Notice in the picture above that all the players are big box names; this is what I see featured in the Kids Section of iTunes App Store on any given day, or for that matter product in any given toy store. Disappointing doesn’t come close, maybe discouraging that your average consumer isn't aware of anything else or is it Apples fault? It’s disconcerting regardless of where you place the blame. Nothing against Disney or Lego – they make some great products, but when we have so much new content, why not explore and be a risk taker! Why do we get stuck in a marketing loop and invest in products that are merely extensions of T.V. shows with some educational content thrown in to justify its purchase? What's with all the PINK and Violet, in these logo’s? Read Toca Boca's post on beating the Toy Aisle Blues. What Apple is featuring in the Kids Section of the App Store is nothing new, and that's just my point.
If we know that single handed education is the most important factor in a child’s development why are we flaunting these commercial products? These are all familiar characters that have been around for decades and in many cases many decades, and there is little opportunity for our children to find something different that appeals to them if they don't have exposure. There are more than 80,00 IOS apps categorized as educational, and it is confusing since they describe educational apps as a combination of books, videos, games, and tools for teachers. The system of categories by ages and not by function or content is confusing. Apple needs educators helping with their categories as well as seeking out what real teachers and clinicians are using in their practice. If educators drove the market, high-quality EDUCATIONAL products would be promoted that teach kids to think and problem solves independently. The philosophy behind the Maker Movement is that acquiring new knowledge and understanding how things work is greatly enhanced by the power of learning by doing. This is not a new concept for educators and technology provides a natural segue in which to promote student-centered teaching practices to engage learners of all ages and put them in the driver's seat.
With that in mind, we all know that the selection of apps available for children is boundless. How do we get the word out to parents and educators that there are countless brilliant apps, unbelievably reasonable in price and readily available? How do we warn parents that the new Kids YouTube app needs parental guidance or your child may find Elsa from Frozen in an Unofficial Disney Way giving birth....
Let’s start here with some of the more reputable educational app review sites:
- Teachers With Apps - TWA founded in 2010 to help teachers, therapists, parents, and students wade through the vast number of educational apps being released on a daily basis. Every app is field-tested with a cross-section of students/teachers as part of our review process. Teachers With Apps is dedicated to the idea that quality mobile educational apps are the tools of the future but they need to be used responsibly.
- Digital Story Time - Founded in December 2010, has over 600 reviews in a sortable database with individual ratings for animation, interactivity, originality, educational value, audio quality, bedtime, re-readability, and extras. They now host guest posts by other review sites.
- iMums - Consists of four mothers from different parts of the world dedicated to educating parents about the best digital stories, educational apps, fun games and technology products available for their children. We also offer the latest news in apps for kids, interesting articles, developer interviews, free apps and regular giveaways.
- geekswithjuniors - A site about parenting in the age of technology. They review only the best apps for kids, games, and workflow recipes, and they spend time with each review and offer one review a day. They do not write about apps that they have not personally tried or do not like.
- Children’s Technology Review - (CTR) Started in 1993, is a continually updated rubric-driven survey of commercial children’s digital media products, for birth to 15-years. It is designed to start an educational conversation about commercial interactive media products; with the underlying admission that there is no perfect rating system.
- Graphite - Service from Common Sense Education that makes it easy to discover the best apps, games, and websites for classroom use. Tools like Edmodo, Educreations, ClassDojo, and Socrative have been thoroughly reviewed by their educators. Graphite’s ratings and reviews, blog articles, and webinars provide the information you need to make great technology choices.
- Educational App Store - (EAS) believes that a focus on matching educational apps to the curriculum is key for ensuring that both educators and learners get the most out of their mobile learning experience, they focus on performance, educational value and curriculum alignment when assessing the apps within their store. Aimed at developers, our EAS certified teachers review apps with this unique approach in mind.
- KinderTown - Transforms mobile devices into powerful teaching tools by finding and organizing the best educational apps for kids ages 3-8 years old. Their mission is to improve early childhood education by empowering parents with the tools to be better teachers.