September 8, 2010

Discussion Topic: What Makes an App "Educational"?

After spending much of the past year interacting with over 100 moms (and dads) with apps, I find myself thinking a lot about apps, and what they mean to our children as technology advances further into our lives and our classrooms. Recently, the developers in our Moms With Apps group posed a question...

What makes an app “educational”?

We first agreed that “educational” is a relative term based on an individual’s particular needs, capabilities, and goals, and realize this is a difficult question to address. We also noted that deeming an app "educational" may be best left up to professional teachers and educators. However, should that stop the conversation?

For parents seeking educational content for children, here are some snippets from our discussion. Coming from a diverse set of individuals (parents, graduate students, research organizations, homeschooling parents, special needs families) we hope you’ll find these insights helpful when evaluating apps for your household:

Does the app…

Help reinforce academic principles or develop individual skill sets?
  • Does the app help develop confidence in a particular area?
  • Does it encourage the user to rethink their current understanding of a topic?
  • Are there academic learning objective or goals, and are they mapped to core curriculum standards?
  • Is the app of a particular, unique value to the end-user? 
  • Does it encourage and prepare for higher learning?
  • What is the ratio of "learning" to "entertainment"?
Help encourage creativity? (see link to the article on Creativity Crisis)
  • Can you create, imagine, or pretend with the app?
  • Is there one right answer, or is the app open-ended?
  • Does the material leave space for users to fill with their own imagination?
  • Is there room for problem solving, trial and error, and experimenting with solutions?
  • Does it prompt further discovery, engaging the user to learn more?
Help broaden awareness of the world and how it works?
  • Can you learn about people, places or things in your environment?
  • Can you spark an interest in new subjects to study or activities to try?
Help promote interactivity and socialization?
  • Does it start a new conversation, introduce a new concept, or propose a new idea?
  • Is it active rather than passive? (i.e., being engaged is different than being entertained)
As I peer over my computer at Webster's College Dictionary, it's comforting to ground myself in a traditional definition of educate/education/educational as a form of validation on the above: to impart knowledge; to provide with information; to develop powers of reason or judgement.

If we believe that technology can have positive outcomes on the future of education, we certainly owe it to ourselves and our kids to dive deeper into these questions and continue the discussion on their behalf.

1 comment:

Carolina said...

hey, good questions to ask. I think the ratio to entertainment and learning is key. But then again, with stories, it can be totally entertaining yet good for kids' learning at the same time.