Agnitus 2.0 – New Literacy and Mathematical Games

Today marks the availability of Agnitus 2.0, which is a major addition of literacy and mathematical skills to the Agnitus adaptive learning program. We’re really excited about Agnitus 2.0 because it covers 22 additional required common core curriculum skills, continuing our mission of making Agnitus a program that can help children at home by complementing the learning happening in school and also help teachers as a classroom teaching tool.

As with all of our games, the new games in Agnitus 2.0 are designed to allow children to learn and advance at their own pace, progressively building upon past skills mastered. They also offer children learning advancement beyond the skills available in our existing program.

For the past two years we’ve been working with language arts specialists, phonics experts, and speech pathologists to design a comprehensive curriculum, blending phonics-based methods with the Whole Language approach, to help children learn to read and write at an early age. This curriculum is included in Agnitus 2.0, linking together 14 new games to help develop a progressive program of literacy skills for children.

A new set of math games included in units 2.0 is aimed at teaching mathematical concepts so children can build on our previous set of games which helped them learn the meaning of numbers. Number lines are important to establishing mathematical foundations so we’ve added a number line program to Agnitus, helping children make connections between quantity, sequence and measurement. This new set of games helps children navigate up and down a number line, then the app automatically moves them to learn number sequences, basic arithmetic, skip counting, multiplication, factoring and division.

 

Here is the full list of new skills children can learn from the additions made to Agnitus with Agnitus 2.0:

  • Learn to Recognize Uppercase Letters

  • Learn to Recognize Upper and Lowercase Letters

  • Learn to Write Uppercase Letters Properly

  • Learn to Write Lowercase Letters Properly

  • Improve Writing Speed and Fine Motor Control

  • Build Phonetic Awareness of Letter Sounds

  • Practice Matching Lower to Upper Case Letters

  • Learn that Words are Made Up of Letters

  • Learn To Hear the Letter Sounds in Words

  • Learn How to Combine Sounds to Make Words

  • Learn to Combine Letters to Spell Words

  • Understand How Text is Read from Left to Right

  • Learn to Recognize and Write Numbers up to 20

  • Learn to Add, Subtract, Multiply, and Divide Objects

  • Learn about Subtraction and Zero in Real World Math Problems

  • Learn to Divide Objects Amongst Groups

  • Build Visual Spatial Skills Needed for Geometry

  • Learn the Geometry of How Shapes Fit Together

  • Learn How Objects Balance Around Centers of Gravity

  • Learn Strategies for Recognizing Patterns

  • Creatively Explore Color in Freeform Drawing

  • Begin Learning about Work and Professions

If you’re currently using Agnitus, you’ll see the Agnitus 2.0 available in your app today. If you’re not already using the app, visit the iTunes app store and download it to help your child learn all of these skills – and more.

Subscription FAQs

Today we rolled out a new release of Agnitus that introduces a monthly subscription model so we can continue to build world-class curriculum based games and academic skills for your child’s growth.

Below are the FAQs which will help you clarify most of your queries.

Q) I am an existing user, how does the new subscription affect me?
All the games and skills that you had unlocked or purchased will continue to remain available to you.
You will be able to try out all “new” features and games during the 7-days trial period.  New features and games will not be available after the trial period is over.

Q) I had made InApp purchases in Agnitus, what happens to them?
All the InApp purchases that you had made will continue to remain available to you.

Q) I had unlocked InApp purchases via Facebook Share or by inviting friends,what happens to them?

All the InApp purchases that you had unlocked via Facebook Share or by inviting friends will continue to remain available to you.

Q) I had unlocked Agnitus using Facebook Share, but with the new update they are now locked?
If after the app update, previously unlocked skills are not showing up, please contact us at support@agnitus.com or learn more about how to restore previous purchases on our support portal.

Q) I had purchased Agnitus InApp purchases, but with the new update they are now locked?
If after the app update, previously purchased skills are not showing up, please contact us at support@agnitus.com or learn more about how to restore previous purchases on our support portal.

Q) What do I get with monthly subscription plan?
- Uninterrupted Learning Experience:  Your child advances through curriculum at their own pace and skill level by having access to all current skills as well as upcoming curriculum.
- Online Backup:  Protects your child’s learning data from accidental deletion of the app.
- Sync:  Automatically sync your child’s data across your iPhone & iPad.
- Multiple Child Profiles:  Create and track each child’s performance separately.
- Monitor Performance: Access your child’s data on the web and receive weekly emails on performance of you child.

Q) I do not want to sign up for monthly subscription?
Your child can continue to play free games.   The app will continue to loop through the games and skills that are free.  To access additional academic skills and curriculum monthly subscription will be required.

Q) I am an existing user of Agnitus.  What happens after 7-days, if I do not sign up for monthly subscription?
Your child can continue to play the free games and any games that you had unlocked in the past.   The app will continue to loop through the games and skills that are unlocked.  To access additional academic skills and curriculum monthly subscription will be required.

Q) What happens if I do not renew monthly subscription?
Your child can continue to play the free games and any games that you had unlocked in the past.   The app will continue to loop through the games and skills that are unlocked.  To access additional academic skills and the curriculum monthly subscription will be required.

Q) What happens if my monthly or trial subscription expire?
Your child can continue to play the free games and any games that you had unlocked in the past.   The app will continue to loop through the games and skills that are unlocked.  All the features and benefits of the monthly subscription will be locked.

Q) Why did you introduce monthly subscription?
With a monthly subscription, the child has access to full Agnitus program, advancing through the curriculum at their own pace and skill level.In-App purchases interrupt a child’s learning progression.  It requires, that the InApp purchase be made before a child can access the curriculum that is appropriate for them.

 

On Olympian Development and Learning Skills

Did your children find time to watch a few Olympians recently?  If so, what did your children enjoy about them?  Among families we know, children found the athletes inspiring, and well they should!

Many of us marvel at the poise and control of men and women as they swim, dive, run, vault, volley, and perform other nearly miraculous feats of courage and discipline.  One of my children is now inspired to take fencing lessons, and another has developed fresh vigor for badminton.

Perhaps inspired by all that athletic prowess, during the Olympics, busy parents found time for a little more exercise.  Physical activity is very good for the brain at all ages.  Becoming really good at anything, takes considerable discipline, and sustaining a truly demanding level of engagement. The strict training expected of great athletes, is accepted as a given.  “Practice makes perfect,” and succeeding at increasingly challenging performances is part of any athletic regimen.

As children may witness the intense control and ability shown by athletes, succeeding in academic ‘performance’ is also on parents minds.  We aspire to develop principles to live by, that are conducive to children’s stability and increasing competence in learning and comprehension.

Let’s reflect for a moment on educational calisthenics, and differing views of routine and repetition, contrasted with spontaneity and child-initiated learning.  Traditional training that includes drills remains one of the best ways to memorize arithmetic in early childhood, though there are increasingly variable drill structures.  And for children who are learning English or are multilingual, drills in conjugating verbs also lead to lasting memorization and comprehension of deeper grammatical principles in language.  To overlook the meaningful impact of drills such as these is to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Spontaneity, and child or student-initiated learning, is that freedom to be creative that is also important to our children’s intellectual, social, and psychic development.  Interesting new studies find, for instance, that students forced to read a topic that disinterests them, struggle learning to read, suffer, and ultimately become less likely to become avid readers.  In fact, the struggle affects their adult lives, as well.  On the other hand, students given the opportunity to select their reading, have positive feelings about it, advance and learn to read more quickly, showing increased gratification and comprehension in reading, as well as a lifelong propensity for reading.

The best learning includes spontaneity and drills, helping a child develop a solid basic foundation for continued learning. Should a child take a liking to certain topics, increasingly, drills become pleasant challenges to be mastered.  Olympians learn by combining natural interests and drills.

Related Online Topics:

Science360:  Science Of The Summer Olympics: Engineering In Sports

New York Times : Math Drills, via the Smartphone

New Update: Introducing Tracing and Counting skills with cloud backup feature

Agnitus new update ver 1.6.0 is introducing two new skills with many new exciting features.

Tracing Letters:
Olly, the Circus Ring Master, teaches phonics and how to trace letters, while keeping your child engaged with fanciful costumes and delightful acrobatic performances, including juggling torches and animals.

Counting Up to 10:
Learn how to count as you get fish on the sea bus!

Cloud Backup & Sync:
Now your child’s step-by-step progress is saved in the cloud.  Whenever you re-install our app, you can easily download all the online-saved data into your new app installation.  You need never lose your child’s progress!

Multi-Child Report Card:
See a child’s or classroom’s performance at-a-glance.  View and touch the details of what children have learned and where each one needs help.

Agnitus Learning Games has 13 different games and activities that are mapped to Common Core State Standards, providing detailed skill-level reporting of your child’s performance and progression through the curriculum.

 

Colors and Learning Shade Recognition for Children

Do you remember when YOU began learning to mix colors, how thrilling it was, and the seeming unpredictability of blending new colors?  This is one of the most interesting early experiences kids have with non-toxic paints, colored pencils and markers!  Water-based fingerpainting is where the fun usually begins; as experienced parents, we know paint can end up smeared nearly anywhere!  Once young children are past the thrill of the changeable and fluid nature of paints, a focus on colors can begin.

It’s important as your child begins to learn about colors, that you be consistent with names for shades, and that you don’t introduce too many hues right away.  Subtle blends are for older kids, unless you find that your child is interested.  Most young children learn quickly that mixing a few colors generally creates a dark, brackish or black hue. Yet, a young child easily understands lighter and darker shades of color (without knowledge of the properties involved).  Adding some white to a primary color, or a tiny bit of black can help your child quickly realize that white lightens any shade and black darkens it.  Admixtures of orange with yellow or blue with green are more difficult in the beginning.  This does not mean children cannot learn a rich sense of coloration; indeed children can and do.  Teaching our youngsters about colors at an early age, gives them insight into laws of shading and pigments.  They can continue to make sense of colors in the otherwise confusing world around them.  Once you know red is red, for example, it pretty much remains a point of mastery for the rest of your life.  It is true there may be fire engine red, Chinese red, vermillion, burgundy red, ruby red and other nuanced red hues. Memorizing these early in life is not just gratifying, but helps a child build an eye for aesthetic sensibilities, and love of beauty.

  • “Find the Color” is a seek and touch game that can convert an ordinary several minutes into an engaging little adventure!  You think through a few colors, and ask your child to run and touch something which is that color.  Be sure you help your child recognize ‘true’ colors, by sticking with clear examples of red, blue, and yellow in the beginning.
  • One of the most thrilling simple color experiences a youngster can have is fingerpaint play.  Getting messy is healthy, and putting bright simple colors on paper is fun.  Once a child is more experienced, I find our children are curious about what creates browns and darker, more complex colors.

Related Online Topics:

The Creative Curriculum for Infants & Toddlers by Laura J. Colker, Ed.D.

PBS Kids: A variety of drawings that can be colored – for young children

“Redshirting” – Experts See Advantages to Entering Kindergarten Later

Starting kindergarten early may not be ideal for all children’s cognitive development.  The Rand Corporation produced a compelling Research Brief titled, Delaying Kindergarten: Effects on Test Scores and Childcare Costs.  The results of the research are striking because the learning aptitude playing field is leveled among socio-economic groups when entering kindergarten is delayed.

My curiosity, in what difference several months makes, was renewed when I read Malcolm Gladwell’s, Outliers: The Story of Success, which describes sports success and kids who were born earlier in a given age cohort.  As a bestseller, the birth month and ‘demographic luck’ of children in classrooms became a topic much discussed by parents and educators.  The idea of holding a child back a year before entering kindergarten is called, “redshirting.”

The Rand study looks into what happens with redshirt children entering kindergarten later.  Sets compared gains from five and 6 year olds entering kindergarten.  Among the findings: “Disadvantaged children do significantly better on standardized tests and learn more…” when they enter school later.  Using standardized math and reading scores, the report’s author, Ashlesha Datar, found that later entry boosts test scores for all children, and all children benefit.  Even ‘ready’ and more economically privileged (“not poor’”) learners, if beginning later, made greater gains than they did if they entered kindergarten earlier. Using birth date and school entry data comparing younger to older kindergarteners, the author found both ‘poor‘ and ‘not poor’ children showed strong achievement increases at six. The greatest increase was shown for ‘not poor’ reading skills.

One problem for parents and communities is what to do with redshirt children starting school a year later – the economic burden preschool poses – and the report points out that disadvantaged children may languish outside any curriculum. An additional year in a preparatory program can become an unmanageable financial burden, even for middle class parents.

The promise of educational apps couldn’t be greater in conditions where not all children will have ready access to an additional year of preschool.  With an additional age level in preschools, and children more capable of independent learning, some parents may opt for community support groups that organize more mature children into play and study groups, with a few mothers supervising outings to parks and libraries.  Or, what about if kindergarten became a two-year program, tiered for those ready to move forward?  Early-fives is roughly modeled along these lines.

The Rand Report recommends that future policy planning and any overhaul, be tied to childcare costs, as parents come to terms with later entry being appropriate for some children, and what the delay means in culturally diverse homes, communities, and schools.  Some children are ‘ready’ at five.  On the other hand, remedial support programs in schools are becoming increasingly costly, as specialists attend to children who are less ready.  Learning with educational apps is one way schools are beginning to offset specialist’ costs (and scarcity), working with teachers who are trained to utilize learning apps using smart technologies.  The technology follows a child’s progress, stores those data, which are then utilized in order to assess skill levels and improvements in given specialized curricula. The apps help kids advance individually, which saves them from peer embarrassment, as they learn.
Related Online Topics:
New York Times Book Review: Outliers
CBS News – 60 Minutes: Kindergarten “redshirting.” What would you do?

With So Many Choices, Which Curriculum Is Best for My Child?

You’re looking for a great preschool with a learning program consistent with your worldview – and – there are too many choices!  Faced with a plethora of preschool possibilities and curriculum strategies, philosophies, and, of course, research findings, we worry about the best approach for ensuring that our child will be ready to socialize and learn effectively.  Will it be the Waldorf approach, Montessori, HighScope, Piaget – based principles, or an eclectic mix cooperative?

At the core of curriculum decision-making, is early childhood development pedagogical theory, with approaches that vary in their emphases.  Pedagogy is the art and science of formal teaching; within this, curriculum is a study set designed to accomplish particular learning objectives.  Based on your ideas of what is meaningful formal learning, and the kind of studies that you believe will best help achieve meaningful learning, you should sort out three primary ideas that will help you make concrete decisions about preschool.  First, do you believe play-based or academic-based learning is more productive?  Second, do you believe one-on-one or group play and learning will bring your child the greatest benefit?  Finally, is your view that spontaneous learning or thematic learning will help your child to best learn and adapt to structured learning environments?  Don’t forget to reflect on the importance of creativity, curiosity, and innovation in childhood development.

Play is child-centered, though there are various degrees of it. Academic training, suggests the introduction of structure and rigor in early childhood development.  Is the preschool you are considering, supportive of individual development or does it lean more toward group learning, as an early learning method?  Spontaneous learning encourages child-centered creative endeavors; thematic learning, might be a study plan on colors, or textures and can also produce engaged and innovative learning. How attention and focus are considered differs from program to program.  Some approaches are prominent and merit consideration in your decision.  I’ll touch on a few of them.

In 1919 Rudolf Steiner founded the Waldorf School movement.  Three languages, including German are usually taught at Waldorf Schools.  Emphasis is on developing strong social interactive skills rather than early reading.  Curriculum at Waldorf includes learning poems, eurythmic movement, dress up and pretending to be parents, learning to bake from scratch, and biodynamic farming and the role of healthy foods in life.

Another development pioneer – beginning in 1897 as a student of pedagogy – Maria Montessori undertook experiments and opened her first classroom in 1907. Montessori curriculum is based on a set of stations where children engage in spontaneous activities and learn by doing.  Curriculum is based on learning life skills, exercises using the senses, speaking and basic reading, math, and social and natural science studies.  While children may play in groups, there is a focus on each child.

The HighScope Model came about as an offshoot of at-risk, urban Head Start Programs and research that examined the adulthood, the life outcomes, of former Head Start alumni.  HighScope makes early use of technology in learning.   Programs tend to emphasize role playing, movement includes rhythmic dance; activities include classifying shapes, learning to count, sequence, and seriate things. Group development is valued, with less focus on individual wants and needs.

There are many more programs, and there are synthesis programs, some with curricula based on work by education pioneer, Jean Piaget.  Some parents may prefer cooperative schools, involving parents in day-to-day classroom activities.  Others may take an interest in established community outreach programs, such as those offered by the YMCA.  For profit schools may be a good fit for some parents needs, such as those providing late night childcare. Have a look at programs such as Creative Curriculum and Core Knowledge.

Ultimately, your decision is likely to be based on your worldview, and what feels most comfortable for your child.  Once you look into a school’s curriculum and learning philosophy, you can combine this information with practical concerns for parents, such as the school’s position in your community, days and hours of availability, and the cost of attending.  By all means, visit the school and take the time to observe your child there.
Association of Waldorf Schools of North America:
http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/
Montessori Foundation: http://www.montessori.org
HighScope Educational Research Foundation: http://www.highscope.org
Cooperative Schools: http://www.coopschools.com

Summer Learning Loss and How Educational Apps Are a Game Changer

If your family is like ours, your children will not have been in school too long, before you begin to hear about ‘summer learning loss,’ the fact that when children have been away from preschool or elementary school for several weeks during the summer, they forget some basic elements of what they learned months earlier.

Educators begin a new school year with reviews and assessments to understand how much learning loss has occurred, and into which grouping level your child will be most appropriately placed.  If your child has been in school all summer, your child will be placed in a different level than a child whose first weeks of the new school year, will be conditioned with catching up.  In fact, some catch up, requires one-on-one support.

Throughout summer, the fun and discovery of learning can include making time for children to enhance their school-year learning, by using curriculum-based, educational apps available on digital devices. As I’ve mentioned here before, at Agnitus, we’re focused on producing the best quality learning experience possible for young children. We regularly evaluate and reevaluate our products.  We also keep an eye on the quality of other apps in the marketplace, and research whether they truly provide the learning curriculum they promise to deliver us as, the parents of young learners.

Remember that one really useful thing about a good educational app, besides it keeping your child interested in learning, is that a child can learn at her or his own pace in a good app.  Children can train themselves, without losing ‘face’ as they take on new learning challenges and learn to master skills through the process of trial and error on a ‘smart’ app that gently encourages learning principles.

Valuing intrinsic learning starts early in life, and our toddlers and preschoolers realize very soon, what it is to be encouraged and praised in activities. You can augment preschool and school day learning with an easy going, moderate, and consistent approach to educational apps.  When summer comes around again, you’ll have had time to come up with an action plan for summer learning, including proactively educating yourself about the best app choices for your child or children.  Digital curriculum and learning time, in addition to healthy family and community activities, will assure summer progress in academic comprehension, and new school year readiness.  Say goodbye to summer learning loss!  Fifteen minutes of educational play on the weekends will provide an ongoing learning boost to regular school days.  Does your child like to play on apps longer than 15 minutes?

Related Online Topics:
The Washington Post:  Preventing Summer Learning Loss, by Ron Fairchild
First Lady Michelle Obama’s Summer Reading and Physical Activity Initiative

Dog Days of Summer – A Brief History of Toys and the Role of Apps

As summer wanes, do you consider the importance of physical activity and how imagination can be fostered in your children?  It’s important to have ideas for what kids can do to keep from becoming bored during the dog days of summer.  Heat lends itself to lackadaisical fun. Indoor activities are useful during the hottest hours of the day.

I got to thinking about toys, and how much or little they interest children. Their newest manifestation – apps – made me wonder how humanity (parents) and especially, children, got by before the invention of manufactured toys? While there are rare instances of toys that have been discovered or written about, dated back a thousand years, most toys did not come to exist, and certainly not on a mass scale, until about one hundred years ago, and the great majority, not even then.  We know about antique music boxes, porcelain dolls and figurines, for instance, but the majority of humanity had and still does not have such objects for play or amusement.  For hundreds of years, lucky little girls had mothers who made rag dolls for them.

Metalwork brought us the world mechanical toys – of tremendous fascination – 150 years ago.  Mechanical toys turned up, largely as a by-product of know-how in traditional crafts, such as clock works and cobblery.  Lucky little boys were permitted to play with leftover materials of metal and wood, and they fashioned them into something productive by fiddling. Children learned important skills when the materials they had, in order to represent anything, required that they fiddle, tinker, and fudge things into imaginative creations.

Jumping ahead a century or so, education is moving into a new paradigm.  Some educational apps show tremendous promise, and though there are many challenges, as a parent and educator, I’m confident some app-makers will become masters of their craft.  Just like a few publishing houses became great in recent centuries (and a few remain so).

The great philosopher and social scientist, Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) wrote compellingly about manufactured toys, and contrasted them with the world of, what we might today think of as ‘one-off’ toys.  Bourdieu, influenced by the discipline of formal Criticism, and his research among Berbers and peoples of Algeria, focused on the child’s experience with broken toys, the inability to repair them, and the effect of hopelessly broken, manufactured toys on a child’s cognitive functions.

Fast forward to children’s apps again.  There are a lot of junky apps out there, but parents are quickly starting to look online for reliable information about, say, educational apps and their utility.  It’s pretty easy to recognize the ‘broken toys’ variety, because they’re inexplicable, and there is no positive outcome for young users.  Bourdieu might consider this damaging.

We have a long way to go with educational apps, but important studies are beginning to reflect on the effects, especially of blended learning, in classrooms and less structured environments.  On the downside, some apps are not well-designed, some will fail, kids may play on them and quickly bore, or play too long, and some kids will fall victim to ‘zoning out’ on mobile devices.  On the upside, we are at the frontier, not yet cognizant, but somehow beginning to see how powerful new adaptive digital apps can be.  Seduced by their many applications to life as we know it, we might gently reflect back on the times when play involved rocks, sticks, mud, all manner of biota, star-gazing, cloud-watching, and… What would a good educational app for these phenomena be like?