As the summer holidays draw near in many parts of the world, parents shouldn’t be surprised if kids choose to fill their days with technology. After all, teens and tweens are now spending more hours on their devices – iPads, phones and computers – than they are asleep.
In the same way that some food is healthy and some has no nutritional benefits, some apps are low in mental fibre. Based on my own research into how students learn with technology, here’s a guide to getting rid of “junk” apps and ensuring your tweens and teens develop healthy tech habits both in term time and during the school holidays.
From passive to active
The key lies in shifting kids from using apps that make them passive content consumers to those where they are active content producers. Encouraging the use of activating apps can help children to develop a wide range of 21st century skills like collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving.
Before I look at apps that will actively engage kids during school holidays, here are the “apps” you should immediately delete from their lives.
Once these “apps” are deleted, here’s a selection of apps that will not only engage your kids, but help them develop important skills. I’ve selected a few iOS, Android, and Web-based apps (accessible through a browser on any device). The full list is available here. I’ve grouped these according to the skills they will develop.
Curation: Curation apps help kids to develop key skills such as reading, categorising and organising.
Conversation: There’s a shift from learning through content consumption to learning through conversation around content in online spaces. Conversation-based apps provide opportunities to debate, discuss and enrich relationships.
Correction: Research shows that one of the most effective ways to learn is through mistakes. Technology allows us to easily experiment, make mistakes and learn through correction.
Creation: Creating content develops key skills such as logic, creative thinking and problem solving.
Chaos: Learning to make sense of too much information, missing information, and conflicting information is a skill children increasingly need to develop in our content-excessive world.
No matter which apps your kids choose, it’s important to keep track of their use. Research suggests that screen time should be limited, whether young users are consuming “junk” apps or learning while they swipe. OurPact is a great tool to automate this process. It allows parents to set usage schedules or turn off a device at any time.
Dr. Craig Blewett is the author and founder of the Activated Classroom Teaching (ACT) approach. He helps schools and universities around the world towards the effective use of educational technology.
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