It has been such a joy to work with Head Start teacher Rania and her preschoolers on the Next Generation Preschool apps over the last two years! Here’s a short video from our last visit of the school year (thanks to a third party app called Magisto!):
We’re sad to see some of our young friends graduate from preschool, but excited for what their lives will bring! Good luck, and many thanks to Head Start, Rania, and her class!!
As we work hard to put the final touches on the subitizing app suite, we wanted to take a moment and reflect on why we do what we do, and why all of the hard work is worth it.
Play Testing Tip #2: Come with a protocol.
Arriving at your testing session with a plan for what you want your testers to take for a spin and what questions you want to ask will help you make sure you get the most of each session. Start with what’s most important to you (is the child able to navigate the game? Does he or she learn what I want them to learn?) and then follow it up with some nice-to-knows (can the child beat the highest level? Does he or she like the background music?). That way, if your session is cut short, you’ll still walk away with the information you and your team need to move forward with your game.
And be sure to watch and listen for those unexpected moments of insight! If you notice something interesting happening, going off-script is A-OK!
Play Testing Tip #1: Watch and listen.
When you hand over your game to a child, your first instinct may be to explain to him or her how to play. But simply watching and listening allows you to see if your game is intuitive enough for the child to pick up on their own and, even more importantly, to learn the expectations of these young technology users and capture the thought process and solutions of each child. In this way, you’ll learn more from the child, and that’s true kid testing.
This video from the field features children collaborating to figure out how to take pictures of each other so that they can appear in our “Photo Friends” game. Add a dash of teacher facilitation and a thoughtfully designed game for math learning, and we have a very potent combination for learning with technology.
This child is playing our Lemonade Stand game for the first time. This was a HIGHLY debated game mechanic – using the accelerometer – kids lifting and shaking the tablet not only caused concern about damage but also that the mental energy consumed by learning the game mechanics would displace mathematical thinking. The “cognitive load” of learning and switching between multiple advanced game mechanics does not appear to be getting the way of his math learning.
It is such a joy for us to see children at our preschool partner classrooms using our activities! Take a look at some of these great shots from play testing:
Last week, we headed back into the preschools — this time focusing on social play and how our apps could encourage children to collaborate and interact. The most memorable moments of the day showed us our work is paying off.
Moment #1: BFBFFs (Bubble Fun Best Friends Forever)
We designed Bubble Fun as a two-player game to help children learn to subitize. During the pilot study, two little boys were playing Bubble Fun as if they were champion tennis players. Their secret sauce? Friendship. They had been best friends all year, virtually inseparable, and that’s what helped them learn from each other while playing Bubble Fun.
Moment #2: The Wave
During free time, the preschoolers were allowed to choose which NGPM games they wanted to play. We noticed the games travel in waves. One child would open Sara Skates, and the child next to her would notice and do the same. Pretty soon all of the children at the table were playing the same game (until, of course, someone decided to switch games and the whole thing started over again).
Moment #3: Like a Boss
We’ve seen that preschoolers mimic each other and follow each other’s lead, and so we feel confident about bringing in game mechanics that are pretty new to preschoolers — like shaking the iPad. Shaking the iPad? Yep. Strange to a preschooler at first, but we’ve seen that children show each other how to play. By using different mechanics, the games allow children to be more social, to help each other, and to play with and learn from each other until they own the game play and the learning goals.
An integral part of our development process is taking our games out to preschools to test with kids. The kids show us how they use the iPads, which inspires us to think about what’s still needed. Check out some of the highlights from the testing of our games!
We’ve spent the past year scouring the market for the best educational apps for preschoolers. We even took these apps into our preschool partner sites to test with kids. Our conclusion? Working hand-in-hand with preschool children and preschool teachers (in addition to child development and early learning experts) makes all the difference in the effectiveness of the app — both in terms of learning and fun.
That’s what the Next Generation Preschool Math project is all about. But don’t just take it from us – we asked Little Sprouts what they thought, and their responses warmed our app-building, educational-technology-loving hearts.