Most of the Windows 8 education apps have been designed for a single user experience – a student sitting at a screen, or using a touch tablet – where the screen is always oriented in one way with a clear ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ of the screen – with the text and graphics designed to be readable in that way. However, there are some clever apps developers who have taken advantage of the new large screen devices that can be used in horizontal or vertical mode (like the Dell XPS 18 on the right). And the extensive multi-touch capabilities of Windows 8 certified hardware means that a Windows 8 device allows for at least 10 consecutive touches to the screen – allowing you to design learning activities that four students can take part in at once.
Some of the best apps I’d recommend come from nSquared, a Sydney-based software development company that has been developing software for the original Microsoft Surface (the original large table-sized device). With that background, they’ve been able to bring some of those apps across to Windows 8 touch apps. All of the apps that they’ve developed are designed for multiple students to be able to collaborate or compete on learning activities.
Here’s some suggestions for collaborative learning apps for younger students
nsquared snap, is easy to grasp and allows up to four students to work on a single touchscreen at the same time, and is designed to develop pattern matching and object recognition skills. Each player must take their turn individually, with a point being awarded when they successfully match a pair of cards. Only two cards may be turned over at any time in an attempt to find a matching pair.
nsquared numbers is a free-form application that can be used to teach basic mathematical concepts. It gives you number tiles, so that you can set free tasks like "How many ways can you make the sum of ‘9’, or ‘55’, or any other number you’d like to explore. And because multiple students can use it at the same time, you can also set team or collaborative challenges, eg how many ways can they create those same results?
nsquared missing card is designed to help develop pattern matching and object recognition skills in young children. It's a multi-player memory game for up to four students to match overturned cards. The players can turn over their three cards to see which one matches the next in sequence. Once each player has decided on the card they think will be next, they keep the other two cards in their hand face down.
nsquared herding is designed to develop numeracy, pattern matching and object recognition skills. Whilst it is designed for up to four players simultaneously it will depend on the device that you use - on a small touch device you may have enough screen space for two players. Each player has to collect the correct numbers of each target object and place them into their own playing area.
nsquared letters is a free form application designed for children to use with or without guidance. It allows students to explore words in virtually any language that uses the Latin alphabet. And because it uses the multi-touch features of Windows 8 devices, it allows for many children to use it at the same time. So you could put a tablet flat on a desk, and have a group of four children around it all using it at the same time. The app is free, and there are different activity packs available as an in-app purchase.
nsquared make words is an app in the form of structured educational game, compared to the less structured apps I wrote about earlier in the week. It's designed to help students learn object recognition and differentiation, and improve their recall and spelling. nsquared makewords has the ability to switch between a range of content packs through the menu and download new content as it's released (the app is free, and then you pay for the optional content packs).
There are other apps coming from nsquared, so I’d also recommend having a chat with their team to understand what’s on the roadmap, or just going to the Windows Store on your Windows 8 device and searching for ‘nsquared’