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How to Find Quality Apps for Children

How to Find Quality Apps for Children

Choose wisely! This list is not exhaustive, but gives parents and educators a good idea of what to look for when considering an app and evaluating its educational value. Use app review sites and advice from literacy experts — including your local media mentor or librarian — to find materials that match children's needs.

What to look for in early literacy apps

Phonemic awareness and “ABC” apps

  1. Are sounds pronounced and represented with letters accurately? Watch out for distorted sounds. When two consonants combine to represent one sound, such as sh, ch, or ng, some apps try to isolate the sounds of the individual letters, sneaking in an extra sound to represent the second letter. Children need to learn that the letter combinations sh, th, wh, ch, and ng make single sounds, which they can recognize in the words they hear every day.
  2. Does the app confuse things as it tries to simplify? For example, some apps will try to simplify things by producing only one sound for the letter a. This will cause confusion. For example, the letter a sound in at is not the same as the sound for the a in the word all.
  3. Does the app give children opportunities to hear words and see models of how language is used? Rhyming, for example, is an important early literacy skill, but some apps expect children to demonstrate this skill without first hearing examples of rhyming words. Some apps that claim to teach rhyming have children drag pictures of rhyming words together without allowing them to hear the words pronounced.

Story apps

  1. Are the story’s characters culturally and ethnically diverse and does the story include experiences that reflect today’s diverse families?
  2. Does the app include accurate information and grammatically-correct content?
  3. Does the app include meaningful interactive elements that maintain the story’s flow and add to the story instead of being only for interactivity’s sake?
  4. Are read-to-me and read-to-myself options available, allowing families to read and listen together? (Narration should be well-spoken and expressive.)
  5. Does the app’s content encourage children and adults (or siblings or peers) to read and talk together about what they are seeing and reading?
Curation Sites Search By
 

age bands

core subjects

topics/themes

character strength

skills

keyword

Balefire Labs reviews educational apps with a focus on how well the apps are designed. Users can browse apps by reading and math standards, as well as find apps for students who speak Spanish.

Rated/curated by experts.
 

 

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Children’s Technology Review boasts over 11,800 reviews and allows users to filter by quality and search by topic. Each app is reviewed for ease of use and childproofing, as well as values related to education, entertainment, design features, and overall good value.

Rated/curated by educators and experts.
 

 

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Common Sense Media includes user reviews in addition to its educator reviews. Keeping parents in mind, it also looks for positive messages, violence and scariness, sexy stuff, language, consumerism, and drinking.

Rated/curated by experts and developers.
 

 

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Digital Storytime has e-book reviews available in seven languages and allows users to search by product price, quality, and size. It also describes apps in terms of the animation, audio, bedtime appropriateness, education, interactivity, originality, rereadability, and extra features.

Rated/curated by educators and parents.
 

 

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Graphite is designed for teachers and provides information regarding set-up time and resources. Its teacher dashboard provides notes regarding technology, engagement, pedagogy, and support.

Rated/curated by educators and experts.
 

 

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Know What’s Inside features 24 subject filters and allows users to seek apps that don’t require wifi, and those that block in-app purchase, ads, and links to social networks.

Rated/curated by developers.
 

 

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Parent’s Choice Foundation considers age-appropriate content, design and function, educational value, and universal human values. Its product finder allows users to search by likes, age, budget, contributor, and company.

Rated/curated by parents and experts.
 

 

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Teachers with Apps field-tests every app it reviews with a cross-section of students and teachers. The blog is organized by category and has unique pages for teachers and parents.

Rated/curated by educators.
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Download the How to Find Apps chart >

Roadmaps for choosing educational apps

 

Watch our full interview with Lisa Guernsey >

Lisa Guernsey, Michael Levine (2016)

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