The TechCHAT series invites teachers, media specialists and other educators from across the country and around the world to share how they’re using technology to enhance instruction and student learning. Contact us about sharing your classroom tech ideas and lessons learned.
Charly James is a tech contributor to Bits & Bytes and Dandelion Moms, social media manager for Ellie’s Games, and founder of One APPY Mama. A “supermom” and education enthusiast, James answered some of our questions about apps in the classroom.
Read part 1 of James’ TechCHAT.
In what ways has EdTech affected the learning process of the children in your life? What has been your experience watching your kids reach learning objectives through EdTech?
For me, EdTech has benefited my son the most. My son is on the spectrum and has a mitochondrial disease (along with other medical diagnoses). He’s been in therapy for many years, and we’ve always implemented traditional uses of it; however, there came a time when the benefits of traditional therapy seemed to reach a plateau.
As with many children on the spectrum, technology seems to reach them on a much deeper and different level than I think is really understood right now. When I won an iPad for him, it changed everything. He had been non-verbal up until about nine months before that, and at the time he held it in his hands, he rarely spoke.
It all has changed. From the speech apps that our wonderful SLP/OT recommended (some worked, some failed) to the games he would work towards for goals, we tried many until we found “just the right one” for math or reading or science. It has opened the door up to where he can take his love of space to another level by being able to find and see just about anything virtually (before, I would need to take him to the library or museum to see things).
There are apps we have used for one thing only to discover that they worked great for something else. Take Ellie’s Games, for instance. I originally purchased one of the apps to help with the alphabet, and come to find out it was very calming (not just for him, but me, too), and so it became a go-to for anxiety.
With the help of technology, my kids are reaching and surpassing both their school and home objectives. My daughter started reading early, and a lot of that had to do with our use of tablets (iPad and Android) and her being included in a lot of the therapy my son attended, since she went everywhere we went (as is probably the norm in most households with a special-needs child). In addition, there are several apps for rewarding children, and I have tried them all and found the one that works for us. I have an app that has taught my children to “save” their money from birthdays, the tooth fairy, etc. and work toward a goal of buying a particular item. There are apps that have helped my son with brushing his teeth or social stories for him (and even my daughter). I could name so many apps that we use on a daily basis not just educationally, but for fun. I wish that all children both at school and at home could have the opportunity to use iPads/tablets and the apps that are available.
I should also point out that I’m one of those moms who allows her kids to play online. I have the PC set up on a browser that is for children, and I have spoken with them both regarding online safety. I limit where they can go. Right now they are allowed to play either JumpStart.com or MoshiMonsters.com, and it’s a good fit for us. I am able to help them on their missions, and they love both sites (for different reasons). We’ve been able to use both of these sites as learning tools with reading, for figuring things out and as good behavior tools. We also use starfall.com, abcya.com and abcmouse.com. I am comfortable knowing they are learning, and I like that there are sites out there for their age, since they see me online.
When I first received the iPad for my son and was teaching myself about iPads and apps (and developers), I was fortunate to find App Friday. This is where a group of developers (open to all), along with momswithapps, will set a grid of apps free for one day (every Friday). During the App Friday parties, developers will come onto the “App Friday” Facebook page and promote their apps, while you learn about the ones being offered free that day.
I also found an online Facebook party that Melissa Northway was hosting, and I started helping her with her online Facebook parties. We hold them at a minimum every other month and sometimes each month (depending on sponsors and/or holidays, etc.), and we recently set up a Facebook page. I also help with her newest creation, Dandelion Moms, and write some of the tech pieces there.
I’ve been lucky to interact with a lot of great people and some wonderful developers. After a lot of correspondence, I started helping the founder/creator behind Ellie’s Games, Erik Bye, with some social media. I also run across sales on apps and do my best to help the ladies on Bits & Bytes list those as well.
My life is all about tech and sharing it with others. We have to work together to give our kids what they need in this ever-changing society, and I like to think that those with whom I have surrounded myself are the best of the best. I hope those reading who have questions will contact me regarding apps and how they can help all learners.
Read part 1 of James’ TechCHAT.