By Shira Lee Katz, Director of Digital Media at Common Sense Media
From apps like Scribblenauts Remix that build vocabulary to video games like Portal 2 that require inventive problem solving, lots of popular media titles have learning potential.
But how can you tell which ones are good?
In some cases, games that claim to be educational hit the mark. But some of them can fall flat because they lack style or are too heavy-handed.
Here are three "Cs" to keep in mind as you seek out, size up and make the most of apps, games and websites for learning.
Connection. It's really important that kids connect on a personal level to what they're playing. Are they engaged? Engrossed? Maybe even enlightened? Think of apps, games and websites like you might a good book. Getting into the storyline or identifying with the characters primes kids for more learning.
- Love to Count Pirate Trio (age 5 and up)
- Journey (age 10 and up)
- Professor Layton and the Last Specter (age 12 and up)
Critical thinking. Look for media that takes a deep dive into a topic, subject or skill. Maybe they're games in which kids wrestle with ethical dilemmas or strategize about bypassing obstacles. Rote quizzing and simple Q&A-style games may be fun and educational on the surface, but they may not help kids find deep or long-lasting meaning.
- I Spy Castle (age 6 and up)
- DragonBox+ (age 8 and up)
- Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (age 13 and up)
Creativity. A great feature of many great learning products is the ability for kids to create new content themselves -- a new level for a video game or a song of their own, for instance. Kids can feel more ownership of their learning when they get to put their own personal spin on the experience.
And of course, it's always important to keep in mind the context in which kids are playing. For younger kids in particular, the discussion and activities they do surrounding games are key. Being with kids while they play, asking questions about what they're taking away and doing related offline activities can extend learning even further.
Check out the "Explore, Discuss, Enjoy" and "How Parents Can Help" tips that go along with these games:
There's a vast sea of apps, games, and websites out there. Keeping the three "Cs" -- connection, critical thinking and creativity -- in mind can help you find some of the gems.
About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We exist because our kids are growing up in a culture that profoundly impacts their physical, social, and emotional well-being. We provide families with the advice and media reviews they need in order to make the best choices for their children. Through our education programs and policy efforts, Common Sense Media empowers parents, educators, and young people to become knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens. For more information, go to:www.commonsense.org.