10 May, 2015

Putting Education in “Educational” Apps: Lessons From the Science of Learning

APS  | Psychological Science in the Public Interest (Vol 16, Number 1)

In the last 5 years, the use of handheld devices such as smart phones and tablets has exploded, and it should come as no surprise that the massive growth in smart technology has had a trickle-down effect, influencing even the youngest of users. Digital applications (apps) directed at children are big business; more than 72% of the top apps for sale in Apple’s App Store come from the Toddler/Preschool category.

First, we aim to guide researchers, educators, and designers in evidence-based app development. Second, by creating an evidence-based guide, we hope to set a new standard for evaluating and selecting the most effective existing children’s apps. In short, we will show how the design and use of educational apps aligns with known processes of children’s learning and development and offer a framework that can be used by parents and designers alike. Apps designed to promote active, engaged, meaningful, and socially interactive learning—four “pillars” of learning—within the context of a supported learning goal are considered educational.