Our Impatient Youth: iPad Game Measures Non-Academic Learning
For the most part, I am not a fan of “educational” smartphone and iPad apps for kids. As I’ve written before, many apps that claim to be educational are no more than poorly gamified basic lessons, and they fail both as education and as games. But it’s not really the fault of the medium. There are plenty of bad printed books, too.
It is a special, multidisciplinary challenge to successfully blend media, game mechanics, and an educational payload. It’s difficult to make educational apps appealing to kids and useful to parents and educators. There aren’t many apps that manage. But Kidaptive’s new Leo’s Pad app for pre-schoolers might be one.
On the kid side, you have an app that features, at least in episode One, a well-drawn and really nicely animated story, with little learning and assessment games sprinkled throughout. The few game elements I saw were a cut above the usual phoned-in game lessons I’ve seen in other apps. The games also adjust based on the child’s abilities. For example, a shape-fitting game will start off with very basic squares and adjust up to more complex shapes as the kid progresses and comes back again.
But what I really like about this app is that what it appears to teach, and what it really measures, are somewhat different. While the kid may be calculating how many rocks to put into an on-screen catapult to launch the character the right distance, the app is measuring not just arithmetic skills, but also non-academic skills like impulse control, patience, and fine motor skills. Results for these assessments will appear on a Parent’s Dashboard section of the app, coming in a future update.
Our schools mostly teach and measure academics. Parents do get report cards that include more than testing results, but usually not in a quantifiable way. So what’s a parent to do? There is more to achieving in life than learning book skills, and there are some things that parents or outside coaches are better at teaching than schools.
We may complain about our grown-up, online behaviors being over-measured, quantified, and data-mined for marketing and other capitalistic purposes. But analysis tools can also help us understand and improve ourselves, or something that we care about even more: Our children.
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