Friday, March 16, 2012

Montessori Revolution

Montessori Revolution was created by MEDL MOBILE and is based off of the Montessori method of teaching. One of the main tenets of Montessori schools is a hands-on approach, that movement is important for learning and cognition. So on one hand, I can see how the interactivity of an iPad may go well with this tenet, but on the other hand, moving things around on a 2d screen is not the same as real world movement. Does Montessori activities really translate to apps? Price: $0.99 (for the initial drawing activity plus one of your choice - the rest are in-app purchases).

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPad.Requires iOS 4.0 or later.

Developmental Appropriateness: There are currently six available activities. With the initial purchase, I received The Canvas (freeform drawing), and The Moveable Alphabet. I then purchased The Short Bead Stairs (math) and The Pouring Exercise. Note - I originally wanted to purchase The Pink Tower as I know that as a staple Montessori activity, but received an error message instead. Anyway, back to my question of whether these activities translate well.... I think some better than others. The drawing activity is like other drawing apps - kids who like drawing will like this app. The alphabet activity functions fairly well where you would drag the letter to it's place, as you would a letter block or magnet. It also provides a clear breaking down of the letter-sounds for each word, and letter-sounds for each letter option. These activity seems to be more traditional, and thus the easiest of the Montessori activities to translate to an app. The other two activities work less well. The pouring activity, is exactly that - you pour objects from one beaker into another. While the innovation of translating this into an iPad activity is kinda cool, the movement of pouring using the iPad is not really the same movement of real life pouring. You do not feel the weight lessen as you pour nor does the overall motion seem natural. And further, it seems like there should be more of a goal to this activity, or at least more examples of pouring from different containers or different amount of objects. I was most disappointed with the Short Bead Stairs. This is also a pretty staple Montessori material. There are different colored connected beads to represent each number. The activity here asks for a number, say 3, so you would move the strand of 3 white beads over. First, the number they ask for is the same color as the beads of the right length. So you can just match color rather than number. But where this really falls short is that I think these beads could be used for so much more, but this app does not take you there. Often, these beads can be used to help solve basic math problems, like 2+3. So you could take the 2 red bead rod and the 3 blue bead rod (or whatever colors they are) and line them up with the 5 bead rod to see that they are the same amount. The beads also help in that you can count the individual beads, which you cannot do in this app. So in sum, I like the ideas of this app, but some of these activities do not maximize on the original intent. Rating: 3/5 (aim for around 4 years)

Balance: Overall, the app is presented in a clean, organized manner, similar to a Montessori school. This is down to the "shelves of activities". Where I do think it could use some improvement is on the instructions. You are presented with a pretty busy instruction screen (see pic). I think that some of these instructions could also be embedded in the activities as prompts. For example, in the alphabet activity, if there is no response for awhile, the app could prompt the child to tap on the picture to hear the word. Or if an incorrect response is given, then a prompt could be given to tap on the letters first to hear the sounds. It's great that this type of support is there, it just may be overwhelming to be presented it all at once and only on a help screen. Rating: 4/5

Sustainability: Some apps are more engaging than others. The pouring one is least (at least of the ones I tried, but I'm hoping the two that I didn't are better!). Once the child has figured out how to pour, then what? I know that another tenet of Montessori is no extrinsic rewards. While that's fine, the activities do need to have some sort of goal, don't you think? At least the alphabet has 3 levels that kids can work on and master. Rating: 3.5/5

Parental Involvement: This app provides a reporting feature where parents and or teachers can see what the child has done and how much time was spent doing it. It's item-level information, which is great for those who have time to look everything over, but I think it needs to also include some more general information. Rating: 3.5/5

Total: 14 out of 20 - 3 stars

Disclosure - I received this app for free for review purposes.

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