The Positive Truth About Apps in Children’s Education
Likely, everyone knows about the dangers that can arise when one spends too much time in front of a screen. The media mentions so many “cons” that you might be wondering: What about the “pros”? Do the positives outweigh the negatives? The rapid spread of mobile device ownership and the active use of apps by children are two reasons why we should learn about both sides of the phenomenon and use it thoughtfully. Research shows that a whopping 95% of US teens use mobile apps daily. They can actually benefit from it if we show them how.
Is This App Really Educational?
Top App Categories in the App Store in May 2019
According to Apple, in May 2019 a total of 8.53% of iOS products in the App Store were registered as educational. However, not all of them deserve to be. Research by Psychological Science in the Public Interest says that, currently, there are no scientifically-based ways to differentiate entertainment apps from educational apps. However, brains consume new knowledge much better when humans are actively involved in what they are studying.
You should define whether an app offers challenges that require consideration and provides a commensurate reward. For example, there’s no value in swiping the screen to control a spaceship that shoots monsters. However, if the same game requires solving navigation problems and at least minimal strategy-making to defeat enemies, it activates cognition through involvement. Look for things that encourage active thinking and advanced decision-making to differentiate an educational app from a colorful, pseudo-educational bust.
You can tell if the task requires active thinking.
Applications provide unique story-telling options with place-to-learn mechanics and a versatile digital environment that enables engagement with the material. Another meaningful benefit is social interaction focused on tasks. Multiplayer puzzle-solving and discussions via apps help children feel equal and encourage them to discuss their progress with teachers and parents. The Class Dojo and GoNoodle classroom apps are good at linking students and teachers, providing them with a field for self-expression, the exchange of creations, and instant feedback. Properly defined learning goals, along with active and engaging experiences, can significantly boost education efficiency.
Kids collaborating on Learn with Homer
Susan B. Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy education at NYU Steinhardt, proved that mobile apps in preschool education help accelerate the development of literacy skills and inoculate the right approach to media. They are also a cheaper option that allows children from low-income families to better prepare for school. Neuman says that there is an “app gap” between middle-class and low-income children. The data that Neuman provided shows that 49% of middle-class kids reported that 80% of the apps they download are educational, while only 30% of low-income children reported about having 57% educational apps. She believes that the integration of educational apps in the classroom will minimize the gap and improve the performance of children from different social segments. In addition, Neuman described another research study that included 10-week testing on the Learn with Homer app among 148 preschoolers, who showed measurable growth in literacy skills, including phonological awareness and understanding of connections between letters and speech.
Video Apps Are Incredibly Effective
People of any age prefer visual content to other types of media because 83% of our experiences come from our sense of sight. Video content, in particular, is processed 60,000 times faster than text. It also retains the viewer’s attention better than text does. Apps like YouTube, PBS Kids, and Brainfeed have an educational value that can be equal to that of books.
Visual information is processed faster. A simple test proves it.
Pew Research Center 2018 figures say that 81% of parents worldwide allow their kids to use the YouTube app. While this free hosting platform is a huge source of controversial information, it can also serve educational purposes. Hundreds of knowledge- and practice-driven channels are supported by a $20 million YouTube initiative, covering fundamental knowledge in alternative formats for children of any age. There’s always a good selection from which to choose. If you want to protect small kids from inappropriate videos, try the YouTube Kids app, which provides a library filtered by default.
Videos are a powerful source of knowledge and practical experiences. Studies of 2500 sixth-graders and eighth-graders, conducted by Cisco in Los Angeles, showed significant growth in math achievement among children who used on-demand streaming video to learn and understand the material. Additionally, in her study titled “The Impact of Video Technology in Education: From Here to Where?”, Sonya Jurich states that video not only combines visual and audial components but also “bridges the gap between schools’ artificial environment and the outside world, bringing reality into the classroom”.
Do Gaming Apps Teach?
The Statista 2018 survey discovered that 63% of kids in the US play on their mobile devices, forming the second-biggest market after China. The process of gamification can serve educational purposes by employing gaming elements and mechanics in a non-gaming context.
A study by Meaghan C. Lister from Holland College says that students rewarded with points, levels, badges, or placement on leaderboards give the most instant feedback and demonstrate better involvement in tasks. For instance, the Khan Academy app gives points to students who watch educational videos and complete other tasks. This boosts the students’ extrinsic motivation, leading them to make efforts to achieve.
Gamification elements and their efficiency
The high involvement in apps and mobile games among modern children can also help leverage intrinsic motivation. This type of motivation leads to long-term positive learning behavior because it associates learning with individual excitement and pleasure. Intrinsically motivated learning is the most effective and least-frequently-achieved state, and apps can help educators with this.
Give Apps a Chance
The prospects and rates of integration of mobile applications into modern children’s education are very high. Now you can clearly see that the right angle on technology can minimize undesirable issues and offer numerous benefits for your children. If you are always moderately critical, you will see the truth and how to apply it.
Dr. Shannon McHugh, a practicing clinical psychologist, says that no matter how much control you have over kids’ digital life, there’s always a chance that they will see something inappropriate. That’s where you have to help them break the rule, “If it’s on the web, it’s true.”
Keep asking them: “What is that app for? Why do you like it? Do you learn something new from it?” Practicing such a Q&A game with toddlers will result in healthy critical thinking when they reach school age. It will also protect them from the vast majority of threats that may come from apps and the Internet, as well as help them learn something new.