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Child Neuropsychology A blog by Dr Jonathan Reed
  • What makes a good educational ipad app

    I am really excited about the prospects of using the ipad to help children learn.  As I have previously discussed there are some important advantages in using the ipad, especially with younger children and children who find learning difficult.  I am developing games on the ipad to help learning and rehabilitation (see Nutty Numbers).   I am also clinically involved in rehabilitation and looking to find ways to help children with neurological conditions.   As a result I have looked in detail at what sort of apps are available.     My impression from studying the itunes educational app charts and trying out various games is that there is generally a lack of good quality educational apps that I could recommend.   Although I want to promote my own apps, I would also like to recommend apps to help particularly children who are finding learning hard or are in rehabilitation.  Whilst there are a lot of nice looking apps about there is mainly a lack of substance.  The sort of features I would like to see in apps and would recommend parents to look for include:

    1.  Is the app based on learning theory?  There is increasing knowledge about how children learn.  Are the educational apps utilising this?

    2. For younger children are there spoken instructions rather than written instructions?  Clearly young children can’t read and therefore will need a parent supervising them if the instructions require reading. The ipad will work best when children can explore and learn under their own initiative.

    3. What happens if the child gets an answer wrong?  It can be very frustrating receiving a big cross or a sound effect indicating a mistake sound, especially if you don’t know the answer.   This is a particular problem for children who find learning difficult.  Several experiences of this will turn most children off.

    4.  What are the reward structures?  Research has shown that positive affirmations (i.e. letting the child know that they are doing well) are very powerful by themselves in learning.  Any educational apps should have several layers of reward structure.

    5.  Is there any research showing that the app improves learning?  For example Nutty numbers has been shown to significantly increase numeracy compared to a control group in a published experimental study.

    6.  Is there a randomised presentation?  Just going through the same structure each time does not encourage learning.

    These are some of the criteria that I consider important and have used to develop my apps.   I would like to see other educational apps with these features. I think this would help develop the field of games based learning and realise some of it’s potential.  Potentially many children could be using tablet devices such as the ipad to learn and develop.  I have written previously about the advantages of game based learning.  However, at present in my opinion it is still a field in it’s infancy.    I hope it does develop and that I can contribute to this.  I would be keen to hear of any other recommended educational apps fulfilling some of the criteria above.

    Published on May 22, 2011 · Filed under: Uncategorized;
    1 Comment

One Response to “What makes a good educational ipad app”

  1. [...] of synapses, Dr. Jonathan Reed, a child neuropsychologist, says we need to make sure that any kids’ app utilize “learning [...]

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