I had a very interesting conference call this week, with a gentleman named Michael Leifer. He is the Co Founder of an organization called EcoDads, which has been “recently made an Advocacy Network Partner of the California Environmental Protection Agency’s (CA EPA) groundbreaking Education and the Environment Initiative Curriculum (EEI) for K-12th grade students“
Michael had contacted me to see if I would give their new app a gander and share my opinion, a dangerous thing to do since I am after all, the Eeyore of Edtech. Try as I might, I have a tough time giving ringing endorsements of anything. I have test driven three apps in the past year and not a single company has used my feedback in their promotional copy. I am starting to get a complex…But I digress.
During my perusal of the new EcoDads app, two things struck me. First and least significant was the interface itself. It was simple, easy to navigate with plenty of multi media elements to mix up content delivery. What I really liked was the use of interactive visuals, which included a nice landmark identification task. There was also a manipulable, 360 degree image from the top of the Golden Gate Bridge and a cool time-lapse video of the bridge at night. Although none of the media elements within the book are new, in and of themselves. It is the intent with which they come together, that makes this App a diamond in the rough.
This leads to my second observation…
The most interesting thing I noticed, was the content itself. Since the app is delivering content for a Californian audience, they focused on using local environmental and geographic information. This means that students are using material they can identify with and perhaps interact with on a daily basis. The goal of the EEI Curriculum, is to get kids to be aware of their own environment so they are more apt to Act locally and think globally, around environmental issues. What the EcoDad’s app is doing, is attempting to facilitate a functional learning relationship between the classroom and the great outdoors.
Michael hopes that the app will help teachers and students
- Explore the natural environment in their region..
- Identify the various flora and fauna in their region.
- Determine if the natural elements of their region, are being used appropriately.
- Discuss solutions to environmental issues in their region.
- Develop action plans that foster environmental stewardship.
In order to accomplish all this however, the app will have to become much more than it currently is and from what Michael was saying, development has only just begun.
In discussing how to improve the app and allow kids to engage with their local habitat, we discussed a number of improvements which will be coming down the pike. The most exciting of which, was the ability to customize content to fit the region being studied. If a teacher could customize content to suit, THAT would be MAGIC! The key to engaging kids is making the information relevant. If kids are looking at environmental issues in their own back yard, they are more likely to become stewards of that environment.
Some of the additions we discussed included:
- A field notes feature
- A Picture sharing function
- A geocache feature
- An ask an expert function
- A collaborative space for compiling and sharing information
There is so much more that this app could be and from what Michael was saying, it is headed that way. I am looking forward to seeing what this App evolves into as it moves ahead, especially if its reach goes beyond the state of California and up into my neck of the woods.
Currently, EcoDads is doing a Kickstarter campaign trying to raise capital, to move their App Development beyond the product they currently have. Check out what they have on the go.