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How to make kids' app time educational

Published: Tuesday, March 12 2013 4:10 p.m. MDT

“There is a lot of money going into Ed-Tech. A lot of venture capitalists are getting into it. You’re seeing a lot of new start-ups … and the big publishers are investing in digital education,” Connell said. “Every year there is something new coming out. It’s moving at an exponential rate whereas before it was almost glacial.”

Connell recently noticed there were more than 30,000 apps in the education section of the Apple app store. The downside to apps, she said, is they are small bites of education.

“They are disconnected from each other. There is no curriculum,” Connell said. “That’s the limitation currently in the consumer market.”

With the new national education standards, Common Core, being adopted around the United States, a curriculum will help children to learn at a natural rate, said Claudia Miner, Waterford’s vice president of development.

“It’s the difference between doing a fun app that looks great and keeps a child engaged for 10 minutes of a ride home, and actually having a curriculum that can be used in school,” Miner said.

Connell advises parents to find apps that help their child develop cognitive skills.

“One concern is a child’s inability to focus for a long period of time,” she said. “Using apps is one way to develop cognitive skills. Teaching children to sit and learn for longer than three minutes at a time is an important skill. We call it executive function — the ability to think through things and not give up the first time you face a challenge.”

Recommendations

Kelly's children like a variety of educational apps. There's "Zoodles," where a child can create an account and see age-appropriate educational videos.

"I can go to the website and see my 9-year-old has watched a lot of history videos, while my 6-year-old is more into reading, and you don't have to worry about the content," Kelly said.

They also like apps like Puppet Pals HD, PBS Kids, VidRhythm and Book Creator.

"There are so many they can have fun with, it's just a matter of going through and making sure they have some kind of educational value," Kelly said.

Kelly recommends more educational resources on his website, jzakimikelly.weebly.com.

Megan Leishman's 7-year-old son, Jack, a fan of Angry Birds Star Wars, also loves Waterford's reading software, www.rustyandrosy.com.

"It helps you learn while you're having fun," Jack said.

"He started reading at a young age, now he's ahead of a lot of his peers," Leishman said. "He gets some free time (with the computer), but usually, if he is going to be playing games, I like that he’s learning something at the same time."

Finally, a word of warning from parents Dave and Kiersten Owens, who have two energetic sons, Matt, 6, and Jackson, 4:

"Keep it on 'airplane mode' so they can’t buy anything," Dave Owens said.

For more recommendations on educational apps, teachthought.com recently compiled a list of the 12 best children's educational iPad apps from 2012.

Visitors are also welcome to attend the Early Education and Technology for Children (EETC) conference, April 2-4, in Salt Lake City. The EETC conference is an annual event that brings researchers, policy makers, administrators, educators, and solution providers together to explore technology used for preschool through elementary education.

Email: ttoone@desnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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