Secret Ingredients of App Development for Early Childhood Education


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A webinar presented 8-1-2012

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  • Fran --- We are happy so many of you signed on today. We’d like to remind you that our stated purpose is to address app developers and talk about what the early childhood education field really needs from them. We love to have comments from all of you to contribute to this discussion, but we are not going to try to be all things to all people today. If you find this webinar is not meeting your needs, we’ll have others that will, so thanks for understanding. Stay on for bonus slides.
  • Fran We could tell you how to sell your apps, but we are going to tell you what you need to know to have your apps sell themselves in the early childhood marking by making them what ECEs want and, more importantly, what they need.
  • KNN – “When I worked for state DOE, when we monitored preschool programs, if we ever heard a teacher say, Oh! Look at my new project! The PARENTS love it!” we would roll our eyes because that was usually a sign of a bad project. What parents want in so called educational apps may not be the same as what we know is best for young children or for the professionals who are paid to teach them. So today we are NOT talking about marketing directly to parents, but what we do talk about may help you re-think how you approach the parent market too.”
  • Karen
  • Karen- When we survey the app landscape right now, we see a whole lot of sameness. Everywhere we go, teachers ask us for lists of the best apps. We always tell them it depends – what’s a great app for one situation may no be much in another situation. But it is clear that the choices teachers have to make and what they have to choose from does not make their job any easier. And even in education, you are battling the free and 99 cent apps – so you have to know how to make your case.
  • Karen- cupcake storyFran pick up from a marketing perspective
  • Fran….We’re here because webelieve we are potentially on the cusp of a technology renaissance. The question is whether developers are just going to cash in and run with the money, demonstrating how little they value young children, or if they are willing to learn about best practice in early education, apply that learning, and then make the money they need to stay in business and thrive. 2012 is a lot like the late 1980s when personal computers first became available and everyone was into software development for young children, because we all know parents and teachers will do anything to make sure their children learn. Their money is low-hanging fruit, and developers put out a lot of entertaining software under the guise of being educational. We’re at the same turning point now, but our devices are more sophisticated and prevalent, and hold a lot more promise than those early PC days. It’s easier and cheaper than ever to develop apps and websites, and parents and are more willing and able to connect their children with technology. We must get on the same page about what children need from technology in order to truly learn.
  • Karen - Not all teachers or administrators know as much about child development as you do. We’re working on them. And we’re counting on you to talk their talk and yet not make false promises. This is about knowing what people need. Putting Elmo or Dora in your app does not make it a better app – and the cost of licensing may overwhelm any marketing advantage they may give you.
  • Karen --We find that teachers listen to experts who talk about developmentally appropriate practice and nod their heads, indicating they think they are doing it all perfectly – but when we actually visit their classrooms, we find they are misinterpreting guidance or misperceiving their own behaviors. We see developers do the same thing. We may say “no flashcards” and the developer says, Oh no, not us, we don’t do flashcards – but when Fran and I look at the app we see flashcard mentality with a few moving parts and we realize that more info is needed.
  • Karen
  • Karen
  • Karen ….. It’s not just about what the research says:Many states in the US have Quality Rating Systems (QRIS) – England has ratings by OFSTED (office of Standards in Education)Many funded programs are required to use ECERS-R or CLASS to document classroom qualityECERS-R sets limits on ‘screen time’ and high quality score depends on open-ended, free choice time rather than DICLASS score depends on how much and how well teacher interacts with children. Can your app help or hurt when classrooms are evaluated? Their funding may depend on it!
  • Karen
  • Karen
  • Karen
  • karen
  • Karen – Projects.
  • Fran Nor should they. We need some focus! And, DAP is just the beginning. Requirements, balance of DI.
  • Fran
  • Fran- While it’s true not everything can be learned via open-ended discovery, it is important to keep a balance and know what you are trying to accomplish with direct instruction… and know when to let go.
  • Fran
  • Fran ---
  • Teachers don’t just need an app that teaches ‘math’ or ‘early literacy’. They don’t need a psychologist or another certified teacher or a consultant telling them how kids learn. They have a job to do, many bosses to please, and they need you to tell them if they buy your app, how will it help them do their job???
  • Fran--You may see math or literacy but this is what typical early childhood teachers see hanging over their heads.
  • Fran - And you need to know WHY!! WHY does a preschool child need to understand comparisons? When do they use that? For what?
  • Fran- does slide… Karen says: One registrant asked whether storybook apps need clickable actions throughout or is that distracting. The answer is it has to be good for both.  A story is only a story if it can be enjoyed as a story all the way through - but there must also be things to talk about when it's time to talk about it.  David Dickinson made a big splash last summer when he released his study that showed that teacher talk about books and using sophisticated vocabulary lead to greater language and literacy skill growth in preschool children.  Teachers who know their stuff will not be looking for distracting things to click - they will be looking for clicks that add meaning and build sophisticated language - which is the basis of concept formation.  Example – 5 little monkeys.
  • Fran
  • Fran---And by SMEs, we don’t mean a national expert on math – but also a national expert on what is really needed by early childhood teachers to meet their math requirements in today’s classroom!
  • Fran
  • Bad habits picked up from designing for older children. Misconceptions about what children know, can do, and respond to.
  • KN – Busy work, worksheets, nor FLASHCARDS!!! Teachers who use these usually lack confidence in their own teaching skills and they fall back on these easy answers to appear to be teaching – but LASTING learning does not happen!
  • For more info – our blog on excessive praise in apps: or
  • KN – Just because you said it doesn’t mean you taught it. Just because you presented it in an app doesn’t mean they learned it.
  • Secret Ingredients of App Development for Early Childhood Education

    1. 1. The Secret Ingredients of Early Childhood App Development: Make Your Apps Rise to The Top Fran Simon, M.Ed. | Karen Nemeth, Ed.M. Early Childhood Technology Network
    2. 2. About us Karen Nemeth, Ed.M. Fran Simon, M.Ed.
    3. 3. The secrets are not what you think © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 3
    4. 4. We’re serious about interactive tools for young children in preschool programs… Engaging © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 Our objective today is to share what “high quality” REALLY means in ECE classrooms 4
    5. 5. How do you know the product teaches the concepts or skills you claim it teaches? © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 5
    6. 6. Cookie cutter approach to app development © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 6
    7. 7. Let’s digress: Why free and $0.99 apps are bad (Free trials on SaaS, not so bad!) © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 7
    8. 8. Poll: What’s Your biggest challenge © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 8
    9. 9. Poll: What is your top marketing priority right now? © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 9
    10. 10. You want to know how to sell apps, but first… we need get deep into how children learn
    11. 11. Young children are explorers Developers need to know how young children learn and what EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATORS want* and need* *may not be compatible © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 11
    12. 12. most the Early Learning apps…  have high/moderate entertainment and production value, BUT • low educational value • are redundant • are rote/skill based 12 © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012
    13. 13. © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 13
    14. 14. Where EC Educators get their guidance: NAEYC & FRC Tech Position Statement + = Technology & Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 © Copyright Nemeth and Simon, 2102 14
    15. 15. Find it. Read it. 15 © Copyright Nemeth and Simon, 2102
    16. 16. “… A framework of principles and guidelines for best practice in the care and education of young children, birth through age 8. “ •Research on how young children develop and learn •What is known about educational effectiveness NAEYC, 2012 © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 16
    17. 17. Choices and problem solving © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 17
    18. 18. Long term “units of study” or projects for depth (sometimes called themes) © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 18
    19. 19. Encourage children to work together and interact © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 19
    20. 20. Balance of challenge and achievement that grows with child © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 20
    21. 21. Respond to and build on children’s interests © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 21
    22. 22. Individualize, differentiate, meet the needs of children with different languages, abilities and various cultures © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 22
    23. 23. Capture and use data about progress © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 23
    24. 24. NO one app or site can encompass all elements of DAP © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 24
    25. 25. Direct Instruction An instructional approach that emphasizes the use of carefully sequenced steps that include demonstration, modeling, guided practice, and independent application. DAP is about exploring concepts and skills so children discover the answers © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 25
    26. 26. Direct Instruction and DAP • DI can used to introduce specific skills and concepts • DAP used to: – practice – refine – explore the uses of that skill Just because DI is commonly used with older kids does NOT make it right for preschool! © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 26
    27. 27. DAP: As the term implies, one size does not fit all © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 27
    28. 28. Different settings… Different Ages… Different strategies © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 28
    29. 29. Crosswalk foundation built from key commonalities of DAP AND Commercial Curricula Respected Approaches •Project Approach • Creative Curriculum •Montessori • High Scope •Project Approach •Tools of the Mind •Montessori •Investigator Club •Reggio Emilia •Curiosity Corner •High Reach •Opening the World of Learning © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 29
    30. 30. Then there are standards * State * Common Core (coming soon)
 * Head Start 
 * Special needs (OSEP) © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 30
    31. 31. © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 31
    32. 32. Math is more than counting and number identification Number concepts and quantities • Measurement and comparison • Number relationships and operations • Geometry and spatial relationships • Patterns © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 32
    33. 33. Language and literacy is more than identifying the alphabet and sounds Literacy Knowledge and Skills  Letter recognition  Phonological awareness • Book Awareness • Early writing • Print concepts Language Development • Receptive • Expressive © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 33
    34. 34. And the SECRET is… Know what early childhood educators need to facilitate learning with young children and be intentional about the tools you provide! DAP + Curriculum content/standards = Apps at the top! © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 34
    35. 35. Don’t skip the Subject Matter Experts for development and marketing © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 35
    36. 36. Our book Our Site Join #ECEtechCHAT, Wednesdays, 9 PM Eastern Tweet Gryphon House #ECEappdev Early Childhood Technology Network © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 to continue the conversation
    37. 37. BONUS SLIDES Looking into the rearview mirror at your instructional design © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012
    38. 38. Instructional Design Common practices that are inappropriate for children in early education settings © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 38
    39. 39. Develop apps that are just like Worksheets or flashcards © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 39
    40. 40. © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 40
    41. 41. The learner Understands © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 41
    42. 42. Don’t Provide empty Entertainment. Develop products that help children develop meaningful, transferable concepts and skills © Copyright, Nemeth and Simon, 2012 42