Money for devices, but money for the apps?

App discovery and evaluation is a perfect example of 21st Century Skills in action. The search for an app, the critical assessment of an app, the practical integration of an app into instruction and hopefully, the sharing out of that process through social media to pay it forward for the common good. To impede that process by trying to control it seems very 19th century to me.

Why Schools Should Budget For Mobile Apps, EdTech, Andrew Schwab

Because without apps, you are the proud owner of expensive plastic.

The Difficulty Of A Book…

…cannot be measured by a lexile rating.

According to The Atlantic, Teachers [in America] Are Supposed to Assign Harder Books, but They Aren’t Doing It Yet.

There’s something strange, though, about positioning a book somewhere on the continuum that starts with ‘easy’ and ends with ‘difficult’, because a book’s difficulty, aside from the most basic of measures such as frequency of lesser-used vocabulary, rests not upon the work itself, but in how it is taught.

This issue is close to my heart because I happen to think that even the ‘easiest’ picturebooks can be used as a jump-off point to explore a wide range of difficult themes and ideas. Non-fiction reading of adult difficulty can very naturally accompany the study of the easiest of fiction readers when reading is guided by a good classroom teacher.

I feel very uneasy when discussions on ‘difficulty’ begin and end with grade levels and lexile ratings.

 

See also: Federal Bureaucrats Declare ‘Hunger Games’ More Complex Than ‘The Grapes of Wrath’. I don’t see any problem with The Hunger Games being taught as a serious text, but this article does throw up the limitations of the lexile rating.

Decisions To Make When Storyboarding For Interactivity

First things first: Does this story require an active and alert reader, and do the interactions reward interactivity and alertness?

1. Should interactions be user-initiated or autoplay? A mixture?

I prefer narration to autoplay, with the option of turning it off completely from the main menu. When I have to press a button to start the narration on each page it takes me out of the story. As for the rest of the page, a mixture of autoplaying actions and user-initiated interactions works well in many cases, as long as any auto-play noises are not too irritating. Irritating = loud, unpleasant tones or even a pleasant sound that’s on too short of a loop.

2. How much animation, if any?

Too much animation and the storyapp runs the risk of emulating a film, losing its true interactivity. For small development teams, too much animation is costly and therefore not an option. When simple animations are utilised, which ones help to tell the story?

3. Should interactivity be allowed before the narration is over, or must the reader wait?

I still get frustrated when I can’t start the interactivity when I want to, regardless of whether the sound that accompanies the interaction drowns out the narration. It’s about user control. Also, I prefer gentle sound effects, which don’t drown out the narration even if played simultaneously.

4. After an interactivity has played out, should the user be able to cycle through again, or will the page fall inactive, waiting for the reader to turn the page and move on with the story?

The advantage of looping is that readers can linger on a page for as long as they like, which makes the reader feel more in control. The disadvantage is that younger readers in particular may lose the thread of the story, derailed by the interactivity. We used both finite and infinite loops of interactions for The Artifacts on a case-by-case basis. I’ve grown to slightly prefer finite looping, because if readers really want a specific page they can jump to it via the navigation pages, or simply turn onto the page again from the previous, losing no control — only a small bit of convenience.

5. Should the developer offer hints with flashing/arrows, or should the reader have to find all the interactivity themselves?

We believe young readers are more than capable of uncovering any interaction we think we’re hiding in an app. We hear quite a bit from parents that children find Easter eggs in apps that they never suspected were there. We don’t believe everything needs to be handed to a child on a plate, and goes with our general philosophy of ‘try it and see’ — an important attitude when using any type of technology.

The best children’s apps are successful because of a pair of more traditional qualities. Great storytelling. Strong characters. It seems apps aren’t so revolutionary after all, but that’s a good thing.

Stuart Dredge at The Guardian