How do you decide which iPad and tablet Apps are suitable for your child? There is no doubt that well-designed Apps can engage, entertain and act as effective learning programs for children. But there are many Apps which do none of these things very well and may even be negative for your child.
Each month in The Learning Brain newsletter, we feature an App that has been recommended by learning professionals – teachers, psychologists and speech pathologists.
But other than having Apps recommended by learning professionals, is there a way you can sort the good from the not so good?
It’s not easy. Consider these facts:
- More than 80,000 apps in the Apple App Store are described as “educational", and
- Over 70% of the top selling apps are in the Toddler/Preschool category
However, a comprehensive new report published in Psychological Science , a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, may help. The report integrates research from psychological science, linguistics, and neuroscience to provide an evidence-based guide that parents and educators can use to evaluate the quality of "educational" apps.
Four evidence based principles
Because of the extremely rapid pace of App development, scientific research evaluating features of specific Apps is scarce. The value of the new report is that it offers four evidence-based principles from the science of learning that can be used as a guide, both by developers creating new products and by parents hoping to find high quality games for their children. The principles are that Apps should be:
- Active in a way that requires mental effort and not just swiping
- Engaging, not distracting
- Meaningful in the context of a child's life
- Socially interactive because children learn best with others including parents and peers
The researchers conclude that the more an App incorporates these principles, the greater the educational value is likely to be.
They also say that features that seem educational, like letters or numbers may not necessarily be so. If an App has an excess of features like attention-grabbing sounds, movement, or other visual elements, these may be more distracting than they are engaging for the child.