With iPads being pushed into many classrooms, I have struggled as a teach to find a “good use” for them beyond filling time in the beginning. Once I felt the classroom, I could not live without mine. I use it for everything but I still have the desire to find strong apps for the classroom. So I started looking for math apps that went beyond the “drill and kill” sequence. I also wanted to make sure students were getting regular feedback and was engaging for the students. Then I searched for apps that truly supported student learning and could be integrated into a classroom. I worked with a home-school teacher and a 3-6 teacher to explore these apps. (There is also an Algebra version of this app as students move up in school.)
The name itself excited me. Mental Math is a crucial skill for students to develop that is more often assumed rather than explicitly taught. I have had several students come to me with “tricks” they learned from another teacher or parent, but I never really took the time to teach them. Kids, and adults, are always looking for shortcuts and “the easy way” in math. So here is an app to explicitly teach tricks and techniques to help students get beyond the numbers into higher-level concepts. This app allows kids to learn, practice it then play a game. As they increase their skills they move their way up the ranks from an apprentice to a Mathemagician. The get immediate feedback on their work with tips to help if they get stuck. As a teacher, I would totally use this app as in intro to our daily lessons to get their brains in the math mode. In the past I would put minute math on the board for all students and a problem of the day. The problem with this method was it was too general and did not differentiate the introduction. Through Mathemagics each student would be working at their pace and their ability levels. Students who tested this game would ask for more time to get to the next level. (I only gave students ten minutes of time on the game so the lesson could begin.) In order to asses the students, I would give them verbal mental math problems to solve individually when they were ready to “beat the calculator”. The students got feedback form the games as well as from the teacher as we had daily challenges to “beat the calculator.” The biggest benefit I saw with the use of the app was an increase in computation skills which in turn increase the students ability to manipulate fractions, the unit they were studying at the time.
While physics is one of the most engaging forms of science, I was a teacher who avoided it like the plague. I always let the topics were too complex for me let alone teaching the to kids. But with apps like Monster Physics I think I could really build a strong physics for my students. This app allows them to “play” without necessarily realizing they are learning. Students get to create virtual inventions and solve missions to test their knowledge. Then we actually build them in the classroom to prove our physics. This app is a great way to introduce and practice concepts we are exploring in class. It is aligned nicely to the state and national science standards with general topics that fit multiple grade levels. I tested the app on my lunchtime science group of students 1st through 6th grade. They all loved it. The kids were engaged and there was very little frustration level, even with my youngest student. We were able to demonstrate student learning by creating our inventions in our lab after they explored on the iPad. We had so much fun with this app, I recommended it to the designers I work with at UC Berkley to be incorporated as a supporting activity for their FOSS units. The teachers I shared it with all immediately downloaded it for their classes. Now, It is time to write solid lessons to incorporate it into my physics lessons. (This producer also has Stack the States, Stack the Counties and Presidents vs. Aliens that students love to use in their “free time”.)
The school Liberian suggested this site to me for part of my lunchtime science class. She suggested it as a tool as students were waiting for others to arrive. Now, I share with my colleagues too. Once I got the kids started on Brain Pop, I could not get them off. Every day there is a new movie or topic and it covers so many content areas. This game can be used to reinforce concepts taught in the classroom, to practice skills and play games. This app is also on-line so it can be played on the computer or on a tablet. While I would use this as a “free option” in the classroom, it can be a great assessment tool too. While it focuses on the movies and quizzes, the students enjoyed the games that were on-line. They got immediate feedback and often scored higher on the brain pop quizzes after playing the game. The standards like on the website makes it easy to transition it into your lessons as part of your curriculum. (The website is the best place for teachers to go for lesson planning.)
As much as I want to incorporate hands on learning in the classroom, I am convinced that video games may be a great alternative or lead into lessons. I have so many more games to explore. I think as educator it is important that we find ways to integrate the traditional world and technology into our curriculum to build the "whole" child.
PS I tried to get into Mine-craft as many of my colleagues in this class had been talking about it. But I had a terrible time connecting it to the AK standards while I can see it building so many spacial and logic skills.