Childhood in the digital age
Childhood in the digital age

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Childhood in the digital age

3.1 Can apps help children learn?

Described image
Figure 6 An image from Our Story, developed by Open University researchers

The Open University has expertise in this field and is contributing to the knowledge base of how children’s media, including tablet apps, can be evaluated to help parents make informed choices.

Natalia Kucirkova has summarised some key questions you can ask when deciding whether an app is or isn’t appropriate for a child’s educational purposes:

  • What skills and experiences does the app facilitate? Open-ended apps are likely to offer creative opportunities, especially those which enable children to develop their skills incrementally through images, video, text and sounds.
  • Does the app strike a judicious balance between entertainment and learning? The potential of apps is the greatest when flexibility and creativity are maximised for children, so they can, for instance, create their own personalised stories.
  • Does the app help to build and sustain relationships and encourage children to engage with each other? For example, good story-making apps are those which engage the child in story sharing and learning about others through their discussions and interactions.

Our Story [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] is an app designed by The Open University that allows you and your child to have fun and at the same time build up skills which will provide a foundation for starting to read.

The special feature of Our Story is that stories can be personalised: you can make your own stories. These are a very important way to support children’s reading development. Stories created by the children themselves capture children’s interest, motivate them to discover more and so help learning. You can use old or new photographs on your iPad or tablet and easily put these together to make a story about things you have done or act out a new event. On each photograph you can add text, speech and sounds. Children enjoy making and looking at these stories.

The app has been designed to give you lots of different possibilities to suit you and your child – and there are several suggestions about ways to use the app which will support vocabulary and pre-reading skills.

Activity 2

Read the article Reading and child development: The Our Story app. How do you think it relates to the key questions above?

  • What skills and experiences does the app facilitate?
  • Does the app strike a judicious balance between entertainment and learning?
  • Does the app help to build and sustain relationships and encourage children to engage with each other?

Write a paragraph about your ideas.

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