Will these learning apps be teaching your children in the future?


At this year’s Bett 2016 educational technology show, learning apps, educational software and ICT companies battled it out at the Bett Awards. Dinosaurs fought secret agents; maths tried to take down literacy; ancient Mayan history came alive in the palm of your hand; while SuperMemo introduced us to the ‘forgetting curve’. More on that later.

Winner of the Early Years Digital Content category at the Bett Awards was Discovery Education Espresso: Dinosaurs. This Foundation stage module brings together Walking with Dinosaurs-style videos, activities, printable resources, images, books and music, developing children’s understanding of what it was like when these huge creatures roamed the Earth.

Discovery Education Espresso: Dinosaurs
The new Dinosaurs module in Discovery Education Espresso is a comprehensive multimedia journey back to the Mesozoic era.

In the Primary Digital Content category, Oxford University Press scooped the Bett Award for Big Writing Adventures. Designed to raise writing standards, BWA is a learning app that manages to make some of those tedious writing  basics — noun phrases and prepositions, subordinate clauses, adverbs and adverbials — more exciting, by casting children as agents working for a secret Big Writing Agency.

“The judges were impressed with the extent to which Big Writing Adventures engages learners. It also offers clear guidance to teachers and tracks progression well.”

The award for Primary Digital Content (Rest of Curriculum) went to Maya: A Journey through the Maya World. Created by London Grid for Learning/Computeam in partnership with renowned Maya archaeologist Dr Diane Davies, this educational software includes innovative augmented reality features (via the LGfL ActiveLens app) and even the option to 3D print key Mayan artefacts, like a flute.

“This entry showed an interesting and engaging approach to teaching and learning and clearly addresses current needs in the National curriculum,” said the judges.

Maya: A Journey through the Maya World in Augmented Reality
Maya: A Journey through the Maya World comes with an Augmented Reality app to bring the course to life.

In the Secondary Digital Content category, SAM Learning bagged the Bett Award for its online homework and exam-preparation service. Over 70,000 absorbing activities are available on the platform, across core secondary education subjects including maths, English, science, computing, history, geography, French, German and Spanish.

Can you answer this sample maths question?

Ash Grove Primary School’s year four classes are going on a field trip to the Science Centre. Six classes of students are getting ready to board the buses. If a bus can hold 1 2/5 classes, how many buses will they need to transport all of the students and supervisors to the Science Centre? You can try some more of the sample activities for yourself on the SAM Learning website.

A SAM Learning maths question
The SAM Learning website features over 70,000 activities to help kids understand everything from French to fractions.

You’ve probably forgotten about the ‘forgetting curve’ by this point. The curve maps the decline of memory retention over time and shows how information is lost when there is no concerted attempt to retain it. SuperMemo World, which won the Educational Apps category at the Bett Awards, teaches the SuperMemo method allowing students to “memorize thousands of words, facts and rules, once and for all.”

It does so through Olive Green, interactive film that students play as much as watch. With a strong female character and engaging heist-gone-wrong plot, it’s part action movie, part learning app, part comprehensive film-based English course.

Olive Green by SuperMemo
SuperMemo’s Olive Green project is part interactive movie, part comprehensive English course.

“The [Bett] judges saw this as a very engaging app with a good main character and a range of student activities. Good for self study as well as a group and simple to use.”

The Bett Awards culminated with the award for ICT Innovator of the Year. Beating the highly commended Ohbot robotic head into second place was Makewaves — a community of thousands of schools sharing their creativity and raising achievement through badges.

Schools can create their own badges to mark educational achievements and then share them online. The badge library already includes the likes of Reporter and Healthy Eating badges, Introduction to Arduino and Rainforest Researcher. When a child completes the ‘mission’, they earn the badge.

The Makewaves Badge Library
The badge library on the Makewaves site shows the wide range of badges and missions available for children.

“The [Bett] judges felt the winners had created an interesting and creative tool that has the potential to motivate learners, and to recognise and value the achievement of young people.”

If the winners of the 2016 Bett Awards are any indication, the future of education will revolve around learning apps and personalised education software, interactive movies, augmented reality and 3D printing. While a child’s progress may well be marked by CV-enhancing digital badges akin to PlayStation Trophies or Xbox Achievements.

It wasn’t as exciting as this when I was at school. — Dean Evans (@evansdp)

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