Would kids study more and think it’s more fun if their favorite book or movie characters were integrated with learning materials?That’s the question I set out to unscientifically investigate this week.
Timed Quizzes for Practice
My daughter turned 8 this year. She started 3rd grade in September.In school, her class practices basic addition via “rocket math” — timed quizzes to help students master math facts before moving on to the more advanced topics of multiplication and division.It’s not exciting, but it’s necessary. Practice makes perfect, right?
Combine Something You Need With Something You LoveHermione Granger Hermione Granger, via Wikipedia
My daughter does fine in math, but she doesn’t love the subject like she loves, say, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. She can spend hours engrossed in the Harry Potter novels, writing spells in her notebook and retelling scenes from the story. This Halloween, she plans to dress up as Hermione Granger, the obsessively bookish cohort of Harry Potter.A couple of days ago I was discussing with my wife the topic of making learning fun for kids. Over the past year, we have looked at tens, if not hundreds, of great mobile learning apps. Some mix music with animation, others utilize stickers or badges, while still others — for older students — feature social media hooks. (Side note: if I could find a way for an iPad to dispense Silly Bandz, I’d make a killing selling apps!)
While brainstorming, my wife and I thought about combining math skills with our daughter’s favorite pastime: Harry Potter. More specifically, make math practice into a game that features Hermione Granger so my daughter would want to study. (See note on copyright infringement below.)So I set out on my Harry-Potter-mobile-learning-app quest Tuesday morning.Now, I happen to be the founder of a start-up educational app business named tehnograf which gave me a head-start on my quest. We’ve developed tens of quizzes on various topics — in fact, we even pay royalties to authors if they write a quiz and use our technology platform, just like book authors earn royalties.
A little more thinking about what in particular would make the tehnograf app technology more fun for my daughter resulted in this list of ideas: Hermione Granger’s name and face (played by Emma Watson in the movies) Background images to rotate during the quiz Harry Potter soundtrack Quotes from Hermione Surprises for the user (unexpected delights)
Within 60 minutes I had a functioning Hermione Granger app built and installed on my iPad, just waiting for my daughter to return home from school. It contains a database of 169 addition math questions, including all permutations with repetition of numbers between 0 and 12.Most of the 60 minutes of development time was spent finding images, sound bites and the soundtrack on Google, and customizing them for the tehnograf technology. Luckily, this was very simple based on the modularity of the tehnograf technology.The (Somewhat) Finished Educational Mobile Device App And…(drum roll please)…my daughter’s personalized educational app:
Notice the following:
Hermione Granger’s name and face are used on the springboard icon, and in the main window of the app Ten different background images of Hermione rotate during the quiz The Harry Potter movie soundtrack plays in the background during the quiz Hermione says, “Honestly, don’t you two read?” when an incorrect answer is selected A man with a British accent says, “Brilliant!” when a correct answer is selected Hermione surprisingly says, “You’ve got dirt on your nose, by the way. Did you know?” — just for fun Now that I’ve figured out a recipe for what areas of the tehnograf Apps to change, customization can be easily done in about 30 minutes for future personalized quizzes for my daughter. It takes considerably more time to find the audio and visual components on Google than it does to build the app.
The Result: 3rd Grader User Testing
I preset the quiz to 20 questions, and my daughter completed 5 quizzes (100 questions total) before dinner. She then completed another 4 quizzes (80 questions) after dinner, before bed. And she couldn’t wait until morning to take more quizzes! To see how my daughter is doing, I can go to the “My High Scores” section and review the incorrect answers — the questions she is having difficulty with. In addition, a feature of tehnograf version 3.1 is an Adaptive Learning System that separates mastered questions from those she is having difficulty with, serving more of the questions requiring further practice.
How do you make any 3rd grader love math? Customize the learning experience to include what they love: cats, dogs, pink unicorns, princesses, dragons…you name it.Apps and mobile devices were cool before this, but educational apps for mobile devices are about to get a lot cooler.
tehnograf is in start-up mode right now, but we have aspirations to enable primary school educators to personalize learning experiences for their students for free. Using a wizard-type of interface, the teacher will be able to customize a number of areas of the app, including content and look-and-feel. Then, teachers could easily install them on the mobile devices in their classroom.That’s the vision…if we could only convince authors and publishers to license their copyrighted materials for non-commercial, educational purposes.