FROM OUR FRIEND JESSICA OAKS
There is no silver bullet when it comes to the overlap between educational and technology, but it is becoming increasingly clear that putting tech into the hands of kids can have a positive effect on learning. Numerous studies have now shown that device access in the classroom and at home has the potential to improve everything from study habits to literacy to test scores in students at all levels.
While the jury is still out on the long-term impact of screen overload in kids, the idea that quality mobile games and educational apps can help students get ahead and build knowledge rapidly is gaining wide acceptance by parents and educators alike.
The library of titles moms, dads, and teachers can choose from is vast, which means that finding games and apps kids and grownups can agree on is easier than ever before. From Toca Boca’s lineup of open-ended creative games for the preschool set to Storyteller Deluxe for older kids, today’s mobile games are as rich in look and feel as they are in content.
That may be surprising if your last experience with kids’ apps was a while ago. Thanks to Snapdragon’s mobile technology and other advancements in phones and tablets, there are thousands of engaging and beautiful apps specifically designed to do more than just distract.
However, what is particularly interesting is that even some games that seem like nothing more than a distraction can boost learning. A 2014 study found that when people played fast-paced action games, they became better learners because their brains became better at making predictions about the world. Other studies have showed that games can boost data retention.
As a consequence of findings like these, school districts around the US are exploring classroom initiatives that put technology into the hands of kids as young as kindergarten age. Some educators are reporting that tablets and educational games, when used to enhance traditional learning activities and class collaboration, are changing how kids interact with information for the better.
In a recent piece about boosting early literacy with technology, elementary school teacher Martha McCoy described the change she saw in her students after introducing devices into the classroom: “I could not believe how tenacious students were. They would try and try again. They didn’t need to have anybody’s approval about what they were doing. They would just persevere. They were doing things I never thought that age group could possibly do.”
Are mobile devices the key to closing the achievement gap in US schools? As noted above, classroom tech shouldn’t be seen as a magic bullet. But there is no denying that ours is a technology-fueled world and it can only be beneficial to make sure that children have at least some access to the kinds of devices and apps they’ll ultimately be interacting with as they enter adulthood. Add to that the fact that tablets and smartphones offer students unprecedented access to esoteric data, tools and experts, and it is pretty clear that device access is empowering students on many levels. How integral mobile games will be to learning moving forward remains to be seen.
In the end, parents and teachers are still in an exploratory phase to determine what place, if any, mobile gaming will have in traditional education and the home learning environment. Chances are, though, if games are treated as another tool in the educator’s toolkit – not a replacement for books and other modes of learning – smart games will become a part of every kid’s future.
Jessica is a freelance writer who loves to cover technology and the ways that technology makes life easier. She is also an associate editor at Freshly Techy and regularly contributes to Yahoo! Finance.
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