Congratulations! Santa brought new technology to your home this holiday season. Unfortunately, he didn’t leave behind one of his tech elves to help you get started using apps. This post is for all the parents and grandparents who now own an iPad, a Nexus 7, or a Kindle Fire, and want to begin using it with their children. It doesn’t matter whether the intended users are 2 or 12; Fun Educational Apps has compiled some basic information that will help you use your device more wisely. While we can’t help set up your device, we can guide you through the vast expanse of the App universe. Fun Fact: Did you know that according to Apple, the App Store contains over 65,000 apps labeled as “educational”?
Here, then, are our top five tips you need to know about educational apps:
Tip #1: Get to know the lingo. You need to know the meaning of these terms.
- IOS devices- stand for Internet Operating System devices. These are the Apple products that use apps- iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone. Some apps are universal and will operate on all three. Others require a slightly different version for the iPad. Hint: download the app on the device on which you will be using it to make sure it will be compatible.
- Android devices- These are products manufactured by Apple’s competitors, including Samsung, Amazon, and Google.
- App Store- the place to purchase Apple/IOS compatible apps
- Amazon.com- the place to purchase Kindle apps
- Google Play- the place to purchase Android compatible apps
- app- short for application. An app is a software program that can be downloaded onto your device that allows you to play a game, read a story, or practice a skill.
- icon- a little picture on your screen that you touch to open (or start) the app
- user interface- a combination of design and functionality. The best apps provide an “intuitive user interface.” That means a person with basic knowledge should be able to figure out how the app works without too much trouble.
- appisode- one in a series of apps that are sequential and contain the same character or characters. One app/one episode= appisode
- IAP- stands for in-app purchase. Apps are often provided free to consumers with a sample story or game; additional content is then made available through an in-app purchase. This is very similar to the person at the grocery store handing out free samples. Hint: It is essential to add a parental lock in your preferences to keep children from making unauthorized in-app purchases.
- freemium- similar to an in-app purchase (IAP); it combines the terms free and premium and indicates that the app has premium content that requires additional cost to unlock. It is important to put a parental lock on freemium purchases as well.
Tip #2: Establish clear rules. Limit playing time each day; I recommend preschoolers should not be using an iPad longer than 30 minutes a day, and not longer than 15 minutes at a time (except for special circumstances such as a waiting room, a long car ride, etc.). Also, don’t buy lots of apps right away. Remember the Rule of 5: most children have 5 or so apps that are their go-to favorites. It’s like toys; even if there are 20 toys lying around, a child is likely to play with only about 5 of them. The rest get ignored, so save your money. Lastly, enforce strict rules for using the tablet: inappropriate behavior (whining, fighting over it, cheating, downloading without permission, refusing to stop when it’s time) should not be tolerated- ever. Using the tablet is a priviledge, not a right.
Tip #3: Take advantage of free and reduced price app offers. Most of the main review sites (ours included) have regularly scheduled days when they offer up to 5 apps for free or at a steep discount. Even though you can’t predict which ones will be available, it’s a great place to start looking.
Tip #4: Check out YouTube to see if there is a video for the app. I have often used this tip myself when I am reviewing an app with which I am unfamiliar. A YouTube video is like a commercial; it lasts anywhere from 1-3 minutes and shows the app’s best features. To find out if an app has a video on YouTube, go to that site and type in the name of the app in the search box.
Tip #5: Spend time reading app reviews. The team here at Fun Educational Apps is passionate about providing quality feedback on a wide variety of educational apps. If we give an app our Top Pick, you can be sure that it has been carefully tested and certified as age appropriate, well-designed, and enjoyable to use. In short, our Top Picks are the best of the best.
All right, the time has come for you to start finding some apps. We look forward to reviewing many of the best and most creative apps available in 2014.
Top Five Tips by Julie Peterson, a speech/language pathologist (SLP), currently working in a school setting, serving children with special needs ages 6-14.