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Research concludes apps can be educational

A guide to help parents, educators and app designers assess the educational impacts of apps for children has been developed by an international team of researchers.

Drawing on previous research on how children learn best, the team concluded that for an app to be educational it must encourage active, engaged, meaningful and socially interactive learning.

One of the researchers, Dr Jordy Kaufman from Swinburne University of Technology’s BabyLab, said until now it was difficult to determine if an app had educational value. He also said for an app to promote active learning it had to require the child to solve problems and make a mental effort, rather than simply just tapping and swiping on a screen.

“A good example of a storybook app that encourages mental activity is one that might ask children to choose among story characters or objects that enhance the storyline,” Kaufman said.

While this study concluded apps do have the potential to be useful educational tools and supplement learning experiences, Kaufman said they cannot replace learning in the real world provided by good educators.

“With a ‘science of learning’ approach, apps will certainly provide learning opportunities,” Kaufman said. “But [an app that can] provide entirely new opportunities compared with what can be provided by an excellent teacher is still a lofty goal,”

The study has been published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

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