A new app allows children to write their own books

In a project supported by Nordplus, an IT company and three experts from four Nordic countries worked together to develop a series of interactive books to strengthen reading through play and introduce children to the Nordic culture.

"The new technologies offer exciting opportunities for learning, which must be explored and put into play. The interactive element means that the children can write their own stories, seek new information, ask questions and get answers that they can continue working with. And when children are actively involved in their own learning process, we know that it benefits their involvement and learning output”, Jette Gottschau comments.
As a lecturer at the University College UCC she has participated in the project ‘Interactive books for children’. The project put together an Icelandic IT company Locatify and three educational experts who in addition to Jette Gottschau include a Latvian special education teacher and a high school senior lecturer from the Faroe Islands. With a grant from the Nordplus Horizontal programme the team has been able to spend a year to reconcile the latest technology with expert knowledge on children's learning in educational contexts.

Innovative, didactic tool

The result is two interactive children's books: ‘Sagan of Musamus’ for children aged 2-8 years and ‘Santagirl’ for the 6-12 year olds. The books are now available as apps for iPads on ‘Goldworm’ in the four languages of the participating countries as well as English. ”It's an old dream to be part of creating an innovative, didactic tool for language learning, reading and writing. The interactive books allow students at all levels to actively participate in a learning process based on play, interaction, motivation and creativity. The goal has been to create apps that encourage children to read and become familiar with good books, new languages and the Nordic cultural heritage”, says Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir, Director of Locatify.

With the two apps children can even write, read or have read aloud, answer questions and get points along the way. An equally important target group is teachers in elementary schools who can easily develop their own teaching materials for use in classes. ”Some schools have purchased iPads to students, but there is not much educational material created specifically for this platform in the Nordic languages. Our objective has been to encourage children to make their own books by developing a single, user friendly system, which also has a quality that professionals can use”, says Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir.

Schools are testing apps

Over the next months, the value of ‘Musamus’ and ‘Santagirl of Sagan’ is to be tested in practice. In elementary schools in Iceland and on the Faroe Islands, as well as at a special school in Latvia classes will be involved in follow-up research that evaluates students ' specific needs and benefits from the new book apps. ”It is absolutely essential that the interactive books make sense in a didactic and learning context. The books set the scene for enhanced learning, as well as inviting a high degree of pupil participation, which is an important part of a school's democratic objectives. The important thing is that the apps enable children to move, play and explore. According to research children are most exposed to learning when they use the whole body”, Jette Gottschau concludes.


Interactive books for kids
• The project took place in the period 2012-2013 and has received grant of 31.000 euros from the Nordic Council of Ministers ' education programme, Nordplus Horizontal.

• The partnership consists of the Icelandic IT company Locatify and three educational experts: Jette Gottschau from UCC in Denmark, a special education teacher from Latvia and a high school teacher from the Faroe Islands.

• The main objective was to develop innovative tools for reading, spelling and language teaching. With interactive books pupils in different grades and competence levels take an active part in learning in a context characterized by interaction, motivation, games and recognition. Among other things, pupils are able to answer questions about what they read, or record their own reading aloud.

• Another aim was to encourage children to read and become familiar with good books, gain knowledge about other Nordic languages and the common cultural heritage.

• The result is two interactive books: ‘Sagan of Musamus’ and ‘Santagirl’ just released as apps in the languages of the four participating countries as well as in English currently being tested and evaluated in two elementary schools and in a special needs school in Iceland, Latvia and on the Faroe Islands respectively.

More facts
• Several Danish municipalities and schools have begun to invest in iPads and other tablets to pupils, but there is lack of teaching materials in the Nordic languages.

• Most other platforms for interactive books are based on download as opposed to the platform in this project, which runs online. This means that children, educators and publishers can quickly and easily publish their own productions.

• In the project ‘Interactive books for children’ the Pan-Nordic project group worked with a number of Icelandic writers and illustrators.