Gustaw Groth, CEO of Polish studio Frugoton, explains how education apps and tablets can aid a child's development

The future of pre-school education is in tablet games

In 2010, when the much-anticipated iPad was finally released, there was little doubt that it would make serious waves across many industries.

But few imagined the influence it would have on education by enabling students to interact with their learning material, and even fewer could see the benefits it would bring to preschool education.

Nowadays, the iPad is the most popular tablet option among educators, and it has proven to be especially popular in early education. Both children and adults are drawn to tablets because they are fun and intuitive, and also because of the wide variety of entertainment and education apps available on the App Store.

No Child Left Untableted

During the past two years we have seen an explosion in the use of mobile media platforms and apps among young children. The main reason behind this trend is that access to tablets and mobile devices has dramatically increased: Apple has sold 170 million iPads since the first one launched in April 2010.

According to research by Common Sense Media, in 2011 about 52 per cent of all children aged eight and under lived in a home where they had access to a smartphone or a tablet, compared to 75 per cent in 2013. Looking specifically at tablets, eight per cent of families with one to eight-year-olds owned an iPad or a similar tablet device in 2011. Today it’s about 40 per cent of families. 

Interactive Education and Early Development Theories.

Since parents see tablets as educational and creative tools, as opposed to a consumer tool, our goal is to show them what the iPad can do for their children. Our first app was released in July 2013, and since then we have shipped four more, all dedicated to the development of essential pre-school skills utilising the functionality of an iPad and touch screen technology.

When we started working on our first game, we found ourselves fascinated with child development theories that began to emerge early in the 20th Century. You might wonder, “Why it is important to study how children grow and change?” Understanding child’s development is essential because it allows us to fully realise how the child learns and apprehends information, which in return gives us the advantage of choosing the best way to educate them.

Our approach to interactive education was inspired by the Pattern Recognition Theory of Mind that was popularized by Ray Kurzweil. We compared popular brain science theories to early development trends, and realised that the least effort is put into education during the time when our brain is the most open to learning and enriching influences.

After a year of extensive research, our team of educators created a unique curriculum that is based upon the development of the most important early education skill areas: language and communication, problem solving, knowledge acquisition, memory, focus, and general purpose abilities, all of which will be useful for their entire life.

Education And Games

Our first game, Frugoton Shapes and Colors, was based on shape and color recognition. This game was devoted to the development of logic, categorisation, as well as color and shape recognition skills. We decided to add exciting reward animations to stimulate the child to continue moving up the levels – and it worked. According to our focus group, this motivated children to play more and be proud of their accomplishments.

Frugoton Space Numbers was dedicated to the learning the basics of math. This game helps children to identify numbers from zero to nine, recognise their sound, and trace them. When we started testing this app, we realised that it needed a “game” element to be added, so we included puzzle games that made the learning process more diverse.

Our most recent app, Frugoton City Letters, is the most complex of all. This game we dedicated to the basics of communication. We wanted to teach children to identify alphabet letters, recognise their sounds, trace them, and solve puzzles and mini-games – all by using the best of the iPad’s capabilities. We are proud that this game has received the highest recognition from parents. 

After more than a year of research, we realised that we had stumbled upon a very important area by developing our own system of skills and methodology. Then our educators decided to pack it all into one app and share it with parents, and that’s how The Parent Guide was created.

The app is undergoing final testing and will be released on the App Store in early 2014. The Parent Guide will bring parents a detailed pre-school curriculum, which is aligned with U.S. Common Core standards, along with explanations on what, how and why to teach.

We are focused on providing easy tools on the basis of education, versatile solutions of everyday parenting problems, hundreds of activities, recommendations, and interesting articles on pre-school development activities, as well as useful parenting tips.

Because playing games is usually thought of as fun, and learning sometimes thought of as…well, not so fun, there is an opportunity to bring fun and learning together. A child can do something fun on their tablet, and learn at the same time. That’s why Frugoton believes that the future of pre-school education is in educational apps and games.

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