Parents and teachers have long been getting advice about books that can help kids learn, but no such help is offered when it comes to apps. The bad news is that definitive recommendations can take a long time to come. The good news, however, is that we already know some things about apps that can help you choose for yourself.
Prices including Booktrust Best Book Award and the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal produce shortlists, often written by child literacy experts, that can help parents and educators navigate the crowded book market. There are also the best book lists compiled by booksellers, teachers Where children.
Although there are international awards for apps, they don’t offer the same service. Parents and educators are therefore left to their own devices when they seek in the The Digital Wild West of applications. What are the best to help children learn to read? Which ones are good for numbers? Who just wasted their time?
With thousands of apps available in a vast global marketplace, teachers would also appreciate some officially recognized app listings that align with curriculum goals.
Apps evolve much faster than books, which means it’s perfectly possible that a feature with educational value could disappear from one update to the next.
It would help if we actually knew what those beneficial features were in the first place, of course. There is a lack of research-based and empirically validated criteria for determining what makes an app educationally useful. Some research is slowly emerging, but it will be years before researchers can confidently identify the short- or long-term benefits or harms of specific app features.
In the meantime, there are some things you can do yourself.
First, think about the specific activity, skill, or experience you want to enrich and how an app might fit into that activity. If you found a drawing app, for example, think about how it encourages creativity. Does the app come with open drawing possibilities, allowing the child to mix and match colors and add more advanced designs? Open applications are likely to offer more creative opportunities than model-based ones.
If you choose from a range of apps that support the same activity, follow some general rules such as apps that facilitate interactive and shared engagement, creativity, or personalization. If you are unsure of your choices, discuss them with other parents, teachers and the children themselves. There are good online support networks, with several teachers and Parents regularly post app reviews online.
It’s also good to consider whether the app enhances the offline version of an activity. If a reading application offers links to audiobooks, for example via a QR Code, that might make it more useful, or if a number app encourages a child to count real objects as well as number objects, its benefits might extend beyond the time spent actually using it. For physical activity, an app can teach a child about balance and then suggest they go balance on something in their house or garden.
And finally, the best apps for kids are those that are not just about the user but about others as well. They should encourage your child to engage with others. For example, good story-making apps are ones that engage the child, not only in creating stories, but also in sharing stories and learning from others through their stories.
Apps can cause a lot of anxiety for parents and teachers. For many, digital learning and play is a new world. Developers make big promises about educational value and often design their products with the goal of getting users hooked. However, you won’t miss out on the opportunities offered by apps as long as you choose wisely, using your life experiences and drawing on the expertise of those around you.