Mobile Learning Program provides free PBS KIDS apps to low-income communities
The program, a component of the Ready To Learn Initiative, recently added Wild Kratts “Creature Math” and Dinosaur Train “Classic in the Jurassic Jr.” to the list of apps available
Loading dinosaurs onto a train. Playing games with a talking dog. Building odd-shaped houses with outer space robots.
These aren’t just scenarios that expand kids’ imaginations, and they’re not just games based on PBS KIDS shows. Apps from Martha Speaks, Dinosaur Train, and Cyberchase are now included in the Mobile Learning Program, part of the Ready To Learn Initiative that provides parents and educators in high-need communities with free gift codes for PBS KIDS iOS apps.
The Mobile Learning Program began in March 2012 with two apps – “All Aboard the Dinosaur Train” and “Dinosaur Train Camera Catch.” Today, the program boasts seven apps; Dinosaur Train “Classic in the Jurassic Jr.” and Wild Kratts “Creature Math” are the most recent additions. “Creature Math” lets kids protect their own wildlife sanctuary by practicing addition and subtraction to gather resources for their creature pals. “Classic in the Jurassic Jr.” asks kids to use math skills – like counting, sorting, and using a pan balance – to help Gilbert prepare Troodon Town for the big event.
David Lowenstein, the senior director of Ready To Learn at PBS, said the idea for the program took form as PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting discussed ways to work with partners in high-need communities to provide low-income parents and educators with free PBS KIDS mobile content.
“We want parents and educators in underserved communities who have access to smartphones and tablet devices to be able to download a variety of PBS KIDS apps for free. Through the Mobile Learning Program, they can,” Lowenstein said. “It supports the efforts of PBS member stations, Head Start centers, and other outreach partners to help bridge the achievement gap and improve the learning outcomes of children in their communities through free, anytime, anywhere, evidence-based content. And it demonstrates that every technology can offer an opportunity for learning,” he added.
Tracy Williams, the program coordinator for the Mobile Learning Program, makes calls every week to organizations that request these free app codes. They discuss plans to distribute the codes, answer each other’s questions, and share excitement.
“I’m helping people in underserved communities gain access to children’s content that builds key math and literacy skills,” Williams said regarding why the program is significant. “I come from an underserved community, so I understand the importance.”
Williams is originally from Harlem, New York, and distributed codes there last July.
“I hope to see the program expand a lot and get codes to people who need them,” Williams said. “I also hope it increases the quality of life of kids who need educational opportunities when it comes to gaming.”
Three Fun Ways to Use the Digital Camera to Build Early Math Skills
By Matt Gomez, http://mattbgomez.com
The digital camera has always been my favorite tech tool because it can give the child a voice in their learning. Nothing is more powerful than giving kids some control and choice in activities, and the digital camera lends itself to that well. Since most teachers and parents already have a camera and there is little to no cost involved with taking pictures, I believe it is a highly underused tool.
Here are my three favorite ways to help kids learn math using the camera:
1. Recognizing Patterns
Identifying, creating and completing patterns can help kids learn important problem solving and mathematical reasoning skills. PBS KIDS has a great app called Dinosaur Train Camera Catch that helps young kids work on patterns while practicing how to take pictures. My favorite part of the app is that the kids have to spin and move around to find the dinosaurs, so they won’t just be sitting while playing.
Another way to learn about patterns with the camera is by simply taking pictures of manipulatives: toys or other items your child is interested in. In my kindergarten class the students have access to a camera anytime and they often use them to document patterns. To extend the activity, you can print the images and have the kids label the patterns ABAB, ABCABC, etc.
In my class, I always have a photographer in charge of taking pictures during our special activities. I print those images and use them as a literacy center. We also use the images to review vocabulary and practice ordinal words. A great way to introduce sequencing for preschool children is to allow them to document parts of their day with a camera. Start with routines like getting ready in the morning and build on the concept. The key is allowing the kids to take the images and decide what images are important for the story. I have found that encouraging them to take many pictures is best; you can always work together to select the best images later.
3. Number Sense
For the youngest learners the camera can be used to find sets of items that match a number or even the numeral itself. This is a fun way to keep kids engaged while shopping, at the grocery store or even driving in the car. Give them a camera, a number and let them go. As the kids get a better grasp of numbers and start working on breaking down numbers or addition, the camera is an amazing tool for documenting that learning. One activity we repeat often in my class is called “Number of the Day.” I write a number on the board and the kids use simple objects, such as blocks, to show me different ways to create that number. They use the camera to document their ideas and then we work together as a class to write the math facts for each image.
These activities are only a few of the many uses the digital camera has in helping kids learn, practice and explore math topics while having fun.