A Matter of App: A New Website Rating Kids’ Apps

by Cynthia Chong
January 10, 2012

Cynthia ChongCynthia Chong is an educational media researcher whose research focuses on how the design of educational media can affect young children’s learning and the way they interact with them, as well as how parents and teachers use these technologies to teach. She recently began reviewing educational apps for 3- to 8-year-olds on her blog, A Matter of App. We’ve invited Cynthia to tell us a little bit more about this blog and why it’s important for parents, educators, and designers to keep a research-oriented perspective on the hundreds of apps that are available in today’s market. 

 

As a developmental psychologist who does educational media research, I often get asked by colleagues and friends (many who are new parents) what games, toys, apps, etc. are best for young children. With the explosion of apps this past year, I’m embarrassed to say I have not been able to keep up! So for my own knowledge, I’ve started this blog to systematically review educational apps for young children.

A second goal of this blog is to help keep parents, educators, and designers informed about what’s out there. I hope that this blog will contribute a new, research-oriented perspective to what seems like hundreds of educational blogs that already exist. I rate each app in the following four areas that I think are important to fostering learning. You can find a more detailed description of these ratings in the blog, but to give you a sense of what I mean by each of these, here are some excerpts from a few reviews I’ve done so far:

 

Developmental appropriateness:

Digitz: “This game could be used to encourage those who like this type of game [tetris], but who may not like math so much to get some extra practice in. But keep in mind that this type of rote memorization of number facts is only part of skill set needed to attain good math skills. Read the full review.

Bartleby’s Book of Buttons Vol. 2: “…some of the tasks require good motor skills – some tasks require one hand to hold down a button while the other hand spins a gear or to tilt the iPhone or iPad to complete a puzzle (this was kinda hard!). A younger child, 4- or 5-year-old, may not know what to do or may get frustrated because they do not have the gentle touch or coordination required to complete the task. An older child, 7 or older, may possess the skills needed, but may also find the tasks boring once they’ve figured it out. Read the full review.

 

Balance of features:

The Town Musicians of Bremen: “After my first reading, I realized I didn’t actually know what happened in the story – I was too busy finding all the hotspots and doing the puzzles!” Read the full review.

Team Umizoomi Math: “… kids still get to press on all the cool hotspots, yet not be distracted by them when it comes time to learn.” Read the full review.

 

Sustainability:

Team Umizoomi Math: “The key strength for this game is that it stems off a popular television show. Kids know and like the characters and that should keep them coming back.”  Read the full review.

Parental Involvement:

The Town Musicians of Bremen: “Parents should also remind their child of what’s happened in the story as they will likely have lost track after spending time on the puzzles. The more extra features, the more parents should be involved.”  Read the full review.

I hope that this blog will help start healthy discussions about what we value and should look for in an app for our kids. These reviews will, of course, just be my humble opinion. I’d love to hear what you think!

 

Check out Cynthia’s blog at http://childrensappreview.blogspot.com/.