning goals through the use of e-portfolios or other media that allow for the integration of the products children create with technology was raised as an important next step for many.
Some lingering questions remained:
- Can apps or tech tools ever actually teach anything? Or can they only reinforce, support, and enhance?
- Can technology ever be used to measure learning or only to document learning?
- If technology is just another tool in a teacher’s toolbox, similar to crayons, why are practices regarding it consistently so isolated? Does technology need to be used, discussed, and labeled as different from crayons and other tools?
Ultimately, as @beyondplaydough stated “Like all things balance is key” always, with technology and any classroom tool and we can know that “tech works from quantitative (analytics) & qualitative data (observations)” – @lewismal. Therefore, it is never about just one way of doing things but a multiplicity of ways to examine, reflect, and determine what learning is occurring and those multiplicity of ways always rely on a teacher’s unique, personal relationship to the student.
What is this Site?
A membership commmunity for realiable information about technology in early education.
Who We Are
Karen Nemeth, Ed.M. and Fran Simon, M.Ed. - early learning experts with a passion for helping educators use technology to achieve their goals.
We designed ECETech.net to give early childhood educators an easy online resource for reliable information about technology implementation.