rAPPidRevise – Jane Ballantine Interview
rAPPidRevise is an iPhone App which is being developed by Jane Ballantine of Limitless Learning Limited. An App designed to help UK students study for their school and college exams.
Educational teaching games and programs have come and gone but, whilst often getting close to hitting the target audience, they often don’t quite meet the mark. What Jane has developed with rAPPidRevise is something that is both simple and addictive, identifying the fact that many kids have access to iPhone/Pods and can quickly do some revision when they have some time.
We caught up with Jane, who will be speaking at an upcoming Girl Geeks event in Edinburgh on 3 March 2011, to find out more about linking learning and gameplay.
Jane told us, “I’m trying to add an element of fun to what otherwise might be a very boring thing to do; revision for exams: GCSE, Standard Grades, A-Levels and Highers.”
“I’ve looked at other educational software and games, but as a former teacher my focus is on getting kids familiar with the subject content they’ll need for their exams, rather than trying to compete with big publishing houses who produce “brain training” exercises.”
“The purpose of these rAPPidRevise Apps is to help give students a tool that they can use in their own time and own way. It speaks to them in their language, slots into their lifestyle providing quick revision quizzes they can do on the move, helping break down the barriers to revision.”
“When I was a student and even when I was teaching the students would make excuses and put revision off. This is something they can put in their pocket and do here and there when they have a few minutes of spare time. It’s a great way of learning as well.”
Clean and crisp, rAPPidRevise certainly delivers as we had a shot at an earlier build and quickly found that, not only was our GCSE [General Certificate of Secondary Education] slightly lacking but, we wanted to keep having another go to see if we could improve.
Jane continued, “The first App that’s out is basic GCSE core science and there are one hundred questions in each topic area. We’re adding new questions all the time but the idea is there will be lots of questions. They may be asked the same thing in lots of different ways, so there may not just be one question, there may be four or five asking questions on the same specific subject in a different way. Lots of questions really tests peoples understanding so they don’t just learn question and answer. They don’t just say, ‘Oh I’ve seen that question before so I know what the answer is’, they actually build up over time so they get better and better.”
“The learning process is not just test and answer, test and answer there’s also feedback. So you can see why an answer is correct or wrong and learn. There’s a progress chart so you can see how you’re progressing with different topics or overall. You can also delete your score data if you want to start again and there’s also an online scoreboard, with the Apple Game Centre. So you can go online and compare yourself with people locally, globally and your friendship group.”
With Twitter and Facebook integration too this means there are many ways you can compete with your peers and we were interested in the reactions to this.
Jane explained, “The online scoreboard is good and some of the trialling we’ve done with students has shown that the girls have been interested in looking at other people’s scores but not necessarily putting them up there and the boys have got quite competitive because they want to see themselves at the top of the scoreboard. I think it’s quite useful and gives a benchmark to aim for so they can see who is doing what and if you have a small group locally, you may even know some people.”
All this from a concept Jane originally came up with in 2004 for the International Year of Physics in 2005. Then, however, the infrastructure of text (SMS) messaging was not stable enough but when Jane first saw the App Store she saw the opportunity at hand.
“When I got my first iPhone and the App Store opened I realised, ‘This is it. This is how I can get the quiz working’. My experience of teaching was that kids were already addicted to texting and being on their phones all day that the idea of putting learning in their hands, with a device that they could use, they might actually do it. I don’t have a background in programming, I have a background in Science and teaching. I expected one of the big publishers to do it, but when they didn’t I thought I would give it a go.”
The rAPPidRevise App in the store is not the final version but has already received good feedback from kids and academics alike. One issue was mapping the different curriculums and separating Higher and Foundation level GCSE’s but now Jane has cracked this, the fully finished functionality App will be live soon with more questions and subjects.
We wondered how Jane was covering more than one syllabus due to the differing awarding bodies in the UK.
Jane was clear, “It’s definitely not a mock exam. It’s not designed to have similar questions to the exams, as some ask long questions and some don’t. It’s a multiple choice format but it covers the curriculum of your exam board. Some of the questions have a sense of humour. It’s testing your knowledge rather than being a mock test, so the content is being mapped to the awarding bodies and levels but not copying question style. If you select a specific foundation/higher level course you should just get questions that are relevant to that course.”
“The questions are designed to be quite challenging and demanding and I want to adopt this across the board, with other teachers writing for different subject areas. Questions that try to trick you, questions that look the same but aren’t to make you read the question. It can’t be exact grade for grade matching because the awarding bodies change the grade boundaries so often but it’s as close as we can get it.”
With added functionality allowing people to keep notes, e-mail scores and notes and change the question speed as well as the time limit, the App is not only good for kids but also provides a quick and engaging pop-quiz for budding pub quiz enthusiasts and from what we experienced then Jane is onto a real winner.
The full rAPPidRevise App will be available soon and SquareGo hopes to review the finished product so we can finally find out which of us could pass our exams if we need to go back to school.