Monday, May 20, 2013

Trend Alert: Apps that encourage you to take your eyes OFF the screen.

As you can gather from my rating system, I place a lot of importance on parental involvement - more so than most of the other rating systems I've seen out there. For the most part, apps seem to only answer this criteria with reports for parents so they can review and track their kid's progress. Aside from the social benefits, a major reason I think parental involvement is important when it comes to learning is because parents can reinforce the content from the app with real world situations to help kids make those important connects. So I've been really encouraged to see several apps bring parental involvement and as well as the real world to the forefront.

A few examples:

PBS Parents Play & Learn

While this app has great interactive activities that center around everyday activities, what's more impressive are the related activities, or "teachable moments" they suggest for parents to do with their kids both in and out of the app. The related activities are not hidden under a "parent section" or under "more information." They are front and center. Granted, some parents may think these activities are obvious, but you'd be surprised how many parents may not have thought to do these types of activities with their kids - especially when it comes to apps. Especially given the young age that this app targets, it helps create a learning environment that's not just about the screen, but about the kids' surroundings and spending time with their parents in a meaningful way.

Apps from Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College
Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College has created some great apps. Admittedly, some are more polished than others, but at the core of most of them is family time. Alien Assignment and Out-A-Bout are two of my favorite apps because they seamlessly engage kids in their real world surroundings while involving parents in some direct way. Alien Assignment utilized the camera in the device and has kids take pictures of things they find in their surroundings that relate to the storyline of the app and then prompts them to give the device to their parents so they can check their work and get involved. Out-A-Bout
also utilizes the camera, but to create a story. Parents and kids go around taking pictures that are prompted by the app and the end product is a story with those pictures. In both cases, kids are up and about and not sitting around with their eyes glued to the screen.

Ok, so these apps aren't like hot off the presses new, but I remember being impressed and thinking that they were taking apps for young kids to a new level. I haven't seen too much similar stuff since from other developers, but I'm still hoping to.

Finally, I'd like to give some examples that aren't for young kids. Taking your eyes off the screen is not just a positive thing for young kids, but folks of all ages. Apps are on MOBILE devices - let's take advantage of that! There are the more obvious examples like exercise apps and some travel apps that give you virtual tours as you're at that location. But some flawed (these apps could use some usability improvements...) but less obvious choices like Sparkvue - which students can use to create science experiments as use the app as different measurement tools and LeafSnap - which incorporates a leaf recognition feature so you can go around snapping pics of real leaves to learn more about them - push the way we think about how to use apps.

And don't forget to take this quick survey on parental gating on apps! If you've at all thought about children's privacy and safety while playing apps please take a minute to do the survey. Read the parental gating post if you need some context.

Click here to take the survey!!
The survey's for parents, teachers, developers, and whoever else. The more responses, the better the results - Help spread the word!

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