27. November, 2014

Game apps as educational support for kids

Autor: Wolfgang Schwarz

Of colourful monsters, cool rhymes and cheeky mini games...

‘The introduction is an inevitable procedure when meeting a stranger in a work or social environment with whom you want to establish a closer relationship. It is an act of courtesy  to let the person know who they are dealing with.’ To meet the social requirements given by baron Knigge, first of all: the introduction. No, I will not bore you with my résumé now. Rather, I want to explain the values that we – the Linguino team – hold dear.

From interactive app to ‘real’ linguistic game

Today, one out of four German families with children of preschool age own a tablet device. According to the foundation ‘Stiftung Lesen’, this type of media platform in particular offers ‘a large number of opportunities to inspire kids to read – especially those who don’t naturally enjoy reading but are rather sceptical towards it.’ Publishers and start-up developers like Ravensburger, Cornelsen, Mixtvision, Fox & Sheep, Jan Essig and Apppmedia, have already contributed valuable work to the field of digital media for children. Looking to promote reading skills and support growth, we at Linguino asked ourselves whether it is possible to refine interactive apps with linguistic content into ‘real’ language games. After many discussions, workshops and test runs, we came to the conclusion that this approach can only be achieved if the playful aspect is tackled from two sides:

  1. On the one hand, with regard to the chosen form of language: rhymes and puns offer particularly memorable forms of expression.

  2. On the other hand, in the setting of the game: a computer game environment with continuous progress, points and achievements has proven to be a successful learning framework.

By incorporating the playful element, our language games aim to make your kids perceive learning as ‘cool’ and ‘fun’, rather than ‘dull’ and 'boring'.

Playful contact with words and sounds supports language skills and intelligence

Why is it that rhymes are the chosen means for content transportation here? First of all, because rhymes are in themselves a type of game – more precisely, a language game. And furthermore, because children greatly enjoy them, and well past toddler age too. Our monster-app author, my mother Regina Schwarz, can personally confirm this after more than 30 years of professional experience with readings and workshops with children. She continues to be fascinated by the way children respond to the ‘game of language’; whether they unfold their creativity with their own made up rhymes or just simply laugh about the puns. This happens at her readings, and it has a long-term positive effect on the development of children. Professor Dr. Kurt Franz, former president of the German academy for children and youth literature in Volkach, says: ‘It’s proven that the playful contact with words and sounds greatly supports the development of language skills and intelligence in children.’


Playing students reach better results

Let’s talk about playing. All I have to say about it is that it’s thrilling, uplifting and the best part is: it’s great brain training. Marc Prensky, an international speaker, author and innovator in the field of education, found out that students who played during their childhood are 24% to 50% better in maths and vocabulary learning than those who didn’t. Well, to sum up, we now know that:

a. Rhymes make for puns in themselves

b. Games promote development in early childhood

Monsters behave! Of colourful monsters, cool rhymes and cheeky mini games

To revisit the question about the development of a real language game, I would now like to introduce to you ‘Monsters behave!’. With our first language app, children are familiarised with the process of rhyming, are actively challenged and, thereby, stay highly focused throughout the whole game. Whether the right rhyming word has to be placed, or a whole fill-in-the-blank text has to be completed, the linguistic development is communicated playfully. And many children get really into the thrill of the chase for the right words. They go through their own vocabulary and make a find. And to top it all off, they get an additional mini-game once they complete a task.

Highly stimulative nature, a great alternative to studying and a playful reading motivation

During the workshops we offered at schools, we observed the children's reactions when playing Monsters behave!. From being highly focused and laughing to rhythmic tapping along the rhymes, the children showed all kinds of excitement. We also used this test phase to collect important feedback from the primary school teachers. The resonance was overwhelming. Here a short excerpt: 

  1. Miss Walter, 1st grade: ‘The app has a highly stimulative nature, fits perfectly in 2.3 lessons and works very well in circle groups’

  2. Miss Schulte, 2nd grade: ‘The app is a very good alternative to studying and works well as a reward or relaxation now and then.’

  3. Miss Marienhagen, 3rd grade: ‘The characters in the game are very appealing to the children and thus encourage them to learn in a playful way. By trying out different words to fill in the blanks, they develop a sense for rhymes and additionally expand their vocabulary.’

We’re beginning this fall. Until then: a monstrous thanks to all of you for your attention!