Monday, 28 January 2013

Apps, Education and Games Based Learning

Tablets and smart phones are becoming increasingly popular amongst educators.  The availability and sheer number of educational apps makes them almost irresistible to many teachers today.  Most apps aim to teach children (and adults) in a fun and games based way.  This post will have a look at the app phenomenon that is occurring, look into why apps and tablets are so popular and point you in the direction of a couple of lists of good educational apps out there (including free ones).

The Benefits

That info graphic gives some statistics of app, tablet and smart phone usage in education.  It also suggests some reasons for their popularity.  Another list from Teach Thought argues that the ‘iPad Revolution’ means that learning will never be the same again.  They argue that the reasons for this are that iPads:

  1. Are simple to use – they are intuitive and are difficult to break (in terms of software), so you can let young children loose with little cause for concern.
  2. Have a wealth of apps – iPads (and other tablets) offer a huge amount and variation of apps that are child friendly and suitable for education.
  3. Make learning fun – most educational apps come in the form of a simple game or a fun puzzle.  Children are more likely to want to play with the apps and they might not even realise the educational value of what they are doing.
  4. Are not just for kids – there are lots of apps aimed at older students and adults, both educational or not.  For example, here is a list of 10 iPhone apps for medical students (

Eve argues that: “The iPad has the potential to change education for the better, making learning more enjoyable and engaging while giving both teachers and parents the tools needed to provide a fuller, more rounded education to their child. It could one day replace textbooks and computers altogether as an all-in-one learning device.”

The Technology Enhanced Learning Research Group, lead by Kevin Burden from the University of Hull, investigated the use of iPads at eight schools in Scotland.  The research found that teachers using iPads changed their approach to teaching.  Pedagogical shifts included:

  • More collaboration
  • More creative expression
  • A strong learning community
  • Better support for students of all abilities
  • Students take it upon themselves to teach and coach each other
  • Higher quality of teaching perceived by students
  • Teachers give better feedback to students about their learning

The study also found that "personal 'ownership' of the device is seen as the single most important factor for successful use of this technology."  Ownership is fundamental for increasing students levels of motivation, interest, and engagement, promotes greater student autonomy and self-efficacy and encourages students to take more responsibility for their learning.

Still a bit unsure?

Many educators are nervous for one reason of another about bringing tablets into their classrooms.  This excellent article from Edudemic answers ten of the biggest questions about iPads in the classroom.
This document, ‘Getting Started: Classroom ideas for learning with the iPad’ is a resource booklet for schools which includes tips on how to integrate tablets, ideas on how to use the tablets and how to collaborate online.

So What Apps are Out There?

The We Want Apps App is a good place to start if you are looking for educational apps.  You can search for apps by category for children up to age 14.  The link above also gives information of a few apps specifically designed for special needs students.

This great article from InformED gives a list of 20 apps (games) for play based learning.  Apps are a great way for children to reap the benefits of games based learning from an early age and this list covers a wide range of subjects.

This list covers a wide range of free educational apps.  They have been categorised into different subject areas as well as different platforms: iPad and Android.

Playful Learning have created a list of ’10 Math Apps for the Little Ones’ and HowStuffWorks have created this list of ’10 iPad Apps for Teaching Kids to Read’.

That covers most bases, but it is inevitable that many more apps will be produced over foreseeable future, so it is a good idea to stay as up to date as you can if this area interests you.  There is a wealth of information available online and lots of it can be found on Pinterest.  Have a look at our ‘Technology in Education’ board for more information, advice, lists of apps and so on.

And don’t forget to follow @paulladley on Twitter and like games-ED’s Facebook and Google+ pages for blog updates and other interesting games based learning things.

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  1. It's similar to concept of Superflashcard that I use for my study. When I learn with Superflashcard, I don't think that I have to study, I enjoy my memory with flashcards and have excitement when I can recall all of them.It has many smart games for me.

  2. NICE BLOG!!! I would really like to come back again right here for likewise good articles or blog posts. Thanks for blogging... KEEP IT UP..
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  3. Thank you for your kind words! I do hope you come back to read our blogs in the future. I just looked up Superflashcard, it looks great! Thank you for bringing it to my attention, I am tempted to use them myself. Games based learning definitely makes learning fun and easy!

  4. I really like the way you have explained the whole article. It is very informative.
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