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"?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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)
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.