The Department of Education has launched a competition to develop early years "edtech" apps which will be designed to develop literacy, language and communication skills to kids.
The winning apps will be offered to families for free in 12 underprivileged areas of the UK as part of a DfE pilot scheme.
"We want to help parents make confident, informed choices about the resources they use." – Kemi Badenoch, education minister
The DfE said it wants parents to “think about how to use screen time constructively and provide meaningful learning activities for their young children”.
The apps content will need to meet educational standards and offer progression through levelling up in difficulty. They will also be designed to stimulate personal interaction.
Kemi Badenoch said "we want to help parents make confident, informed choices about the resources they use, so they can help inspire a love of learning in their children.”
One in four children leave reception without key communication skills and the winning apps should be designed to combat this.
The areas selected for the pilot were chosen based on the proportion of children achieving below the national level for literacy, and include Brent, Enfield, Halton, Leicester, Luton, Middlesbrough, Oldham, Peterborough, Plymouth, Sandwell, Stoke-On-Trent and Tower Hamlets.
With iPads becoming commonplace in the school and household, and screen time sessions at all time high this writer believes that being conscious of the content our children are engaging with can only be a good thing and would hope to see the winning apps offered universally for free instead of specific households or regions in order to benefit as many children as possible.
I know how difficult it is to find an app for free that doesn’t contain masses of adware or tricks to try and get the user to buy or subscribe to a service so I’ll be hoping to see this pilot be deemed a success and hopefully winning entries getting some real estate on the app store.
Apples push into the education sector has hit the headlines again as Metro has written a rather glowing account of their education tech designed to bolster creativity and coding skills with free classroom apps and a 9.7inch iPad designed for school pupils. It seems Apple is aiming to make the iPad as essential as the calculator once was in schools.
Apple has combined these Everyone Can Code and Everyone Can Create iPad focused curriculum apps with a classroom app that allows teachers to keep an eye on their students iPad use and track them effectively whilst providing feedback and guidance.
Simon Pile, the Assistant Head teacher at Anson Primary School in London explained ‘iPad allows me to create a curriculum that is engaging and relevant, to give every student a voice…It gives students the opportunity to have a personalised learning journey that is packed with creative opportunities.’
Remember this? It was essential until the calculator came along.
Now apples push into education could be seen as a cynical attempt to get our children hooked on iPad tech from an early age – almost positioning the iPad as an essential learning aid. Their efforts to romance schools isn't without its critics however Apple claims their motivations are entirely altruistic and not at all focused on reaping a return on investment by turning our children into future brand consumers by exposing them to Apple tech as early as possible.
Here at IWASD we would suggest that children are already hooked on technology and amidst the NHS guidelines that screen time should be reduced its hard to see a case for implementing more tech and screen time into the children’s school day however at the same time we actively encourage schools who seek to find new creative ways to get their pupils using real world experiences and getting off the bums and away from their desks to learn lessons.
It seems nobody has asked the question of apple as to whether they believe they are compacting the problems associated with greater screen time in our children. For example we recently reported that excessive screen time is now linked to 12 deadly cancers in children. So whilst the short term desire to have our kids embrace tablets to get out and about might in fact have a detrimental effect on them culturally if they grow up plugged into the matrix one has to wonder how will they ever leave it?
Amid a landscape where childhood obesity is soaring and MacDonald's being delivered to schools in the UK, instead of sycophantic articles sucking up to multi billion pound brands heralding their tech as having a positive influence on our children's development without regard for reporting on any downside instead it would be nice to for once acknowledge that we live in a world where our teachers can come up with methods for students to get interested and get active without the aid of a screen based devices luring them to do it. They've been doing this for years. Apple didn't invent going outside.
Lets make time to promote our teachers who aren't using tech as a crutch and who's own creativity and diversity of their lesson planning lets them come up with a reason to get outside other than an app. Lets's promote physical literacy alongside technological literacy and importantly lets start listening to the expert advice to reduce screen time for our children instead of embedding it into our children's daily lives so inextricably as building it into the curriculum.
Apples push into schools makes our children early adopters exposed to the Apple brand and be more likely to become future consumers. Apple want the language of computing to have iPads in the scope and it's not beyond this writers imagination that their education programs are designed to familiarise the next generation with their tech for cynical reasons. Whilst their big brand sway has media outlets clamouring to flatter them in the process it's hard to see how they will fail. Brands are the new idols and bloggers are the new evangelists so just keep an eye open for objectivity amongst the sea of honeyed words.