Ap­pro­pri­ate apps for kids

CityPress - - Voices -

As the sum­mer hol­i­days draw near in many parts of the world, par­ents should not be sur­prised if chil­dren choose to fill their days with tech­nol­ogy. After all, teens and tweens are now spend­ing more hours on their de­vices – iPads, phones and com­put­ers – than they do sleep­ing. Anx­ious par­ents will point out how bad this tech­nol­ogy ob­ses­sion is for young peo­ple. Too much screen time has been linked to fall­ing grades, im­peded so­cial in­ter­ac­tion and a lack of ex­er­cise.

But there is a flip side. Sev­eral stud­ies sup­port tech­nol­ogy’s pos­i­tive in­flu­ence on young users, say­ing it of­fers ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for learn­ing and can strengthen in­ter­per­sonal re­la­tion­ships.

In the same way that some food is healthy and other food lacks nu­tri­tional ben­e­fits, some apps are low in men­tal fi­bre.

Based on my own re­search into how stu­dents learn with tech­nol­ogy, here is a guide to get­ting rid of “junk” apps and en­sur­ing your tweens and teens de­velop healthy tech habits dur­ing term time as well as the school hol­i­days.

From pas­sive to ac­tive

The key lies in shift­ing chil­dren from us­ing apps that make them pas­sive con­tent con­sumers to ap­pro­pri­at­ing those that en­cour­age them to be ac­tive con­tent pro­duc­ers.

Us­ing ac­ti­vat­ing apps can help chil­dren to de­velop a wide range of 21st-cen­tury skills such as col­lab­o­ra­tion, cre­ativ­ity, crit­i­cal think­ing and prob­lem solv­ing.

Be­fore I look at apps that will ac­tively en­gage kids dur­ing school hol­i­days, here are the “apps” you should im­me­di­ately delete from their lives.

Ap­pre­hen­sion: feel­ings of in­ad­e­quacy, caused by so­cial me­dia;

Ap­proval: the dan­ger­ous pur­suit of dig­i­tal val­i­da­tion through “likes” and “fol­low­ers”;

Ap­a­thy: the in­creas­ing de­sire to pas­sively con­sume con­tent; and

Apart­ness: cause.

Once th­ese “apps” are deleted, you can move on to the fol­low­ing se­lec­tion of apps. They will not only en­gage your kids, but also help them to de­velop the above­men­tioned skills.

I have se­lected a few iOS, An­droid and web-based apps, all of which are ac­ces­si­ble through a browser on any de­vice. The full list is avail­able here. I have grouped th­ese ac­cord­ing to the skills that chil­dren will de­velop. the dan­ger of iso­la­tion that tech­nol­ogy can

Ac­ti­vat­ing apps Cu­ra­tion:

Cu­ra­tion apps help kids to de­velop key skills such as read­ing, cat­e­goris­ing and or­gan­is­ing.

Pin­ter­est (iOS/An­droid/web): This pop­u­lar vis­ual pin­board is great for cre­at­ing col­lec­tions of images. How about a pin­board of Dis­ney char­ac­ters?

Learn­ing Lab (web): This site, cre­ated by the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion in the US, al­lows kids to cu­rate mu­seum arte­facts.

List.ly (web): Cre­ates fun, share­able lists of web­sites, videos and more from the web. How about start­ing with a list of all the places you want to visit? There is a shift from learn­ing through con­tent con­sump­tion to learn­ing through con­ver­sa­tion about

Con­ver­sa­tion:

con­tent in on­line spa­ces. Con­ver­sa­tion-based apps pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties to de­bate, dis­cuss and en­rich re­la­tion­ships.

Maily (iOS/An­droid): A par­ent-con­trolled app, it al­lows kids to cre­ate fun mes­sages with draw­ings and text.

Playkids Talk (An­droid): This in­stant mes­sag­ing app is for pri­mary school kids. With their par­ents’ per­mis­sion, kids can send in­stant mes­sages – in­clud­ing pho­tos, voice record­ings and graph­ics – to one an­other.

Re­search shows that one of the most ef­fec­tive ways of learn­ing is through mis­takes. Tech­nol­ogy al­lows us to eas­ily ex­per­i­ment, make mis­takes and learn through cor­rec­tion.

Cor­rec­tion:

Scrib­ble­nauts (iOS/An­droid): En­ables kids to bring any ob­ject to life sim­ply by typ­ing its name. Th­ese ob­jects are then used to solve fun prob­lems.

Ka­hoot! (web/iOS/An­droid): A gam­i­fied take on quizzes that makes learn­ing – and mis­takes – lots of fun. You can cre­ate your own quiz, or try one of the thou­sands al­ready cre­ated. This is a great way to get a group of kids – and adults – learn­ing and laugh­ing to­gether.

Creation: Cre­at­ing con­tent de­vel­ops key skills such as logic, cre­ative think­ing and prob­lem solv­ing.

Book Cre­ator (An­droid/iOS): En­ables kids to cre­ate books us­ing their own pho­tos, videos and so on. The fi­nal book can be pub­lished on the Google Play store or iBooks.

Mon­ster Physics (iOS): En­ables kids to build work­ing con­trap­tions us­ing a range of parts such as wheels, rock­ets and mag­nets. Once the con­trap­tion is built, kids can test it to see how it works.

Scratch (web/iOS/An­droid): A pow­er­ful way to teach kids cre­ative think­ing and logic is through pro­gram­ming. The Scratch en­vi­ron­ment – a vis­ual pro­gram­ming lan­guage de­vel­oped by the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, called MIT Scratch – is de­signed to let kids learn to pro­gram in a fun, easy way.

Learn­ing to make sense of too much miss­ing and con­flict­ing in­for­ma­tion is a skill that chil­dren in­creas­ingly need to de­velop in our con­tent-ex­ces­sive world.

Word clouds (web): Th­ese are a great way to dis­til large amounts of text into fas­ci­nat­ing vis­ual rep­re­sen­ta­tions. Worditout al­lows kids to eas­ily cre­ate a word cloud from any piece of text. How about cre­at­ing a word cloud of the news or a fa­mous speech?

Mindmaps are use­ful to help or­gan­ise your think­ing. Corku­lous (iOS) pro­vides a fun cork­board spin on this con­cept for kids.

Kids can some­times be over­whelmed or bored by con­tent, but they al­ways en­joy car­toons. Rather than watch or read to them, let your kids cre­ate car­toons with toon­doo.com or an­i­ma­tions with Pow­toon.com. How about ask­ing them to cre­ate a car­toon that sum­marises their year?

Chaos: Keep­ing track

No mat­ter which apps your kids choose, keep track of their use. Re­search sug­gests that screen time should be lim­ited, whether young users are con­sum­ing “junk” apps or learn­ing while they swipe. OurPact is a great tool to au­to­mate this process. It lets par­ents set us­age sched­ules or turn off a de­vice at any time. Blewett is se­nior lec­turer in ed­u­ca­tion and tech­nol­ogy at the Univer­sity of KwaZulu-Natal. The ar­ti­cle first ap­peared in

IN­TEL­LI­GENT PLAY Apps that en­cour­age kids to be ac­tive con­tent pro­duc­ers are ideal

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