09 Sep 2013
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Classroom apps developed by teachers

By Rebecca Wood

New Zealand has a long history of innovation in technology. In the education sector a number of apps are being developed by experts in the field – teachers themselves.

For two teachers at Te Akau Ki Papamoa, Glen and Monique Storey, their experience in the classroom led to the development of two apps for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

BookBot, a reading and writing app initially designed for special needs learners that is also having an impact for emergent readers and writers, was released in August 2012.

Their second app, Silent Light, was released in July this year and is designed to help students manage their noise levels in the classroom.

Monique Storey says they developed BookBot and Silent Light because they believe great apps should connect with and meet the needs of people.

“We are both passionate educators in one to one laptop classrooms and our apps came from seeing a need in our learners that we wanted to meet.”

BookBot was initially developed because Glen wanted to create a tool that would engage and enhance the literacy of a boy with downs syndrome in his class, while Silent Light was created from seeing the effectiveness of small group teaching.

“We saw a significant change in our learners when we decreased the size of our groups to three or four kids. In order to do this we needed something to help the rest of the learners to manage their noise while they’re working on independent tasks in a fun, interactive way,” says Monique. “We created Silent Light; a traffic light which monitors children’s noise levels and rewards learners for managing their volume.”

With research showing that noisy classrooms have a significant impact on learning, Silent Light is designed to help students create the optimum learning environment for the class. It uses the microphone in a device to monitor noise and shows the decibel level in an easy to understand traffic light system.

Teachers can negotiate noise level targets with students, ranging from ‘hear a pin drop’ to ‘airport’ and can set a personalised point system to motivate students.

As they both worked fulltime while developing the apps, the Storeys created a ‘5am club’ and worked on their apps first thing in the morning with Glen coding and Monique designing, testing and making improvements.

“We’ve got supportive and interested staff at our school, Te Akau ki Papamoa, who always give us great feedback and suggestions. Our students tend to be crash test dummies as well, and they give really honest feedback and suggestions.”

And their plans for future apps? “We are always thinking of ideas for apps that will make us better teachers – it’s just a matter of deciding which one to turn into an app next,” says Monique.

See www.topstoreyapps.com for more information on the apps.

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