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Countdown to the DML Competition Winners' Showcase: Day 38 Learning: Is there an app for that?

Since the State of the Union is on everyone's mind, I'll throw in my own two-cents with Michael Levine's thoughtful SotU-themed post: iTot Challenge: Getting Young Children Ready in the Jetsonian Age. Levine, who is the Executive Director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, wrote:

"Last month, we released a new report intended to get this conversation started. Focused on the explosion of mobile media in young children's lives, Learning: Is there an app for that? found that young children love smart phones, can navigate their use seamlessly and can be engaged by their parents in playtime activities just about anytime, anywhere. This study also found that parents are still skeptical about the educational value of apps, even though well-designed ones can teach key literacy skills, especially to those children who ordinarily struggle."

Being skeptical about the educational value of apps? That has to change. I tracked down a quote from the report that refers to this skepticism:

"When it comes to smart mobile devices, many parents do not yet view them as potential learning tools — especially when compared to other technologies like computers and the Internet — and thus restrict how their children use them."

That is a false distinction, to think that a smart phone is somehow different from a computer or the Internet. But the report is not a quiz to test parents' technical know-how; instead, it reflects back how cautious most parents are about where, when, and how learning happens. And without research into digital media and learning among the youngest learners, parents will largely err on the side of caution, ignoring the potential for learning on-the-go built right into their mobile phones. Levine's suggestion that we fund more digital media and learning research, particularly for the early years, is so right.

It got me thinking, what would a kindergarten class look like if the teacher was fluent not only in building blocks and sand boxes, but touch screens and keyboards? This video of a 5-year-old using digital fabrication to engineer his own 3D house should be required viewing for parents who treat digital media's learning potential with skepticism. Whether it's building a property in Lego Universe or building vocabularly and literacy skills through an app on mom or dad's iPhone, kids are learning, tinkering with the tools they see the adults around them using. And that's a skill worth teaching.

Click here to see the rest of Michael Levine's suggestions (including a Digital Teacher Corps).

Countdown to the 2010 DML Competition Showcase features Where Are They Now? updates on the 2008, 2009, and 2010 winners. The 2010 DML Competition winners will showcase their projects at the Designing Learning Futures DML Conference on March 4, 2011 in Long Beach, California.

Visit our DML Countdown page to view more updates from featured projects.



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