The market is flooded with educational apps, as we all know. To make things a little easier, the producers of the Infinite Thinking Machine have pinpointed five great math apps that draw kids into learning math concepts. The show features an app that teach fractions, algebra, geometry, a graphic calculator with a social feature, and a useful search tool.
The number of mobile apps marketed to kids is growing at a rapid pace, yet a recent report by the Federal Trade Commission raises new concerns about child privacy and the lack of disclosure about the personal data being collected.
The FTC reviewed the promotional pages for 400 apps aimed at kids and found that fewer than 2 percent disclosed what personal information is collected or how it is used. The commission noted that smartphone apps can collect personal data from the device automatically, including the user’s location, phone number, list of contacts and call logs, and share that with others.
The review [PDF] did not delve into what information apps actually are collecting from children, but the FTC is looking into that and plans to release its findings within the next four months.
“Parents should be able to learn before they download apps what information will be used and how it’s shared,” said Patricia Poss, one of the FTC report authors.
As part of its review, the FTC fined a California company on accusations of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which outlaws the collection of data from children younger than 13 without parental approval. By law, companies must explain what information is being collected and how it is used. The California company, W3 Innovations LLC, was fined $50,000 for collecting e-mail addresses and other information from tens of thousands of children without parental consent. It was the FTC’s first mobile app case.
“What makes a lot of parents uncomfortable is when they are not informed about the collection and use of data.”
Privacy concerns have been growing since news surfaced in February that apps for Facebook, Twitter and others accessed – and sometimes copied – entire address books without permission.
Some privacy experts say the problem stems from the unprecedented growth of the mobile app market, not from malicious intent.
“The majority of the issues raised by the FTC and other interested parties are mostly attributable to the speed of the growth of this market,” said Ed Lewis, CEO of Media Chaperone, which develops software for Disney and other companies to help manage content permissions and privacy settings.
Jules Polonetsky of the Future of Privacy Forum think tank says the majority of apps collect limited Continue reading
App stores are chock-a-block with apps for language learning. Most of them boast colorful flashcards and cute characters for kids, and others are translators that help travelers with phrases, vocabulary, and pronunciation. The big names are in the mix: Rosetta Stone has apps for both Android and iPhones/iPads, but they’re mobile companions to the expensive software packets that contain the main course. Berlitz sells apps to help you brush up on your vocabulary and phrases before you travel.
But a few new language learning apps are moving in on the “gamification” trend in education, making a game out of learning phrases and words. For young students accustomed to playing games during their off-hours from school, or for adults who have a few minutes to kill on the bus, these game apps are meant to help with casual, conversational language learning in languages like Spanish, Italian, French, German, Mandarin, and Portuguese.
One of the biggest players in the language-learning game app realm is MindSnacks, and as Mindy Eve Myers, Director of Education explains it, the point of the app is not necessarily to teach the language to the point of fluency, but to keep players engaged with something more productive than killing pigs.
“The reason that we wanted the games to look they way they did and to be able to be played in short bursts of time is that we wanted them to fit into those awkward moments of the day where you’ve got a couple of minutes to kill,” Myers said. “So, instead of playing Angry Birds, you can practice your Spanish vocabulary.”
Here’s how it works: You have to match the English word with the Spanish word, for example, “nine” and “nueve,” before the fish tank empties. The water drains faster and faster as numbers are thrown at you.
Another game on the menu: meteors falling to earth, with numbers or vocabulary to match before the meteor crashes into houses. Or your spelling is checked by tapping on parachutes falling to the Continue reading
[UPDATE Feb. 3, 2012: Please see additional clarification from both of the researchers of the studies cited in this article below.]
Scientists are notorious for questioning the veracity of publicized research — and with good reason. They want to know: Who conducted the research? Where was it published? What were the survey questions?
It’s that much more important when it comes to evaluating research in education that will affect the investment decisions of teachers, parents, and administrators.
Case in point: does the iPad boost student learning? Is it a solid educational tool, as the headline from a recent article in Wired magazine says, maintaining that the devices are improving student engagement and assessment.
The article draws on two recent studies conducted on iPad apps: one on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Fuse Algebra I app (see MindShift’s coverage here) and one on Motion Math’s fraction app (see MindShift’s coverage here). Both of these studies tout positive results for the apps in question: In the case of the former, state standardized test scores jumped by 20%; in the case of the latter, students’ scores improved an average of 15%.
Both studies were commissioned by the companies in question; Motion Math hired an independent researcher and Houghton used both the research firm Empirical Education and its own staff to Continue reading
There’s been speculation for months now — at least since the release of the Steve Jobs biography — about Apple’s plans to take on the textbook publishing industry. And today at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, we finally got a glimpse of what the company has been planning since long before the death of its co-founder.
As Apple’s Phil Schiller noted in his opening remarks today, “Education is deep in our DNA… and has been since the very beginning.” And while that may be true, it was one of the company’s most recent inventions — the iPad — that took center stage today as the ideal learning device, with Apple touting kids’ (of all ages) love and desire for the tablets.
Apple boasted the adoption that iPads have already seen — some 1.5 million iPads already in use at educational institutions, with over 1000 schools having 1:1 iPad programs. Apple also noted the rich app ecosystem that’s been built around the iPad as a learning device — over 20,000 educational apps made specifically for the device.
While the mantra throughout the event was “iPad, iPad, iPad,” the focus of much of today’s event was on textbooks — digital textbooks — and Apple’s insistence that these are “not always the ideal learning tool.” Apple unveiled several new tools that it argued would move the “great content” found in textbooks into a new, interactive, durable, portable format — in other words, move the textbooks onto the iPad.
Reading: Apple introduced iBooks2, an update to its iOS e-book app (which sadly still isn’t accessible on Macs, let alone on Windows machines) that offers a new category specially for interactive digital textbooks. These new e-textbooks contain many of the features we’ve been more accustomed to seeing in interactive e-book apps rather than in the iBookstore — videos, photos, Continue reading