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Learning with Technology

How can I tell if an app or a website is really good for learning?

Despite the claims of certain products that they teach your baby to read or do math, media that's really good for learning may not produce immediate, observable results. Instead, websites and apps with the most learning potential help your child learn how to learn -- and make them want to come back for more. It's a bit tough to find the good stuff, but it's worth it. Many of the apps, games, and websites that Common Sense reviews also are rated for learning potential, so check our lists and reviews for hand-curated good stuff.

Products that lay the foundation for lifelong learning encourage questions, foster curiosity, and support critical thinking. They teach by engaging kids, building concepts and deep understanding, providing feedback about performance (and adjusting difficulty accordingly), and providing opportunities to strengthen learning beyond the play session. A few that incorporate these qualities include open-ended sandbox games such as Minecraft, creative games such as Faces iMake, and math apps/sites such as DragonBox and Get the Math.


Use these pointers for finding apps and websites that are really good for learning:

Choose age- and developmentally appropriate products. Learn more about what's appropriate at every age and stage.

Consider what you'd like your kid to learn. Are you interested in boosting certain academic subjects such as math and reading, or are you looking for skill builders for creativity, logical thinking, or social-emotional learning? Or both? Common Sense's learning ratings evaluate each product's potential for facilitating your child's learning in these broad areas.

Let your kid's interests be your guide. No sense insisting your kid play a dinosaur game such as Dino Tales when she really prefers the cute pups in Pet Bingo.

Investigate independently. Dig deeper than the developer's description in the app store. Read unbiased reviews (such as ours), and download a demo if possible or play on the site. 

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Adult written by Jodigottlieb

I think hands-on learning is best for me. I am one of those people who can figure out how to put something together, without reading the manual. If you asked me to read the manual I would i recommend it would be a waste of time for me. Even though I should read how something it put together, I have the talent to figure out things on my own.
Adult written by chenden

Thank you for this fabulous post. I have a question. For a new parent that is researching the best baby products to buy, which product will you recommend as the must-have before every other product? Thank you.
Teen, 16 years old written by Silverfall

Read multiple reviews (never listen to just one review, reviewers often insert personal bias into their reviews)
Teen, 14 years old written by Truth_Teller

my friend, you are at the right website actualy! just hit the search bar up there and see the comments! (just in case you didn't get it, it common sense website)
Kid, 9 years old

How can I tell if an app or a website is really good for learning? Well, you can't tell right away. Before you buy or look at the app or website, do some research into it. Usually, research really gives you great information. It's never a good idea to just go ahead and look or buy things. You can also tell just by looking at the Home page. It really gives away the answers you are looking for. Hope this helps!
Kid, 12 years old

Do not use edutainment. That is something that <5% of adults understand (and they don't have children). Edutainment will annoy your child beyond belief. Unless the game was made as a game and not a teaching tool, don't use it. Almost all children (especially guys) will see through it and the value of slapping a cheap "fun" façade on it is lost. For example, Math Blaster is an abomination, and I would leave (not kidding) any school district that assigned it as homework, after sending angry emails to the person responsible. Instead of edutainment, go for education. Have your kid use a program that has them do math (none of this "fun princess adventure" crap) or have them read a book or give them research assignments (tell them to find out something and cite their sources properly). If you want to teach your child tech skills check out codeacademy.
Teen, 16 years old written by Silverfall

I kindly disagree. I would counter that 'edutainment' (as you call it) is beneficial as it provides entertainment to kids while teaching them at the same time. Games that do this subtly are better as they don't shove ideas down the child's throat.