An “Apportunity” to Learn – Evaluating Apps

girls_playing_words_2Parents, teachers, and librarians; are your children wasting an opportunity to learn while using mobile apps? Not all educational apps are equal, while some are not even worth your time downloading. For children under the age of 5, parents and educators should look for apps that enhance these five categories: reading, writing, singing, talking, and playing. Older children are developmentally ready for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and creative apps, like those that facilitate the creation of art, music, movies, and writing.


To ensure an educational experience for children, consider the following:

  • Is it age appropriate? If the material is too advance the child will become overwhelmed, if the material is too juvenile the child will be bored.
  • Does the app have too many bells and whistles? If the graphics are too flashy and the music too noisy, this hinders the learning process instead of being supportive.
  • Can the child use the app with ease? Intuitive play is essential for children or they will become frustrated.
  • Will the app provide interesting experiences during each use or will it become too familiar and lose value? Don’t waste your time and money getting apps that will become dull too quick. Look for apps that provide scaffolding features to promote learning as the child grows.


How much screen time is appropriate for children? Answers vary, but consider the Healthy Screen Time diagram created by Carisa Kluver that supports appropriate use:

Image from Creative Commons
Image from Creative Commons

Balance refers to the time allotted for use.  Is the child losing out on outdoor, imaginative, or social play? Could that time with the painting app be more effective if the child was actually painting? Too much or too little of anything kills balance; setting boundaries and learning to say enough, creates it.


Engagement describes the social aspect of an app.  Does it create social connections or promote connections with the physical environment?  Apps like Facetime connect people socially, while other apps like Pokemon Go or Osmo (pictured below) connects users with the environment.


Quality of the screen time is defined by the educational and entertainment value, also by the quality of the app. Are the graphics and sound clear, professional, and direct? Is the content accurate? Does the app have many ads that disrupt the user’s experience?

If all three of these categories of balance, engagement, and quality are met, then the screen time is considered healthy.


Are you unsure of how to find quality apps? Let the experts inform you on the best apps for your students or children.


Apps can enhance a child’s learning experience, if that child is guided to appropriate games.  Children learn about their world when they play and they learn best when they play with you. You are the key to helping children navigate through this new media by using apps to their fullest and in balance.

(Unless otherwise noted, images are courtesy of Osmo)


Photo courtesy of guest blogger
Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Our guest blogger today is Angela Bronson. She currently works for the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library as a Children’s Librarian at the Kent Branch and is pursuing her MLIS at Wayne State University.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at


One comment

  1. Vicky Hays

    Children’s Technology Review is another really great resource. Warren Buckleitner and his staff give really fair reviews and recommendations. Check it out at
    There is a small subscription fee.

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