Wow, it’s been 9 months since my last post, and so much has happened since then. It’s been so busy, and I find myself so caught up in keeping track of other sites like my facebook page, the Parents with Apps forum (a ‘child’ of Moms with apps), various review sites, and promotions such as the AppyBack2School even being run throughout August by the Technology in (Spl) Education website.
This all started out as a hobby for me. I wanted to keep my hand in some contemporary development, and I’ve always loved working with Apple products (and that goes back more years than I care to admit).
After my last post, back in October 2011, I came to the realisation that kids are getting through primary school without learning some basic skills. I went to a parent information evening at the school which turned out to be all about parents needing to help their kids with their math skills. Kids entering this school at Year 7 come from all over, and the range of abilities/knowledge was apparently quite diverse.
So I set out to write what was going to be a simple Times Tables app to do my bit. My kids were not having any trouble, but it highlighted to me that there was a need. Looking at the app store, I could see that there was plenty of competition, but it seemed that there was still room to move as people seemed to want something more.
Thus, Tap Times Tables was created over the next month or so. Both of my kids got involved with it’s design and interaction, and whilst it hasn’t broken any records, it’s done OK, certainly better than I had expected given the flooded market.
Soon after it’s release, I was asked to write a similar app for addition and subtraction, and Math Plus Minus is the result.
So, for the next little bit, leading up to the end of the Australian school year, both apps were out there, and were quite a celebration of having done something positive. I could see that the apps were being used on a daily basis, and from some of the feedback emails I was receiving, I could also see that they were being used within school environments.
Then the school holidays hit, and sales took a bit of a dive. Even today, although I have never specifically targeted Australia, my sales here have far outweighed those overseas. Not having any sort of marketing ability, I just accepted it and waited for school to go back.
Now, recently, the northern hemisphere has gone on holidays, and it seems that the entire education app developer community is spending a great deal of time trying to keep the sales happening during the break.
I’ve been so busy with new app development on the side that I’ve not had time to join in the marketing in the way I probably should have.
In an attempt to rectify this, I’ve shelved my other app work and am currently adding some really great features to both math apps that will make them far more useful in a classroom environment. My hope was to have these released by the 1st of August to coincide with the AppyBack2School promotion during August, but I’m running behind.
What have I been doing? Well, to start with I’ve added the ability for a teacher to, via a Google Docs spreadsheet, enter a roster of student names for an entire year level and import this into the apps. This means that for a school which has a bank of iPads or iPod Touches with my apps installed, they can hand them out to students and allow the students to use the apps, recording their results against their name, and reporting it back to a teacher via email.
A sample spreadsheet for this would look like the following:
In this example, we have a roster for Grade 4, comprising 4 classes of students where the name of each class includes the name of the teacher.
In addition to this, I’ve added the ability to create a lesson. Each lesson consists of one or more questions that can be played in the main game of the app. The beauty of this is that the teacher can now take control of what questions the students are answering. They can even specify what incorrect answers will be shown so that all students are presented with the same options on screen (thus levelling the play field).
Combining this with the roster, it becomes easy for the teacher to distribute a “test” to students within the app that they can sit, and then submit results for.
An example lesson for Tap Times Tables is:
In this example, we have 12 questions for a lesson called “Mixed tables”.
I’m really pleased with these changes to the apps, as they really represent a move from being what started out as “simple” learning aids, to becoming real classroom aware tools.
It is my sincere hope that with the beginning of the school year in the northern hemisphere, my efforts within the apps, and the efforts of people like Siva at Technology in (Spl) Education that I’ll see the apps being used more and more.
I never went into this to get rich (although my family wouldn’t mind), but if I can bask in the inner glow of knowing I’ve helped some kids out, and made a little on the side as I do then that would be great.