In the last few years, I’ve worked with a lot of teachers using mobile devices in the classroom. The first week is always exciting – “There are SO many apps to choose from!” Yet, two weeks later, teachers’ attitudes have shifted from optimistic to overwhelmed. “There are SO many apps to choose from—how will I figure out which ones are actually good? And how on Earth am I going to figure out how to use them all effectively?!”
The educational app market is vast, but I think we’re all still trying to figure out how to use these apps effectively in schools. Integrating apps in the classroom without supporting materials is a bit like trying to assemble IKEA furniture without the instructions—time consuming, frustrating, and ultimately off-putting. You might remember what the desk looked like in the store, but can’t for the life of you replicate it with all the funny-looking pieces in front of you.
As educational media producers, it’s not enough for us to simply tell teachers about our products, we should be showing them how to use our products effectively. Years ago, supporting materials came from textbook publishers—the same companies that sold the curricula in the first place. But what does this look like in our digital, à la carte age of apps? Like publishers before us, it’s our responsibility to provide supporting resources –this time by building them with teachers, not just for them.
That’s exactly what we’re working on at Launchpad Toys: a new model of classroom resources for educators using our apps—it’s called #LaunchpadEDU. Our goals are three-fold:
- Help educators learn to use our Toontastic app effectively
- Curate best practices and work with educators to create Common Core-aligned lesson plans and resources
- Start a dialogue amongst teachers using Toontastic to share ideas, provide support, and facilitate collaboration
Simply stated, #LaunchpadEDU is a collection of resources by teachers, for teachers. First-app-adopters (yeah, we said it 🙂 ) do exist. They’re out there now—integrating apps, writing articles, and sharing best practices. But the wider adoption of mobile devices in the classroom is all-too-quickly leaving less tech-savvy teachers searching for resources in a jungle of blogs, hashtags, and newsletters.
As children’s media producers, it’s our responsibility to start this conversation with educators, to find teachers using our products in innovative ways and broadcast their work to users worldwide. An app is not enough; we need to curate resources and best practices that enable teachers to inspire students with these powerful new tools. That’s what we’re doing with #LaunchpadEDU—we hope you’ll join us.
Hannah Clemmons is a playful storyteller and educational technology specialist working with Launchpad Toys to build a global storytelling network for kids. Hannah is a graduate of the Early Childhood Education program at Columbia College Chicago.
Andy Russell is a toy designer and a co-founder of Launchpad Toys — creators of Toontastic, MonkeyGram, and Toontastic Jr. Inspired by the movie BIG and a lifelong obsession with small brightly colored plastic bricks, Andy is a graduate of Learning Design programs at Stanford and Northwestern and has worked for companies like Hasbro and Sony PlayStation to design playful learning experiences for kids.