Which Educational Application Works Best For Your Child?

Apple’s App Store prides itself in having over 350,000 iPhone applications. There are literally thousands of educational applications on the App Store.  Parents and teachers are overwhelmed with such a vast number of apps. The key question is: How to decide which one is the best for my students?

In choosing a good educational iPhone and iPad application for children the following criteria should be taken into consideration:

1.    Accessibility – the expectations of a task should not exceed  the limits of physical and cognitive ability of a certain age group;

2.    Clarity – the child should always know what he or she is expected to do without constant parents’ guidance;

3.    Efficiency –  the app should cover key points of the issue swiftly and clearly without any lingering due to child’s limited attention span;

4.    Focus – the task should focus on one particular issue at a time (even at schools one lesson at a time is taught);

5.    Graphic design – colorful child-friendly design should serve as an additional incentive;

6.    Reward – successfully completed task should be rewarded.

Learning involves perceptual, cognitive, communicative and memory aspects of human psychology. Thus, just because an app is labeled ‘educational’ does not make it a perfect learning tool for your child. An app should state exactly what age group it is intended for and which subject matter it is trying to teach. The age group and the teaching unit should greatly influence a choice in the size and colors of the object shown on the screen, a choice in the language, the sounds, and even the task itself.

Extensive and elaborate explanations of the task make a child weary rather than interested in learning. Ideally we want the child to feel independent in acquiring knowledge. Independence leads to self-confidence, which in turn leads to success.

An educational application should cover key points of the issue swiftly and clearly without any redundant lingering. Person’s  attention span is surprisingly short, it is so especially with children. Also, people are generally capable of a longer attention span when doing something enjoyable and motivating.

Remember that by buying an educational app you are not buying a text book. Rarely the apps contain extra explanations and / or definitions.  An app usually does not cover a whole semester of work. It is best used if it focuses on one particular issue at a time (e.g. spelling, counting, addition, subtraction, history of Ancient Egypt, etc.).

Finally, a child should find the visual part of the app appealing and inviting. Attractive colors and pictures serve as extrinsic motivators.  The same role is assigned to reward offered upon each successfully completed task. . Every teacher strives to create a relaxed learning atmosphere with lowered affective filters. Sometimes a mere smile helps a child feel good about his abilities. There is nothing like positive reinforcement to stimulate that precious little brain with tons of potential.  To achieve this, apps use words or sounds of praise after a successfully completed task. Some apps use visual devices. A number of apps offer collecting reward points using competition as incentive Some go even further than that and add an interactive quick game as a reward.

Once the child is immersed in the app, he or she should feel comfortable and successful in order to be motivated to continue using it. There have been studies written on the topic of good mood vs. cognitive processes, and positive motivation vs. success.


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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Natasa Gajic, a member of CATESOL (California Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), and a founder of @Reks, a company that prides itself in creating educational applications.