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Old Post Office, Discovery Centre, Homework

  • Girl Programming Robot with iPad

Brandon, Queen's Square | May 22, 2018

With the advent of touch technology, portable computing, and wireless internet access, many old technologies are being reborn, rebooted, and rediscovered. Our selection of apps for the iPad collection at the Old Post Office’s Discovery Centre (opening summer 2018) reflects this trend.

Do you remember learning how to write cursive script by tracing the alphabet on onion paper? In many schools cursive writing isn’t taught at all, but in recent years functional MRI scans suggest it is an important skill to develop, one that recruits important brain activity.

Cursive writing applications offer an introduction to handwriting before children get started with pen and paper. Instead of tracing on onion paper, children are prompted by colourful graphics and cartoons where to place their fingers and how to move them to draw the letters of the alphabet. A correct tracing rewards them with a short animation. For children in French immersion, French-style cursive is also an option on certain apps.

A similar application provides all the fun of finger painting with a few important additions. You can save your work digitally, send it home and combine it with the work of others allowing for a collaborative, connected experience that’s also creative. Of course there’s no substitute for sinking ones hands into actual paint, but where mess and clean-up are issues, apps offer a decent alternative.

Remember making flash cards to memorize words, multiplication tables, dates, and more? The Quizlet app allows you to make cards digitally, save them, borrow from the card decks of other users, share your own, and more. The app will even read the cards to you in realistic foreign accents. More and more teachers are making use of Quizlet and other such apps in their classrooms to reinforce learning and take the tedium out of memorization.

What about Q-Bert? Remember Q-Bert, the funky little video game character (who recently made a cameo in Wreck-It Ralph)? A tablet game called Lightbot borrows from the Q-Bert concept to teach children about basic programming. Instead of moving the character right away, children must compose a string of commands to move the robot to the desired destination and then execute it. Learning programming has been called the literacy skill of the 21st century, but it recruits and exercises the same neural networks associated with grammar, syntax, and logical reasoning –all timeless skills for sure!

So bring the kids down to the Old Post Office and explore our new Discovery Centre together. You may discover some new tech that feels quite familiar!