Our favorite learning apps for tablets and smartphones _ the wirecutter

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Based on our research, we think a good learning app should be provocative, exploratory, and open-ended; it should also have been designed with primary input from educators and curriculum developers, or shown in educational research to be an effective learning tool. Binary code decoder The apps we cover in this guide are great learning apps not because they’re designed to make kids smarter, to drill facts, or to replace in-school learning, but because they’re fun and interesting for kids and adults.

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a psychologist specializing in child development and learning, wrote in a 2015 article (PDF) that educational apps “present a significant opportunity for out-of-school, informal learning when designed in educationally appropriate ways,” but that “only a handful … are designed with an eye toward how children actually learn.”

Apps are still fairly uncharted territory for education, and it isn’t clear what really helps preschool and early-elementary children learn, as opposed to simply entertaining them. Stock market futures implied open In a similar situation to what we found when researching learning toys, developers and app stores often label apps as “educational” with little research or evidence, and few experts, to support those claims.


The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a broad report on children’s use of digital media, calling for more-rigorous evaluation of apps that claim to be educational: “Unfortunately, very few of the commercially available apps found in the educational section of app stores have evidence-based design input with demonstrated learning effectiveness. The box movie In fact, recent reviews of hundreds of toddler/preschooler apps labeled as educational have demonstrated that most apps show low educational potential … are not based on established curricula, and include almost no input from developmental specialists or educators.”

(Parents and educators looking for more advice about choosing whether to incorporate apps into kids’ playtime should check out the resources we consulted for this guide, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a nonprofit research group focusing on education and new media.)

To find the apps in this guide, we spoke with Jennifer Auten, an award-winning teacher in Cupertino, California, who has been using tablet and smartphone apps in her first- and second-grade curricula since the iPad was released in 2010. Nok usd For recommendations of coding and STEM apps, we corresponded with representatives from Project Lead The Way, an education nonprofit that promotes STEM curricula for students and teachers. Vnd to usd converter We spoke with Björn Jeffery, CEO of kids-game developer Toca Boca, to learn about designing games that foster open-ended and imaginative play. Binary code translation We also asked an astronomer, a programmer, and several parents on our staff for recommendations of apps they and their kids love in categories like science, music, and coding.

We read articles and reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, and child developmental psychologists and educational researchers to learn about kids’ media use and about principles for designing learning apps. 1 usd to rmb Finally, we read through reviews and ratings from well-regarded children’s media sites like Common Sense Media and Children’s Technology Review.

As with our guide to learning toys, we focused primarily on apps aimed at kids 3 to 8 years old, though older kids can enjoy many of our recommendations, as well. Usps shipping supplies 1 We chose this age range because, as Kathy Hirsh-Pasek has pointed out (PDF), “there are so many apps targeted toward [children in this range] that parents and educators do not know how to navigate the marketplace of possibilities.”

As noted above, experts are still studying what makes learning apps successful pedagogical tools, as well as fun and interesting activities for kids. Exchange rate usd to rmb But after speaking with our experts and reading the aforementioned research, we identified a few features that seem to be common among great learning apps.

• Open-ended, with limits: Most of the apps in this guide are open-ended in the sense that they encourage kids to independently explore, create, and navigate within the app. Exchange rate us to canada But researchers say it’s important to have built-in limits, as well. What is a binary number The AAP has pointed out that digital games have traditionally been designed with rewards and reinforcement designed to keep kids playing as long as possible. Convert idr to usd The organization recommends that learning apps instead have “automatic ‘stops’ as the default design to encourage children and caregivers to pause the game use and turn to the 3-dimensional world.”

• Engaging but not distracting: Apps have great potential to engage children through interactive features, but some research has shown that too many bells and whistles can distract children or reduce their comprehension. Commodity futures price quotes A good learning app uses interactive, animated, and responsive features to engage kids or enhance their comprehension, not simply to entertain. Usd to nzd Hirsh-Pasek says parents should evaluate an app’s interactive features and ask: “Do the enhancements actually add value and increase engagement, or do they cause distraction?”

• Encouraging interaction: The AAP and other researchers say that learning apps that encourage real-life interaction among multiple people—adult and child, or child and peers—can be especially strong at facilitating learning. Euro dollar exchange rate chart The apps in this guide are fun and interesting for kids and adults, and many foster conversation and play outside of the app itself.

• Skill-building apps: These apps are built around a learning goal, such as practicing and exploring mathematics concepts, or introducing coding and programming.

• Exploration apps: These apps let kids explore a subject or field—like astronomy or anatomy—at their own pace and sequence (similar to paging through a book) and with age-appropriate reading and interactive components.

• Sandbox apps: So-called because they’re designed to be open-ended, like playing in a sandbox (PDF), these apps encourage kids to play, imagine, and create, but they don’t have explicit goals, levels, or achievements.

As with our guide to learning toys, we didn’t test scores of apps to try to find the “best” ones. Us futures market live Rather, each app here has been chosen by teachers for their students in classrooms, used by Wirecutter parents and their kids, or recommended by the experts and educators we spoke with.

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