Children’s education and technology are becoming increasingly integrated. As technology rapidly evolves, so does the way that children learn. New applications are coming out every day for smart phones, tablets and computers. One of the biggest struggles is not finding an app; it is finding the appropriate app. With all of the choices, it could be your nightly job to find the exact app your children need. Asking a few questions before you start searching could cut your surfing time by hours. What are your children’s needs? How safe is it for them to use this app alone? Will this app work on the device your children will be using?
A great place to start searching for applications and educational videos and tools is Khan Academy. This website is at the forefront of free, open-source education. Currently, topics include math, science, finance, economics, history, civics and history. The website provides more than 3,000 video lessons (ages K-12) on a variety of topics. Each video is generally 10 minutes or less — great for short attention spans. In addition to entertaining, educational videos, Khan Academy provides important tools for tracking children’s progress, a knowledge map and an option to review material over and over until students can get it right. Being able to pause and review content is an advantage that students don’t always get in a traditional classroom setting. You can download the free Khan Academy app from iTunes or visit the website to start learning today.
One of the most essential parts of early childhood education is learning how to read. Reading to and with your children can give them huge advantages once they reach school age, and continuing this practice will ensure their preparedness throughout their school experience. E-readers and tablets can be an attractive incentive for getting tech-savvy kids to want to read. Interfacing with a screen instead of pages can be more exciting for those of newer generations.
iBooks is a wonderful way to download and read books. The novelty of reading on an iPad will entice even reluctant readers. This app includes the iBookstore where you can search for your favorite works or the latest best seller. Your children can create a library of books, turn pages with a tap or swipe of the screen and even add notes to pages — great for students doing book reports. In school, students do a lot of reading on computers. Reading an iBook will not only polish reading skills but also create comfort with screen reading.
Mathemagica by Remarkable ($2.99) is a great app to get elementary-school students excited about math. The resemblance to a simple video game and the virtual incentives (trophies) encourage students to progress to the next level. The app is programmed to adapt to each user. With each passing level, the difficulty is raised according to the progress of the learner. Also, the app can identify your children’s trouble areas and increase the frequency of “games” in that area to give them more practice. Mathematics from a first- through sixth-grade curriculum are covered in Mathemagica.
If your kids like cartoons, then they will love the creative learning experience with BrainPOP (free). Either by downloading apps for the Android or iPhone or by visiting its website, children can watch entertaining, animated lessons on a number of different subjects taught in a standard curriculum. The goal is to simplify complex concepts through these animated videos. When children are done watching the content, they can take a quiz to gauge their retention of the material. The BrainPOP app touts a high credibility with over 1.5 million downloads and it programs being used in nearly 20 percent of U.S. schools. BrainPOP Educators is another system provided by BrainPOP that allows educators to link up and plan assignments, search curriculum and integrate BrainPOP into their lessons.
The classic Encyclopedia Britannica has undergone a virtual facelift and kids are reaping the benefits. The Britannica Kids app encourages children to interact with text, images and video. All images are zoom-able, come with textual descriptions and other information and can even be converted into a jigsaw puzzle for kids to put back together. The “search wheel” allows kids to spin to their preferred subject or simply spin the wheel and see where it lands. With Britannica Kids, children can become archeologists for a day by sweeping virtual dirt off dinosaur bones and guessing what prehistoric creature lies beneath. The app is available on iTunes and additional Britannica apps are available for purchase.
Rhonda Cratty has been a teacher, instructional coach and writer since 1983. Rhonda enjoys writing about ways parents can improve the quality of their children’s educational lives. She has been the National Parent & Education at Examiner.com since December 2008. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.