September 27, 2016 - 6:30 PM
KAMLOOPS - Some students in Kamloops are helping build an app that will help with their own education.
After hearing from teachers frustrated with current apps used for education, Thompson Rivers University researchers and School District 73 are building their own to help students learn vocabulary, though expansion into other subjects is planned.
Juniper Ridge principal Michael Bowden says currently a prototype is being developed with the help of university computer science students and students in grades six and seven at Dufferin Elementary and Juniper Ridge Elementary.
“It’s quite original, we haven’t seen anything out there yet that’s similar,” he says.
Initially researchers from TRU were looking into whether technology helped education and, somewhat the their surprise it did make an appreciable difference. However, when speaking with teachers the group found they weren’t happy with the apps available, in particular the lack of flexibility and access to information.
“We got to talking with the TRU computer science people and asked ‘how hard is it to develop our own app?’” Bowden says.
That led to an innovation grant last year from the district, which gives staff funding to pursue projects just like Kidsapp. Last year the the back end of the app was built and a basic interface. Now the team is looking to build on top of that, with input from teachers and students.
“This year we’re hoping to develop the game aspect,” Bowden says. “We want to make it into a learning video game.”
Bowden would like to see the app allow students to build their own basic games to play, with information and lessons built in. The creation of the games inside the app will also help teach students basic coding.
“The students can actually design the game,” he says. “They could design, say, a race or a little adventure.”
The app will also allow teachers to collect information on how students do, so they know what areas are difficult for students.
The feedback the teachers get from the game can help inform lesson plans, and do it much faster and precisely than other types of feedback.
Right now bugs are still being worked on and lots of specifics are being figured out. Students from the elementary schools are working on the look of the app and what they’d like to see with TRU students who are developing the coding.
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