by Adam Coccari
I will always remember 2013 for an amazing few days in June, when my independent educational game for kids, Math Evolve, briefly rocketed to the top of the Apple App Store’s Education Category in 25 countries. I wanted to write this post in the hopes that other independent developers like myself may learn from it and hopefully find similar results. It may not be something that can be repeated - it could have just been lightning in a bottle that I was lucky to capture - but I feel like there are a few things I learned from the whole experience.
Math Evolve: The Beginning
I created Math Evolve while teaching 4th grade, inspired by my students to create a math game that kids would actually want to play and engage with in their own time. The idea was to truly blend the gameplay of a classic arcade game with math practice, so that older elementary students would find the app fun and engaging just like the games they all loved to play. Although I was just an independent producer, I hired a professional game studio to create the app and the music and art were done by professionals. The app was well received when it was released in 2011, and received strong reviews and press coverage. However, as any paid app in a crowded market, it quickly settled into modest download numbers. The app usually hovered between #100-200 in the US Education chart. In a market with over 8000 app math games, I was happy and proud that it had developed a niche and a number of fans around the world.
Contact From Russia
One day, I was contacted by Free App a Day’s Russian site because they were interested in doing a free app promotion of my Android version. I wasn’t able to put this version to free, but I asked if they would consider promoting the iOS version instead for a worldwide promotion. The app usually sells for $1.99, and I had only set it to free one time prior to this. They agreed and set the date for the promotion on May 29th. I had done a number of previous price drops and promotions, so I thought this would give Math Evolve a nice bump but I wasn’t expecting too much.
One the morning the app went free, all I did was post to my Facebook page (1700 fans) and my twitter account a couple times announcing that Math Evolve would be free for the day. A friend and partner also happened had a contact at App Advice, another premier app recommendation service that does a free app promotion every day. When they learned about the promotion, they decided that morning to feature Math Evolve as their free app for their kids app site. I went to work and didn’t really think much of it. Apparently these services have a lot more pull than I realized, and the combination of both of them featuring it as their “Free App Of The Day” had the effect of rocket fuel. The app shot up to #20 in ‘Free’ US Education charts and entered the top 200 in the US Overall charts.
It was about 10 AM on the west coast when I realized how well Math Evolve was charting, and I instantly got on Twitter to start spreading the news. Many of the friends, reviewers, and app bloggers I had contacted over the past two years came through and helped me celebrate and amplify the news. A few other sites, like the iMums picked it up during the day posted the story. All of this was enough to push the app into the top 10 on the US Education Chart, and this is when the real power of the charts really takes over.
Once an app is in the top 10 and shows up on the home page for any category, traffic and downloads jump dramatically. App Store rankings are based on velocity of downloads, so the effect of so many outlets promoting Math Evolve together combined with the power of the organic charts created a positive feedback loop that just kept sending the app higher and higher. I checked the international charts, and saw that it was doing even better across the world. It was already the #1 Educational app in Spain, Brazil, Russia, and a number of other countries, and had entered the top 10 Overall charts in many others. I kept expecting the momentum to slow down, but it just kept rising. I took pictures. I called my family. I posted on Facebook. Even though the app was free, it was so exciting to finally see Math Evolve get a moment of mainstream exposure.
And it just kept going. I watched all day, until it finally happened. It jumped from #2 in Education to #1, surpassing Apple’s iTunes U. It peaked at the #33 overall free app on the store, ahead of Facebook, Chrome, Clash of Clans and all the developers I had been looking looked up to for so long. It was even bigger surprise when I saw the international charts. It had gone all the way to the #1 and #2 overall position Spain and Brazil’s app stores. I was stunned. I had never expected in my wildest dreams to see Math Evolve sitting at the top of the App Store. It was especially surprising because it was an app aimed mostly at children and educators. However, my goal was always to make it fun enough so that anyone could enjoy it, so I felt very happy knowing that thousands of people got the chance to try it on a single day.
I left it free for a couple days to capitalize on the chart position and get more downloads. It slowly drifted downwards, and once it left the top 20 in Education I switched it back to paid. At the end of the 3 days, Math Evolve had received over 140,000 downloads, more than doubling the total from the previous 18 months in the store.
I think there was definitely a huge element of luck to what happened over those three days, and there is no sure formula for App Store success, but I think there are some takeaways that could be helpful for other developers. Please keep in mind that in order to find success on the App Store, especially today, an app MUST be high quality and offer true value. This is just table stakes, and without this, all the factors below will have no bearing. Also, these are lessons that apply mostly to paid apps that go free.
1. You must make your app free. I have done many price drop promotions, but nothing comes close to the impact of giving away a product and reaching 10x more people to create fans and word-of-mouth buzz.
2. You can’t go free very often. People who have heard about your app will jump at the opportunity to get a rare deal.
3. Try to coordinate multiple promotions from different sites on the same day. If you have some lead time, you can let people know in advance that you will go free for a day around an event (around new build, a special cause, ect.). This is key to get the synergistic effects and chart momentum.
4. If you start to see traction in the charts, lean on your contacts (professional or otherwise) and blogs to broadcast the good news. Post on your channels throughout the day about the deal and the app’s cause.
5. It’s all about getting in the top 10… I already knew this, but it was still amazing to see how much higher the download volume is for those 10 spots.
I hope you found this interesting or helpful. Please leave me any questions or comments if you have them. Happy hunting, and good luck!
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This is one of the most commonly played versions of the game and is perfect for younger children who are starting to learn basic arithmetic. You could hand out the cards with various different numbers on them. Or, to speed up the process, you could write down a selection of numbers on the board and allow the players to select their own numbers and write them down on a piece of paper. The caller can then call out a sum, such as “What’s 11 x 2?” and players can cross off the number 22. This way, the children are forced to make the calculation in their head if they want to try to win the game.
This game is idea for students beginning to study a foreign language, such as French or Spanish. When learning a new language, remembering the vocabulary can be one of the most difficult aspects. The format of bingo is ideal for drilling those translations into student’s heads. Hand out bingo cards with various foreign words on them and then call out words in English. For example, the caller could shout out ‘school’ and the students would have to cross off ‘école’ for a French quiz.
Bingo for Fundraising
A game of bingo can be an excellent way of raising money for a cause. In a school environment, children might do this to raise money for a class party or to fund a class project. The children could organize a game which the parents would take part in. The parents would pay to take part in the game and to have the chance of winning a prize. At the end of the night, the prizes would be paid out from the ticket sales and hopefully there would be a little left over.
This is a game recently released in the iOS App Store. Children now own smartphones at younger ages than in the past and applications such as these can be an excellent alternative to the other games children spend hours playing. In this game, players must answer various math questions in order to cross off their card and win the game.
Bingo really could be used for nearly any education purpose. Regardless of the subject, it can help players remember different things in a fun and engaging way.
Disclosure: This is a guest post from another author.
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InterAction Education Brings Math Evolve To Mac and Windows
After finding critical and popular success on the iTunes App Store, InterAction Education is bringing its revolutionary learning app Math Evolve to a wider audience around the world. Math Evolve is available for download on all major computers, tablets, and mobile devices. Parents and teachers can now download this award-winning educational app for Mac, Windows PCs, and all Android phones and tablets. The app has already climbed to the top of the charts in the Mac App Store, and is currently the #7 Education app in the U.S. and amongst the Top 100 paid apps in all categories.
Math Evolve is an innovative educational tool that combines math practice with arcade-style gameplay to create a truly engaging experience for students. The app has been hailed by parents and teachers as a "revolutionary" learning tool for children, and was awarded Best Educational Game of 2011 (2nd Place) in the Best App Ever Awards. Teachers can now purchase Math Evolve for their school's computers, and students can enjoy the game on their laptops or come computers.
Bringing Math Evolve to these new platforms brings us closer to our goal of making innovative learning games available for students everywhere. With the arrival of Math Evolve to Mac and Windows computers, the game now be enjoyed by a much more diverse and global audience. Math Evolve for Mac is the #2 education app on The Mac App Store in El Salvador and Egypt, and we are launching soon with a fully localized version for China. We are excited that children around the world can now experience this engaging way to practice math. If you are interested in getting Math Evolve for your school, tutoring service, or school district, we would be happy to donate copies of the app for student use. Please Contact Us if you are interested in trying Math Evolve for free.
Math Evolve on the Mac App Store
Math Evolve for Windows
Math Evolve on Google Play
Math Evolve on the Amazon App Store
Math Evolve on The App Store for iOS
Download Math Evolve For Android Now For 50% Off!
No iPad or iPhone? No problem! We are excited to announce that Math Evolve is available NOW on Google Play and the Amazon App Store for all Android-powered phones and tablets running Android 2.3+. To celebrate the launch, Math Evolve will be discounted 50% through this Friday. You can download Math Evolve for Android now through the links above or by going to http://mathevolve.com.
Though the iPad is still the dominant player in the tablet world, there are a number of new tablet computers that are entering the market to give Apple some worthy competition. Many of these devices offer great user experiences at a lower price than the iPad, and are excellent choices for a children because they are durable and lightweight. Math Evolve can now run on any of these tablets, including the Kindle Fire, Galaxy Tab, and upcoming Google Nexus 7. We should also be launching very soon on the Barnes and Noble App Store for the NOOK and NOOK tablet. We are very happy that a wider audience can now make learning fun with Math Evolve, and we look forward to continuing to expand and improve the app based on feedback you.
Are you an Android user? Do you use any of these other tablets? Please lets us know in the comments section below!
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This post comes to use from Carolina Nugent, the education director at Kindertown. Kindertown (mentioned in my post below) is a curated catalog of the highest quality educational apps for kids ages 2-7. They break down apps into different categories and age ranges, and every app is reviewed by educators to ensure that they all meet high educational standards. You can download their free app HERE.
Many educators and parents are searching for apps that provide the best environment for learning to take place. Generally, this means apps that deliver meaningful content with an in-depth experience incorporating discovery and challenge. These apps are often “free-play” or “choice-filled” games which encourage kids to engage in their own learning. They have activities designed to support the child as they progress and master tasks.
However, a lot of apps don’t fit this ideal. They don’t offer children independent choices and they stay on the surface of educational subjects instead of diving into deep thinking. What about these apps? Is there value in them too or should we encourage people not to use them?
Just because we have an ideal doesn’t mean there isn’t value in the other experiences. To help me make sense of the different kinds of apps I have reviewed and the different values they offer, I created 10 overlapping categories. Sounds like a lot? It is. It gets even more complicated because many apps fit into two or three different categories. There are just so many different kinds of educational apps. We would be remiss to overlook how each gives something a little different to a child’s learning experience.
Breaking Down the 10 Categories
1. Classroom and Educational Best Practices: I know best practices is a catch-phrase, but it means something to me as a teacher. It means that I am incorporating something into my classroom that has a strong research foundation of effectiveness. In the app world, best practices are the ideal app I described above. Apps that integrate depth of content and choice empower learners and construct understanding. You can read a great description at Common Sense Media.
2. Playful Learning: These are the apps that I tend to enjoy the most. They are silly, funny, free form and go anywhere you want to take them. They are user driven and often fall in the art category (which is a shame because educational concepts can be playful too). You want these apps for your kids because they encourage creativity, thought and lead to more playful experiences off the app.
3. eBooks: Oh I love eBooks, but since we don’t review many for KinderTown I don’t get to spend much time with these awesome apps. When reviewing an eBook for educational content, not just a good read, I look for the experience to encourage learning through listening and observation. eBooks that use meaningful interactivity (not just tap to see what happens) for extra practice and play also fall into this category. It is always exciting to find stories that use interactivity to connect learning experiences and vocabulary to real life.
Check out this eBook by Unit 11 to see what I mean: A day with a difference.
4. Workbooks/Worksheet: I often grumble when reviewing worksheet apps because throughout my coursework and classroom experiences, so-called experts admonished me never to use worksheets in the classroom (full disclosure: I used worksheets in my classroom too). These apps usually offer up a question and asks the child to choose between four choices. I wouldn’t encourage this kind of app for play time, but why not use them for homework and extra practice? Especially if you are replacing the time your child is spending with sheets of paper and pencils, the app can have many more benefits. They’re great for fluency, test prep, and direct one step content practice. When choosing apps for this category it’s important to think about when these kinds of apps are most appropriate, not if they utilize the latest best practices.
Check out the Murky Reef apps a high-quality interactive workbook app.
5. Puzzles and Traditional Games: You know all the boxed games that have gathered dust since you purchased the iPad? There are now many puzzle, memory, matching and other classic early learning games available in app form. I can’t make claims to their effectiveness for spatial reasoning, but they have the potential to support cognitive development. “All things in moderation,” which means dust off the traditional puzzles once in a while, but these apps are really fun for kids too. They also cover a lot of thematic vocabulary.
6. Hobby and Theme Experiences: These apps let your child delve into themes that really interest them. If your child can’t get enough of dinosaurs why not grab a few dinosaur apps and let them explore. Just like you would go to the library and grab a few books. You probably don’t have the time to hunt down only the best books available. You know that right now your child is just absorbing so much of their passion that it is hard to keep up.
7. Interactive Encyclopedias: This one is easy – you get to see videos, images and even play games right in the app. Do I need to say more?
Best example: all of the ABC Apps by Peapod Labs.
8. BYOC for kids – Build Your Own Content: These are less games and more open design apps that let adults and kids create their own unique activities from scratch. The benefit of these apps is building what you want instead only using what is being offered. This is very important for kids who need more than what is being taught at school due to being over or under grade level. These apps are also great for parents who want to create a special experience for their child but nothing that currently exists to do it.
9. Not Academic but Child Friendly: Kids need a lot more than Literacy, Math, Social Studies and Science to become successful adults. Yet, educational or academic usually falls into these standard subjects. This kind of app is still educationally appropriate for kids but falls under the category of “expressive play” more than directly academic.
Apps like Toca Doctor let kids playfully explore health and the often scary doctor experiences.
10. Content Exposure: These are the apps that do educational as described in the ideal way above but don’t hit all the criteria. What they do well is give kids a chance to experience educational content again in a different way than the classroom. If your child is struggling with understanding the lifecycle of plants, an app like this might be the way to make the connections to the content they need.
My favorite recent example is Marble Math. If you have a reluctant math learner in your home this is an app you need to own. A lot of learning takes place even though it doesn’t meet all the criteria in the narrow standard of excellence described above.
Throughout my journey in education, I have learned both as a student and through my students that there is not one way that a child is going to learn every time. A variety of app options provide an opportunity to search for what is going to suit each child best. That doesn’t hit on the issue of discovering these apps, but there is much more out there than the “gold standard” that gives a valuable learning experience for your child.
Carolina Nugent | Education Director | KinderTown
School is finishing for kids everywhere, and they are getting ready to enjoy that glorious time known as summer break. Although we want our kids to have fun and relax, teachers like me always encourage our students to do a little work over the summer so they don’t lose all that hard-earned knowledge. Summer can be a great time for students to sharpen their academic skills, prepare for the year ahead, or catch up if they are a little behind.
Devices like the iPad and mobile phones can be excellent summer learning tools for children. Children can practice their skills or learn new concepts while at home or traveling on vacation. In order to help kick off summer, a group of educational app developers have teamed up to offer fantastic discounts on learning apps, Most of the apps below were created by independent parents and educators, working hard to create the best learning apps for your kids.
Math With Springbird
Pre-K 123 HD:
Language and Spelling
Free The Bee:
Pre-K ABC HD:
Site Words Hangman:
Sight Words & Spelling with Pixopop:
Happi Reads HD:
Happi Spells HD
Murky Reef - English Language Arts for 1st Grade:
Murky Reef - English Language Arts for 2nd Grade
World Flags, Geography and Anthems:
Family and Life Skills
iTouchiLearn Life Skills: Morning Routines
|Tick Tock Clock - Learn How to Tell Time|
Murky Reef - Science
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The Top 5 Educational App Networks
There are now over 640,000 live apps on the Apple App Store, with hundreds being added every day. Many parents find the App store to be cluttered and hard to navigate, and Apple’s own search function can often be less-than-helpful. This makes finding quality educational apps for your children quite a challenge. To help solve this problem, a number of new start-ups and apps have been created to review apps and help you find the best educational apps for your kids.
Some of these services let you create profiles for your children, providing you with reports and suggestions based on the apps they play. These app networks can also be used in a school setting, allowing teachers to receive reports and statistics about how their students are performing. These companies are helping to raise the standards of educational apps and providing a much needed service to parents and teachers. These 5 app networks will help you find the best apps for your kids or students:
- Smartots: Smartots allows you to receive customized reports about your children’s app usage, and suggests apps targeted to your child’s preferences. You must first create an account, and then set up profiles for each of your children (or students). When your kids play apps that have integrated Smartots, you will get reports about what they are learning and achievements they earn. You can even monitor all of this from their free mobile app. You can also browse their terrific list of educational apps for kids ages 2-8.
- Famigo: If you are looking for the best family-friendly games and apps for your kids, then Famigo is a great place to start. Famigo does not review only educational apps. They have assessed the many games and puzzle apps as well, and will tell you which apps are appropriate for your children and have the most educational value. You can browse app reviews for both iOS and Android. This all takes place at www.famigo.com.
- Kindertown: Accessed through their free mobile app. Kindertown is an exclusive collection of apps for kids ages 3-7 that are selected for exceptional design and educational value. Each app is reviewed by an educator and has been evaluated and grouped based on subject learned.
- Yogiplay: Launched recently but gaining steam quickly, Yogiplay is another educational app network that requires parents to create profiles for their children and receive information from apps that have “integrated” Yogiplay’s platform. From their website: “YogiPlay turns mobile phones and tablets into smart learning devices by providing parents with meaningful insight related to their child’s learning progress. Then YogiPlay automatically delivers to parents personalized app recommendations based on their child’s specific learning needs or interests.”
- App Star Picks: This free app is a catalogue of over 250 of the very best educational apps, reviewed by top independent review sites and organized by subject. Within the app you can read reviews, see screenshots, and even see when apps have been discounted. App Star Picks is collaboration between Teachers With Apps, Fun Educational Apps, Applicable2U, and Digital Storytime. They drew on their immense experience testing kids apps and selected the 250 best apps for your kids to enjoy.
All of these great services can help parents and teaches find the very best educational apps amid the clutter of the app store. Please share this post if you found it useful, and leave your comments an suggestions below.
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Picture by Teachers With Apps.
Math Evolve is hailed by teachers and students as a “revolutionary” educational app.
Reviews are pouring in for Math Evolve, our innovative new math app for kids. We are so glad to hear that students, parents, and teachers everywhere are enjoying Math Evolve. We had a dream of creating a truly fun and engaging experience for kids, and based on these reviews, it seems like that dream has been realized. Thanks to all our great reviewers and everyone who has helped support us! If you want to try Math Evolve in your classroom for free or have any comments or suggestions about the app, please contact us.
Apps For Homeschooling Review: 5/5 Apple Score
"Math Evolve is a rare app indeed. It is all about math but the game play is so immersive, so engaging, that the math is tackled enthusiastically to progress through the levels…Together with the flexible options and detailed statistics, Math Evolve has carved a place for itself amongst the best math drill apps in the App Store." -Jennifer Bogart, AppsForHomeschooling.com
Best Apps For Kids Review: 5/5 Score, Editor’s Choice
“The holy grail of edutainment math apps…It brings subtraction, addition, multiplication and division to life, and it’s just plain fun.”
Teachers With Apps Review - "Math Evolve…has really pushed the envelope. Mastering these facts takes time and a lot of practice, and Math Evolve has all that taken care of in an enormously engaging format." - TeachersWithApps.com
Fun Educational Apps Review: Math Evolve is a Fun Educational Apps TOP PICK! "Math Evolve is one of a kind math game! It is fun, entertaining and ideal for practice. It offers stunning illustration that will engage your kids. This game app is very well designed and thanks to all the various settings, it can be customized to many different levels. A top math game app that keeps the kids busy for a while …" -FunEducationalApps.com
Toby Price Video Review - This assistant principle and "iPad Jedi" shows off the basics of Math Evolve.
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Math Evolve: A Math Game For The Next Generation
Interaction Education is proud to announce that Math Evolve is available now on the App Store for iPad, iPad, and iPod touch. We believe that we have created the best math game available for practicing multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction, and we invite you all to try it for a discount price of only $0.99. Math Evolve combines classic arcade gameplay with math practice, creating a truly fun and educational experience for kids. We made Math Evolve because we wanted to make an educational game that is just as much fun as the video games that kids love. Based on the reactions from students and teachers, it seems that we have succeeded. With rich graphics, a cool soundtrack, and lots of challenging content to master, Math Evolve is simply the most fun and engaging math app ever made.
Math Evolve takes educational gaming to the next level, allowing children to practice math skills while embarking on a quest to save the universe. As they progress, players evolve through three unique environments: the microscopic world, the ocean, and outer space. Each level has unique artwork and its own soundtrack, immersing the player and motivating them to keep playing and learning. In addition to the game (story mode), there is also a flexible “practice mode” for doing math drills without the gaming elements. A player’s performance statistics are saved in the app so that parents, teachers, and tutors can help students improve by targeting their practice. This allows Math Evolve to be used as both a fun educational game and also as a true math training platform for teachers and schools. These two game modes, along with the flexible difficulty settings and many achievements to unlock, give Math Evolve an unprecedented level of content and replay value.
- “(My 7 year-old daughter) LOVES it and I can tell it feels more like a game to her and less like practicing math. I have noticed that Math Evolve challenges her to increase her decision-making speed more than some “regular” math apps.”
- “At last a game that the kids ask for! True play based learning!”
- “Awesome app. Easy to learn. Fun to play. I love the variety of difficulty levels to challenge players!”
- “Definitely the best math app so far”
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Although there are many wonderful apps targeted at young children and early elementary school students. I found it hard to find quality apps for my 4th-6th graders. My journey to create my own math game for kids started when I was looking for fun games to help my students practice their multiplication facts. I have played MANY of the math apps available, so I wanted to highlight some other apps in this area by compiling a list of the best math games for upper elementary school students. My game, Math Evolve, will be coming out soon for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Please come see the new preview video and sign up for a discount launch price here or by clicking on the links above.
Math Ninja: A simple, yet deep game that helps kids practice multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. Defeat an evil tomato and his army of robotic animals by hurling ninja stars, fireballs, and solving math equations.
Fraction Monkey and Math Monkey: These two apps from the great folks at Math Game Time combine math practice with a fun, Angry Birds-style game. A monkey hurls cupcakes to select the correct equations to math problems. The content is varied and flexible, and the game is fun and addictive to keep kids engaged while they practice math problems.
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Teachers and students everywhere are receiving iPads this year for use in their classrooms. Some schools are even providing iPads to every student in their classroom to create a true 1:1 mobile computing environment. While all of this is very exciting, the iPads are only useful tools if teachers know how to incorporate them effectively and they are equipped with the right apps. With a new school year just beginning, I thought it would be nice to feature the best educational apps available for teachers and students. I have decided to break the apps into 3 categories: Productivity, Games, Media and Reference. The apps in the Productivity category are useful for creating, designing, writing, and facilitating work and assignments. Media and Reference apps are those meant for researching and consuming media such as books, webpages, and videos. The Games category will feature the best educational games for iPad that help students learn and practice various skills and subjects. I believe these apps are the top educational apps available for use by teachers and students.
Take notes, save links and images, and even record audio into searchable notes that get saved online. You can access your notes from any device, computer, or internet browser. You could conceivably use the audio recording function to record and index entire lessons and lectures.
This excellent app allows you to store files in the cloud, and access them on any device or computer with an internet connection. This is an essential app for teachers managing a set of iPads in the classroom because it allows you to keep sync files between you and your students. You can collect and manage student work by sharing having them share folders with you.
Pages/Numbers/Keynote: $9.99 Each
These apps comprise Apple’s iWork suite, and they are the equivalent of Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. They have corresponding apps that run on Apple computers, and all your documents can be synced with your iPad or iPhone once iOS5 is released.
An amazing amount of functionality for 5 bucks, this app allows kids to record and compose music in a fun and intuitive audio sequencer. They can build with music loops, play and record virtual instruments of all types, and instantly publish and share their songs to iTunes or email. Students could easily use Garageband to record a whole oral presentation or podcast on a subject, or make songs to teach the class about what you are learning.
This app is a bit expensive, but it is a great for reading and annotating documents of all types, especially .pdf files. This app can be used by students to take notes while reading, or by teachers to review and correct student work. Accessing and annotating .pdfs is absolutely essential for using the iPad in a classroom setting, and this is one of the best all around file-reading apps there available.
This is the premier app for reading and annotating .pdf files. It also integrates with dropbox, allowing an easy and efficient workflow for correcting and returning work.
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I really appreciated this great info graphic from Onlinecolleges.net about educational games. (To see the infographic click on ‘continue reading’ at the bottom). They even list some of the best educational apps for iPad in section 2; I’m glad to see that mobile apps being mentioned next to classics like Oregon Trail and Math Blasters. I really agree with their list of ‘Skills Video Games Develop’, and I hope more teachers are starting to see the benefits of using games as a learning tool in the classroom.
I am very happy to announce that I will be co-hosting a free webinar for BrainPop about educational games and their new GameUp platform. It will be happening on September 14th at 4:30 P.M. Eastern time, and you can register here.
If you enjoyed this post, I’d really appreciate it if you took a second to hit the blue +1 button and share the link with the others. Thanks!
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Games for Learning: Why Games Are Effective Educational Tools
by Adam Coccari
I am a 4th and 6th grade teacher that has been utilizing games in my lessons and tutoring sessions for a few years now. If I had suggested just five years ago that video games could play a major part in classroom education, the majority of teachers and school administrators would have laughed at me. Now, there seems to be somewhat of a sea change happening in this field. Educators are starting to believe what many researchers and advocates have long known: Video games can be excellent teaching tools and an effective way for students to learn.
Although games can never replace the role of a teacher, games can accomplish a lot of things that traditional teaching methods can’t. Video games let students simulate historical events and scientific processes and experiment for themselves. Games can help get unmotivated students excited about math and ancient history, and reach students who don’t respond to conventional teaching methods. Aside from just teaching new concepts, video games can get students to apply critical-thinking and problem-solving to subjects they have already learned.
When many people are asked why we should use games in education, they respond with answers like: “Kids love them!” “They are fun!” “Games engage students!” While these statements are true, they don’t tell us much about what makes them good for education. We all know that many kids love video games, but I want to examine the issue more closely to understand how games engage and motivate kids, and why they are good educational tools. Although they are certainly related, I will examine both engagement and motivation separately.
How Games Engage Students:
- Kids Feel Themselves Improving: Students become disheartened when they feel overwhelmed by large bodies of information and complex subjects. Most video games break down learning concepts into smaller goals and milestones. This makes the feeling of progress and improvement much more attainable and concrete, and students feel the immediate effects of their improvement as they become better at the game.
- Games Provide Instant Feedback: We all know that receiving feedback from teachers about one’s mistakes teacher is a crucial element for effective learning. However it often takes teachers time to grade and return work, and the feedback is not as effective. Games often provide instantaneous feedback to students, allowing them to simply try again and make the necessary corrections or adjustments to their approach. Corrective feedback is necessary for learning, and games provide an easy way to achieve this on an individual level.
- Games Create Interactive Experiences: Unlike receiving information passively from a lecture or a book, games allow students to actively interact with the subject matter. Educational games make a learning an active and physical process. Just like playing a musical instrument, combining physical movement and mental energy creates new neural connections and promotes a deeper level of learning. Engaging with the experience of westward expansion using Oregon Trail is ultimately more memorable for kids than reading about it in a textbook because the game is an active experience.
- Games Allow Kids to Experience Alternate Realities: Kids love to engage their imagination and play “make-believe,” experiencing fantasy worlds and taking on roles that are more exciting than their real-life existence. Games allow students to do this in a safe and structured way, creating immensely engaging experiences for children. This can be especially powerful in an educational setting. Simulation games let students experience historical periods or imaginary scenarios, helping them gain a better understanding of the time and motivations of the people involved. Players can experiment, make choices, and see the effects of their decisions, turning the abstract concepts that they are learning about into tangible experiences.
How Games Motivate Students:
Some skills in school (like learning the times tables) come to down to pure practice and repetitive drilling. Games can be a great way to motivate students and make these repetitive exercises fun. If you have ever watched a child play a video game for hours on end, you know the immense power that good video games have to motivate people. The intense motivation that games can foster increases students’ time on task, focus, and persistence through difficulties, leading to increased fluency and automaticity. Good educational games can use the same motivational techniques as commercial video games to motivate students, but instead of just entertaining themselves they are practicing math, spelling, or learning about history. Here is a rundown of the best game design techniques used to create engagement and motivation:
- Competition: Do not underestimate the power of a a little competition. Kids love to play games in which they get to compete against their friends, family, or other students. The desire to improve and win is a very strong motivator. Timed races, high scores, and leader boards are all great ways that games can include a little competition in the learning experience.
- Progression: Being able to progress and grow stronger is one of the most satisfying and motivational aspects of video games, and it is analogous to the ways in which we learn and grow smarter. Many games utilize some sort of progression dynamic in which the players start out at a low “level” with few points or abilities, and then are able to gain points, experience, or currency to progress and reach higher levels. This type of mechanic is a powerful motivator for all people, but works especially well to get kids hooked and engaged with educational content.
- Customization: It has been well documented that kids love to customize their characters and avatars within games. Customization makes kids feel much more connected with their character and with the game. My students play a multiplication game on Academic Skill Builders in which they play as little penguins jumping around to solve multiplication questions. It is amazing how just letting the kids choose the color and name of their penguins makes them so much more excited to play the game. Other platforms like the online learning system Mathletics let students customize every aspect of their experience down to the website’s background, colors, and their avatars hairstyle and accessories. By learning math, the students gain access to more customization options. Which leads me to...
- Rewards and Unlockable Content: Providing incentives for student performance and time spent on the game is an extremely effective way to keep kids playing an educational game for hours. Games often let players unlock new characters, levels, costumes, or even whole new games by completing tasks or doing well on the educational content. The best games provide students with clear and achievable goals, and then provide rewards as positive feedback for achieving these learning goals. These rewards are powerful motivators that make the games more enjoyable and keep them coming back for more.
For all the reasons I have mentioned, I believe that good educational games can be a fun and powerful way for kids to learn. They cannot replace the importance of a teacher, they are just one of many tools that teachers and parents can utilize to aid in a student’s education. However, there is still a disconnect between the quality of mass-market commercial video games and educational titles. We need educational games that are every bit as fun and compelling as traditional video games. We also need to teach educators and administrators the best way to utilize games effectively and implement them into their schools. This is still a new and growing field, and there is lots of room for improvement, but I am very excited about the potential that games hold for the future of education.
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Fighting The Brain Drain
Although I believe that summer vacation is a great and healthy thing for kids, I know that there is definitely a little academic regression that happens over the summer. My students often return to school in September having forgotten many of the skills they worked so hard to refine during the previous school year. I am always looking for fun ways to help students practice math and reading over the summer. Many parents and teachers try to combat the "Summer Brain Drain" by helping children engage in academic pursuits over the summer through classes, tutoring, and extra school work. I believe that educational video games are one of the very best ways to keep kids engaged with learning over the summer months. Educational games help kids learn and practice their skills in a fun and rewarding way, allowing them to stay sharp while still enjoy their precious summer vacation.
Educational games can be played on computers, the web, mobile phones, or on tablets like the iPad. Finding good and age-appropriate games for students can be very difficult however, so I have compiled a list of the best free web sites for educational games. My next post will include a list of the best educational games for iOS on the App Store.
“Many students don't even realize how much they are learning because they are having so much fun”. -MrNussbaums.com
The 7 Best Sites for Free Educational Games
Mr. Nussbaums - This site claims to be “A Thousand Sites in One,” and it does truly have a staggering array of educational content for kids. All the games are separated by subject, difficulty, and grade-level so you can find something that is just right for everyone.
Sheppard Software: This is another premium educational and kid-friendly site that offers hundreds of games, activities, and quizzes for free. There are games for language arts, math, science, and pretty much every other subject you can think of.
Arcademic Skill Builders: This site has some of the best math games on the internet for practicing skills like multiplication, division, addition, subtraction, fractions, and money. Most of the games are multiplayer, allowing kids to compete against their friends or other students around the world. The competition keeps kids really engaged and focused on improving.
Funbrain: I have been using this site in my classroom for a long time, and it has always been a favorite of kids and teachers alike. They have a math arcade, games for reading, brain teasers, and casual games. All their games are aligned to standards and designed with teachers and students in mind.
Gamequarium- “The site that swims with learning fun,” Gamequarium has amassed a truly immense collection of games and resources for kids and teachers. They have everything separated by level, subject, and activity type, but you may have to navigate through a few menus to find the game that is best for your child.
Math Game Time: An awesome collection of fun games for learning all types of math, organized by grade level and content strand. Math Game Time allows students to choose games from a wide selection of quality titles. Word Game Time is just like Math Game Time, but contains only language based games. It is often hard to find good games for practicing spelling and grammar, but this site has a great assortment for working on many different English language concepts.Tweet
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Games For Change
This past week, I had the pleasure of attending the 8th annual Games For Change Festival in New York City. It is the largest international conference focused on games made for social change and learning. It is attended by a diverse crowd of game designers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and game journalists. The three day program featured presentations on a very wide array of topics pertaining to educational games and game design, and included keynote addresses by Al Gore, Gabe Newell, and Jesse Schell. I thought it would be helpful summarize the main themes that came out of conference and the latest trends in this exciting field.
The Main Themes from Games For Change Festival 2011:Full Article and Comments
Using the Power of Games in EducationAs I am sure you know, kids love video games. This current generation of children is more connected and digitally savvy than any generation before it. Kids love to spend their time playing video games because they are fun, engaging, and have found powerful ways to motivate people. There are lessons we can learn from video games about engagement and motivation, and use these lessons to improve our teaching techniques and curriculum material.
Utilizing the lessons and design principles of video games in other areas is called “gamification”, and it is becoming a trendy buzzword in education circles. You may be asking: what is gamification exactly, and how can it be applied in the classroom? Here is a great video from The Escapist about “Gamifying Education”
I believe we can harness the power of games to improve education inside and outside of the classroom.
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Getting Started: Classroom Ideas for Learning with the iPad
Yesterday, I presented at the Computer Using Educator’s "iFest" Conference. It was a conference for teachers and education professionals that are integrating iOS devices into their classrooms and schools. I met lots of great people that are on the forefront of this exciting movement in education. There were many teachers in attendance that just found out that they will be getting FULL classroom sets of iPads next year, allowing each student to have their own device. There were also many tech specialists and enthusiasts like myself that were there to teach others about the best ways to use the iPad or iPod Touch in the classroom. All in all ,I believe there were over 200 people at the conference, and it was very encouraging to see to so much interest and enthusiasm about the possibilities for these devices in education. There are still many educators looking for the best ways to include these resources into their classrooms, so I want to share this excellent publication from iPads 4 Learning titles “Getting Started: Classroom Ideas for Learning With the iPad" It talks about practical uses for the iPad in schools, and also highlights some great apps for every subject and task. Check out the full report here: Learning With the iPadTweet
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30 Under 30: Innovative Educators
The folks over at Splashlife have just released a new special feature on Education this month, and chose to highlight me (Adam Coccari) and Math: Evolve in their feature “30 Under 30: Innovative Educators.” Splashlife is a new social network that promotes positive, innovative, and socially conscious content for young professionals and encourages participation by offering rewards and discounts to members. This month’s feature examines education through the eyes of 30 people that are working as teachers, entrepreneurs, community organizers, and education reformers. I feel very honored to be listed amongst such inspiring and accomplished individuals. Please check out my interview and the rest of the feature HERE.
The List of Educators Includes:
Maureen Yusuf-Morales - Breakthrough New York
Joshua Livingston - Abyssinian Development Corporation
Rafael Corrales - LearnBoost
Nic Borg - Edmodo
Justin Cohen - The School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight
Megan Felt - Lowell Milken Center
Michael Karnjanaprakorn - Skillshare
Jahi Wise - S.T.E.P. Up DC
Dave Bryson - Breakthrough Collaborative
Ethan Gray - The Mind Trust and the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust
I’d like to give a big thanks to the people at Splashlife that are choosing to highlight these important contemporary issues in education! Support their causes at www.splashlife.com
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