App Advice

I originally compiled my lists of app reviews and recommendations as a resource for the families at Creative Scholars Preschool, where I teach. As soon as I began using iPads in my classroom, families inundated me with questions about which apps I use and why. I took the time to sift through what’s available for young children, so that I could answer those questions competently. The lists of educational apps contained on this site are the result of that continued effort.

I use iPads in my classroom primarily for center-time activities. In other words, iPads activities are one of the many activities children can choose from during our school day. Though I have never been a huge technophile, I certainly see great value and even greater potential in the use of tablets with young children. They are powerful tools. However, I would like to offer some advice regarding their use.

  • Try not to let children spend too much time in front of a screen (i.e., computers, tablets, phones, televisions). A lot of parents talk about “screen time” with their children, and how it is not good for your brain if you get too much of it. I recommend having some sort of similar dialogue on a regular basis with your children. How much screen time is too much? Nobody can say for sure, of course. I try to err on the side of caution.
  • Be careful not to let screen time turn into alone time. Working with technology should have a social component, too. I often have my students work on an iPad in pairs, either passing it back and forth or working together. That is just one way to inject social interaction. There are many others. Adults-child interactions should also be part of screen time. Although apps can provide phenomenally more support for young children than a worksheet ever has, I believe the support children receive from real adults is naturally richer and more socially meaningful, and therefore more valuable. In other words, use the technology to enhance interactions with children, not replace them.
  • Akin to the previous point, avoid allowing alone time turn into screen time. It is valuable for children to learn how to occupy their time without constant access to technology. Consider removing technology from certain periods of the day or certain parts of your home. And be careful to avoid regular screen time before bed.

As for the apps themselves, there are a whole lot of them out there. None of them are perfect. You should not necessarily discard an app entirely because it has a couple of displeasing qualities. It may still be of great value, even if it drives you a little crazy sometimes. I have only reviewed iPad apps. Perhaps other tablets will catch up soon, but right now iPads are the most prevalent tablets being used by educators of young children. There are many good apps available exclusively on other types of tablets, but I am not a good resource for finding those.

You are welcome to contact me if you have any feedback. I acknowledge that what works for my students and me may not work for you in your setting. If you think something I have recommended is useless, let me know. Or if you have found value in something I have not recommended, I would love to hear that, too. And although I have tried to be somewhat thorough in my hunting, I am sure I am unaware of some good apps. Please share with me your own recommendations.

As a technical note, most of the links I have provided are for the full versions of apps. Many apps have partial versions that are free. Check with developer websites for those options.

Joe Robinson