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The 4 C’s of Great Educational Apps

Mom and daughter looking for great educational apps

The number of apps available these days is mind-blowing. Apps are big business, and we’ll continue to see more apps hit the market. While selection is good, the search for great educational apps can be overwhelming. It doesn’t help that the label “educational” doesn’t really seem to be a fitting label for all apps which fall into that category.

For example, Nail Salon 2 is listed as educational. Nail Salon 2There is nothing wrong with this app as a game. But, I think most parents and educators would agree it probably pushes the bounds of being considered educational let alone a great educational app.

Brain It On! Physics Puzzles

As parents, we understand not everything has to be stamped “educational” to provide an enriching experience for our children. Brain It On! -Physics Puzzles might not be listed under Educational apps, but I’d add it to my list of great educational apps over Nail Salon 2 any day.

If we can’t trust the assigned labels, how do we decide which apps really provide opportunities for learning and which apps are going to be those “zone out” apps?

We know not all screen time is equal. Common Sense Media has a great list of guidelines which can be applied to any media to ensure parents are maximizing screen time for their children. Find the best educational apps for your children by looking for apps that offer at least 1 or more of these 4 C’s.

4 C’s of Great Educational Apps

  1. Connection – Apps that allow kids to connect on a personal level with what they’re watching, playing, or reading.
  2. Critical Thinking – Apps that dive deeply into a topic, subject, or skill. Look for games which challenge kids to wrestle with ethical dilemmas or strategize to overcome obstacles.
  3. Creativity – Apps that give kids the ability to create new content. There are apps where kids create their own book using images, music and text. Many of these even give kids the ability to share their creation with friends and family. And, there are lots of great apps for your budding artist or musician. Let them explore, create, and share!
  4. Context –  Apps that make it easy to help your kids understand how what they learn fits into the larger world. Observe your kids as they’re playing new apps. Ask them open-ended questions to extend their learning; then set up experiences to help take the learning off-screen. Some of my favorite apps are nature and history apps that encourage users to actively engage with the content or actively participate.

While we don’t want our kids sitting in front of a screen for hours on end, we have come to learn that media content matters more than the media platform or time spent with media. If kids aren’t engaging with the content, it’s likely they are zoning out and the app is becoming a babysitter and not a tool for learning. Selecting great educational apps is as simple as remembering these 4 C’s!

Need help finding some great educational apps? Check out my recommended lists.



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  1. […] kids to behave positively online. Talk to them about what they watch, play, create, and read. Guide your kids to high-quality movies, TV shows, apps, and games. And, make sure your kids understand technology […]

  2. […] fit into the world. The ratings for apps can make selecting apps tough. But, understanding the 4 C’s of great educational apps, and knowing your child, can help you select the right app for your budding learner. Here are my […]

  3. […] might be the issue. If your child spends a good deal of time using the app, be sure the app is a high quality educational app. Or an app which adds value to you or your child’s life. If you find the app isn’t adding […]

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