Technology can open new doors to students. It can help them learn in new, unique, and innovative ways. Often times, technology can make the learning process more fun and engaging. For example, apps are a great way to distract children from the fact they are actually learning!

The Importance of Evaluation

Unfortunately, not all apps are created equal. Just because the developer or app store has dubbed it “educational” doesn’t mean it really is. The task of determining the relevance of an app falls to the parents. Naturally, there is a fair amount you can learn about the app before downloading it. Other times, you might not get a full understanding of the app until you can actually get your hands on it.

Before turning the iPad over to your child, take the time to evaluate the app. Is it really educational? If not, you might want to refrain from sharing it with your child. Just because you have downloaded it doesn’t mean your child has to use it. 

The Evaluation Checklist

Below is a checklist that can help you determine the quality and relevance of an app. You might not be able to determine an answer to all of these questions, but take the time to see what you can dig up. And just because an app doesn’t secure a “yes” to the majority of questions doesn’t necessarily mean it is worthless. Weigh the importance of each question; an app that scores well in categories like ‘quality’ and ‘content’ is better than an app that gets yeses in ‘engagement’ and ‘ease of use.’

YesNoEvaluating Technicalities
  Is the recommended age range appropriate for the student?
  

Do the customer reviews reflect positively on the app’s success?  (Keep in mind a 3.5 star review from 2,000 customers is probably more reliable than a 5 star review from three customers).

  

Has the app developer provided sufficient screenshots to visualize the app before downloading?

YesNo

Evaluating Quality

  

Does the supporting website provide additional useful information and resources?

  

Is the app’s content research based?

  

Is the information error-free, factual, and reliable?

  

Has the app been updated in the last six months?

YesNo

Evaluating Level of Engagement

  

Does the app provide positive reinforcement that will encourage and motivate the student?

  

Is the overall concept engaging?

  

Is the user interface visually appealing?

YesNo

Evaluating Ease of Use

  

Are there any necessary in-app purchases?

  

Is the app advertisement free?

  

Does the app include instructions that are helpful and easy to understand?

  

Can the student launch and navigate the app on his or her own?

  

Can parents easily alter settings to meet the needs of different students in the family?

YesNo

Evaluating Methods of Critique and Review

  

Does the student receive feedback regarding his or her performance?

  

Is the student asked to repeat unsatisfactory work?

  

Does the app provide parents with an assessment or performance summary data?

  

Does the app (or corresponding website) allow parents to track and record performance data?

YesNo

Evaluating Content

  

Are the skills being reinforced by this app connected to specific learning standards?

  

Would the student’s teacher use this app in the classroom?

  

Does the app teach the student to do something he or she was unable to do in the past?

  

Does the app teach a concept the parents are unable to convey with other methods?

  

Does the app utilize more than one learning style (visual, auditory, reading/writing, or tactile)?

  

Is the content presented randomly? Does each new level/game present a new learning opportunity?

  

If there is music/sound, does it add (rather than detract) from the learning experience?

  

Are there opportunities to use higher order of thinking skills (like creating, evaluating, organizing, and problem solving)?

  

Are there opportunities for the student to engage in collaboration and idea sharing?

What do you think of the checklist? Do you know of any methods of critique we left off the list? Let us know!