Thoughts from a Teacher-Turned-App-Developer

As a former teacher, the promise in mobile devices and app stores is the accessibility of content. Once over the elation of touch screens and the lack of cords (I had been a kindergarten teacher), I quickly segued to “Wow! I can sell products directly to teachers; no district bureaucracy required.” And less than a minute thereafter I thought, “Parents can have access to the same caliber of supplies, via the same app stores!” There was a giant shift in my worldview as a developer of technology products for children, and the year was 2010.

A mad dash ensued to fill the App Store and Google Play that soon evolved into a tsunami of creativity—any Average Joe with a home computer could program an app. In the blink of an eye, there were literally millions of apps available for download.

“Discoverability” was added to the lexicon of the aforementioned millions of app developers: the ability of consumers to recognize that a given app even exists. Big players entered the arena alongside the Average Joe’s. Disney was in the mix, DreamWorks, and game developers like Sega. Average Joe’s can make an app, but can they compete? Can they afford to market their work when apps sell for $0.99?

New reading standards suggest, and annual tests require, that very young children now interpret and react to nonfiction content as a way to boost vocabulary and STEM-readiness. And yet there is very little nonfiction content available for kids in primary grades.

America’s economic future resides in STEM fields and jobs requiring college educations. And yet 66% of America’s fourth graders are less-than-proficient readers (NAEP, 2015). How do we bridge the gap between children being poor readers and later becoming chemists, engineers, or computer scientists? I would like to take a crack at that challenge.  Learning resources like A is for Amphibians and Ocean Forests (both available for free download) will give teachers the tools they need to bridge that gap for students.

If you’re a teacher, tell parents. If you’re a parent, tell teachers. We’re all in this together and continuity is possible—and even easy! Here’s to being focused and targeted in one’s search for fun, meaningful, and useful materials for classrooms and the backseats of cars!