Increasingly, apps and games are used in the classroom to motivate learning around language, math and more. Many companies are leveraging the talents and specialties of education professionals and therapists to deliver increased learning quality in its technologies.

Rynette Kjesbo began her career as a speech-language pathologist providing therapy to infants, children and adults before joining Super Duper Publications, a learning apps publisher for students with special needs. She now uses her speech-language pathology experience to develop easy-to-use and fun learning materials for students with special needs. Kjesbo has answered a few questions for Getting Smart on the research and reasoning behind some of their most popular apps.

Super Duper takes in psychological factors when developing games in order to improve learning motivation, retention and more. Kjesbo says, “If a student is not motivated to use an app, then learning cannot take place. If the app is fun and engaging but doesn’t have any content to it, then learning cannot take place. If the student is unable to retain what they have learned, then did they really learn it in the first place?”

Educational technologies help to diversify the modes in which learning happens. Kjesbo emphasizes the importance of learning styles when she says, “Because apps are able to utilize technology to present information in a variety of ways, I think that they are great supplemental tools for teachers to have in their instructional toolkits, which also includes traditional instruction, visual supports, hands-on activities, and other teaching methods.”

What makes the apps most effective for learning? Kjesbo says, “We understand that because children are drawn to technology, apps can be a great tool for teachers and therapists. On more than one occasion I have seen a therapist pull out her iPad and immediately capture the attention of her students. I think the most effective learning apps are the ones that capture a student’s attention, have solid educational content, and provide educators and students with opportunities to discuss and expand on information presented in the app.”

How has Super Duper leveraged games to increase motivation to learn new ideas through apps? Kjesbo says, “I think that games and apps are a great way to get students interested and motivated to participate in their education. However, I think we need to be careful about trying to let games and apps do ALL of the teaching. That’s why Super Duper has created many open-ended educational products and apps. The open-ended format gives educators and students the opportunity to give answers that may be slightly different from the norm, but this format allows for more discussion and new learning opportunities.”

What are 10 apps that you’d recommend to educators or parents interested in using apps for learning across all subject areas with their elementary school students? Kjesbo says, “As a therapist, the Super Duper Data Tracker would have been my ultimate favorite app! Data is so important but was always a challenge to collect while trying to work with multiple students with differing disabilities. The Super Duper Data Tracker allows therapists to customize goals and data to meet their needs and the needs of their individual students. Then it presents the data in tables and graphs that are easy to understand and interpret.”

Below are 9 additional apps, grouped by category, Kjesbo recommends for elementary students with special needs:

Vocabulary

Basic skills

Grammar

Inferencing

Social Skills

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