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Educational applications _Research

Looking for interactive educational applications / games for kids, the first link I found was by BBC (link). I think it is a mixed bag: bad mixed with more bad (different style though) That is of course just my opinion and I am not suggesting that I am in a position myself in terms of computer programming to produce a very complex application; however, I feel that there is a problem with the thinking and actual scope of these.

The first app I looked one in which you basically ‘assemble’ a human body, going into a lot of detail. This is actually a relatively sophisticated app with a strong educational character..however, I think it is quite boring and I can’t imagine a kid actually bothering with it. When I tried ‘playing’ with it, I actually couldn’t do it because the organs had to be rotated correctly as well before being placed on the figure (!) This makes me think that the designers/developers of this app weren’t really thinking about the target group while creating it.

I also looked at a ‘dj’ app in the same web site. This is a lot more fun and playful than the previous one. However, I strongly object the visual language. The application claims to be for the age group 9-11, however the visual style is more appropriate for 4-7 year olds. Kids are more advanced than we tend to give them credit for.

I then came across some excellent educational games at NobelPrize.org (link). I believe that these are successful in creating something that is fun and educational at the same time.

A very big selection of apps was found at Knowledge Adventure (link), and -as expected- results varied. I feel that the term ‘educational’ is used in a not-so-strict way on this web site. Also..who says that children-related web sites should definitely be in Comic Sans? (argh!) Surely there must be a better font that is playful and appropriate for kids..

‘Math Blaster’ (link) looks like an interesting way to turn a true game into something that is educational, but I feel that this approach is too different to what would be appropriate for my project.

Another web site I visited, called ‘Play Kids Games’ (link) turned out to be a surprise: after a horrible navigation system on the web page and use of Comic Sans, when (and if) you manage to get to the actual games, they are pretty good. They are similar to the best ones that can be found in ‘Knowledge Adventure’.

At this point of research, I realised that most web sites have the same style of games/apps as ‘Play Kids Games’ and ‘Knowledge Adventure’ and there is no point in looking more of the same again and again. Out of the remaining web sites, I only include ‘Fun Brain’ (link) because of its occasional use of photographic backgrounds, which makes it just a little bit different from the rest.

12 Education Tech Trends to Watch in 2012 (article)

Another article (link) posted by my tutor on facebook, which is of particular interest to me since I am examining educational applications. 

The two things I found most interesting are these:

“NATURAL USER INTERFACES.  The last few year have brought about a number of important innovations in the ways in which we interact and interface with technology: motion-sensing as with the Microsoft Kinect, the touchscreen of the iPhone, the voice-activation of Siri. Just as the graphical user interface, the GUI, opened computer technologies to new populations (specifically non-programmers), these natural user interfaces will likely push those things further forward, increasing accessibility.”

“GAMING. Game-based learning has been on the cusp of being “the next big thing” for a while now. Perhaps 2012 will be the year. With the flourishing of mobile technologies, with the promise of data and analytics, and with a realization that we can create new and engaging ways to move through lessons, we are likely to see an explosion of educational gaming apps this year. The big question, of course — with this as with every new ed-tech development: does this actually improve learning? When is a educational game fun? What makes it engaging? What makes it actually educational?”

A brief rant on the future of interactive design (article)

This article (link) was posted by my tutor on facebook and contains some interesting thoughts on interactive design.

Something that I found particularly useful:

“The central component of this Interactive Future?..Hands.. Hands do two things. They are two utterly amazing things, and you rely on them every moment of the day, and most Future Interaction Concepts completely ignore both of them. Hands feel things, and hands manipulate things.”

Yesterday’s tutorial

I had a meeting with my tutor yesterday, which helped to clear things up regarding the direction I’m taking.

I started by explaining the thought about an application regarding air pollution and why I think it wouldn’t unfortunately work.  Then we discussed the two main application ideas: solar system and meteorology.

An important suggestion would be to create a narrative in the solar system idea, make it more playful and strengthen the fictional element. I believe this is an excellent idea as it would make the app more engaging for children and would also differentiate it more to the web site I found a few days ago. As a matter of fact, before this suggestion I was prepared to reject the solar system idea (even though it was the one that resonated more on a personal level) for the sake of the meteorology one. This has changed now and my preferred concept is the solar system one.

Another interesting suggestion was to explore new technologies of sensors and ways of navigations, e.g. electronic glove.

simplified meterology

Rain

From Climate Change Matters (link ):

“Raindrops are formed from water condensing out of moist air that cools. This can occur in three main ways:

  • over mountain ranges as moist air is forced to rise into cooler altitudes,
  • as warm moist air meets colder air at a “cold front” or
  • in storm clouds when hot moist air rises into cooler altitudes as the ground is heated during summer days.

For rain to form, small dust particles or ice particles must be present in the air. Such particles attract the water as it condenses from the cooling air forming larger and larger raindrops. When the raindrops become too large to be supported by the upward wind within the cloud, they begin to fall. Large drops are formed when strong updraughts hold the drops in the clouds allowing more water to accumulate in each drop.”

From Weather Whiz Kids (link):

“Water droplets form from warm air. As the warm air rises in the sky it cools. Water vapor (invisible water in the air) always exists in our air. Warm air holds quite a bit of water. For example, in the summer it is usually very humid. When enough of these droplets collect together, we see them as clouds. If the clouds are big enough and have enough water droplets, the droplets bang together and form even bigger drops. When the drops get heavy, they fall because of gravity, and you see and feel rain.

What causes rain:When clouds develop or rain occurs, something is making the air rise. Several things can make this happen. Mountains, low-pressure areas, cold fronts, and even the jet stream.”

 

Snow

A simple video on youtube: link

From Climate Change Matters (link ):

“Snow is created when very cold conditions freeze the water as it condenses in the clouds. The crystals of snow form like rain around dust, but form light transparent ice crystals we know as snow, instead of raindrops. For snow to land, the temperature must be below 0°C, the freezing point of water.

Sleet is snow that has semi-melted while falling, having none of the beauty of snow, lacking the intricate hexagonal symatry of snow flakes and all the charisma of very cold rain!”

Thunderstorms

From Weather Whiz Kids (link):

“The basic ingredients used to make a thunderstorm are moisture, unstable air and lift. You need moisture to form clouds and rain. You need unstable air that is relatively warm and can rise rapidly. Finally, you need lift. This can form from fronts, sea breezes or mountains.”

Hail

From Climate Change Matters (link ):

“Intense updraughts created in a severe storm can suspend very large drops of water and even blow drops back up high into the tops of the storm clouds. If the rising droplets reach a high enough altitude the water freezes, forming hail. If the process of falling and being blown back high into the storm cloud continues, larger and larger hailstones are formed. Ultimately the hailstones gain enough mass to fall to Earth.

Hail is usually associated with tropical or summer thunderstorms. Stones as large as cricket balls are not uncommon in Australian storms.”

checking to see if there is a similar problem for the ‘metereology’ app concept

After realising that there is a solar system application rather similar to what I was planning, I rushed to check whether such a thing exists for my other main idea, metereology. Luckily, there isn’t! (phew). The closest thing I could find is THIS which just gives information about the weather in language that kids can understand, it’s not an application. Plus it looks hideous. A word of warning before visiting that website..it contains information in Comic Sans!

visual research for “Solar System” idea..and a PROBLEM

I never planned to follow the realistic approach of the following images – for instance, as the background instead of plain black I thought of using a dark paper texture..and the ice clouds or Mars would look like real compact ice. The following images though give an idea of a more ‘realistic’ view of the solar system:

As I was doing this research though, I came across an important problem: I found a website that has done something similar to what I was planning (in terms of functionality, not visual approach). The link to that is HERE.

It isn’t quite the same, however I do feel less confident about this concept after running into it, as it is also for kids and the navigation system is similar to what I was describing. However, the visual approach is different and when you click on a planet you are taken to an image of the planet from space – whereas with my idea you would be ‘standing’ on the planet’s surface looking at it and its atmosphere. Also, the idea of the mouse cursor being pulled by the ‘gravitational force’ of the planets is not present here.