Criteria for Good Games and Apps
This week, one particular post kept flying across my Twitter and Facebook feeds, and I didn’t pay much attention other than to vaguely wonder what a “fact-based app” was. On Friday, someone who is not even a teacher shared it with me, and I finally woke up and paid attention. It was this piece by Tracy Johnston Zager (@tracyzager ): “My Criteria for Fact-Based Apps”. A fact-based app is typically marketed as fun and engaging games or activities for students to practice math skills at their own pace. I’ve had some experience with some of these apps, and after reading Tracy’s post, I realized what it was that was bothering me about a lot of them. Most of them use the math as a dangling carrot. There is a distinct border between the math and the fun.
Tracy lists her three baseline, non-negotiable criteria for recommending such an app: that there be no time constraint, that there be a conceptual basis for the operations, and that mistakes must be handled productively. Sounds kind of like a good classroom!
Tracy names a few apps that do it well, as well as some that don’t. I’ve always loved Explorelearning’s gizmos, and although they aren’t listed in the post, (which Tracy points out is not exhaustive), I think they would meet the criteria. She also directs readers to teacher.desmos.com (where I’ve been spending a lot of my time lately), for examples of engaging activities in which the math is indistinguishable from the fun (for example, marbleslides). I couldn’t agree more.
Written by Audrey McLaren (@a_mcsquared)