I missed this when it came out in Forbes, but that delightful Dad blogger over at Game Theorist wisely reprinted his thoughts on this subject on his own blog, and I want to share it here.
Apps are an exciting new entry in the educational arena, but excitement and kids having fun doesn’t necessarily mean any real learning is going on. Joshua Gans (the Game Theorist), with a string of degrees and real world experience making him at the very least a qualified parent observer of whats going on here, points out some good benchmarks for evaluating these educational apps for our kids.
My big take-away here is that real learning comes when the game requires mastery of an educational task to progress to the next level. There’s reference to an algebra game that actually teaches algebraic equation manipulation, but doesn’t really sound much like a game. Where the learning keeps the kids engaged in fun-play while progressing, that’s the real deal.
But let’s not denigrate the importance of practice, which is different from learning but certainly contributes to mastery. Even if new learning isn’t part of the game, if real, meaningful skills are being honed, I consider that a good thing. Further, any so-called educational app may be a better use of your child’s time than a totally non-educaitonal game or the TV. So while many apps out there may not be ‘educational’ in the strictest sense, they may well help build skills and engage our kids in something more meaningful than they might otherwise be doing with their free time.