Friday, October 5, 2012

Appy-Picking Month: Appy Politically Incorrect Holiday!

Last year I had an accidental app discovery. I was looking up a site that outlined an iPad "exploration" workshop for teachers and Googled "iPad exploration," which displayed as a result the free iPad app European Exploration: The Age of Discovery. Many of us have a lot of ambivalence about Columbus Day and the results of these discoveries, but it is part of the curriculum and can be a good opportunity to teach perspective taking. The app itself, created by a public television station in Virginia, is a very nice simulation in which kids can hire captains (after obtaining biographies and evaluating characteristics and skills), outfit ships, and trace a route to the "New World." Upon landing, ships make discoveries of geographic features, goods and peoples:

The notion of the whole world being blacked out until explored by Europeans is worth "exploring" with your kids.
For a free app, this one has quite a lot to offer in terms of interactivity and built-in educational relevance (for older kids, too!), even if it could be more enlightened.

Language Lens:
-Many students in grades 5-6 may not have the schema of the world map or compass points quite solidly, and these are good categories and concepts for SLPs to review.
-This app goes very well with Jane Yolen's Encounter (see my post on this), which presents the European conquest from a tribal boy's perspective.  The picture book is very story-mappable.
-In my experience, when left to their own devices, many of the kids have the "executive function" moment of crossing the ocean, finding one thing, then plotting another very long trip rather than just going to the next nearest harbor (which would inevitably afford them another discovery).  This app is a good one to work on planning.
-The categorical nature of the discoveries (and also the vocabulary involved) provides a good opportunity for sorting and quick research activities ("What kind of gum did I find?")

A couple caveats: the app doesn't save games, but a game or two can usually be completed in a session. I also noticed an error in the app- we discovered the Rio Grande in like, Maine. This provided a nice post-app opportunity; I asked the kids to write a letter to the developer about how they used the app, what they liked about it, and what could be improved.

Common Core Connection: 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

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