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The use of apps in education is an important area of innovation with many children getting access to their parent’s smartphones, tablets, and phablets.  Many schools are also looking at how these devices can be used in the classroom environment.  The annual BETT awards provides an opportunity for educators to acknowledge those who are making contribution in terms of digital content and ICT in the education space.

In the Primary Digital Content category, which aims to reward exemplary software and content for the primary sector, Collins Education – Collins Big Cat Apps were amongst the winners.

Collins Education has released eight iPad apps to help bring reading to life for young children.  These apps demonstrate a ‘next steps’ approach in the design of apps aimed at young children, and with a particular focus on literacy and reading.  The most impressive aspect is not just the move from flat to interactive reading; it is the next step, encouraging children not just to read, but to be storyteller and publisher also.

The Farmer’s Lunch was the first app from this range which we discovered. It was incredibly popular with my four year old son (who is slowly turning into my number one app reviewer).  One of the great things about these apps are that they are modern, yet they don’t lose their traditional quality.

Age appropriate font and picture book illustrations which are crisp and bright are just two features which make these books a great resource for the primary classroom.  A light touch of humour makes for laugh out loud moments: from the sheep jumping up in the air to reveal the Farmer’s sandwich, to the banana being cunningly disguised as the bull’s horn!

The best feature was Story Creator and could be utilised by a range of ages. This feature could be used with siblings at home or for buddy reading across the year groups in school.  Based on the story which has just been read it allows you to create your own version:

  • Changing the scene
  • Adding objects and characters
  • Resizing objects and characters

Additionally, you can add your own text in a range of different speech bubbles – to differentiate you can type directly or use the key words bank provided.

And finally…you can even record your own story.  The ownership which this could bring to pupils makes this a great idea – as a teacher the focus could be:

  • Individual pupil as publisher or
  • Creating a group story which demonstrates team work

From a parent’s point of view this could encourage siblings to share and work together.  This excellent resource supports reading development whilst retaining the fun factor for reluctant readers – both at home and at school.

This year the BETT show (an annual trade show which showcases the use of information technology in education) recognised the quality of this app and Collins Education – Collins Big Cat Apps won a well deserved award – Primary Digital Content: exemplary software and content for the primary sector.  I believe it was well deserved as it helps to set the bar high in this important new market.

To see such high quality software being created for the primary sector in the UK is really encouraging; these apps are free and accessible both at home and at school.  We must continue to move forward and support the development of ICT and innovation in the primary phase.  In years to come, many of our primary pupils will be working in roles that have not been invented yet.  If we inspire them with technology now, who knows what they could be capable of in the future.

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