Recently we received an iPad in Science Playground through a grant introducing mobile technology on the museum floor. To be honest, we were a bit lost on the best ways to use it at first. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends zero screen
time for kids under two years, and many parents and early childhood caregivers are wary of exposing young kids to mobile technology. So we knew we had to be careful on how we decided to integrate the tool into demonstrations and classes.
But what we found was that using the iPad in addition to our hands enhanced learning. In our our animal footprint activity we were able to show mini clips of animals walking instead of still images of the creatures, helping children visualize how they moved. Explaining abstract concepts like decomposition became easier when we could show time lapse videos of food decaying. Instead of using a magnifying glass and microscope, which can be challenging for little fingers and eyes, we used an app that magnifies the object we are curious about.
As we started using the iPad more frequently we began to get questions about which apps we liked and what best practices are for letting a three year old use an iPad or tablet device. This is such new technology and there is limited information and resources for fielding these questions. Assumptions will be changed as more research
comes out but until then we are still looking for advice. So we turned to our trusty resource, our visitors! Did they use mobile technology with their kids? Why or why not? We asked them to help us make a create a collection of smart, kid-friendly apps that make the best use of mobile technology.Here were some of the top recommendations:Kids ABC Phonics
(Android, iPhone or iPad)ABC Mouse
(iPhone or iPad)First Words Deluxe
(iPhone or iPad)Zoo Train
(iPhone or iPad)Endless Alphabet
(Android or iPhone)Agnitus Personal Learning Program
(Android, iPhones or iPad)Toca Boca Band
(iPhone or iPad)Mind Snacks
(iPhone or iPad)Reading Rainbow
(Android, iPhone or iPad)Sesame Street Podcast
(iPhone or iPad)
We set up a bulletin board for visitors to contribute to and the responses were amazing. Not only were we able to get a list of recommended apps but we heard a variety of responses on how parents and other caregivers were introducing technology into their children's lives, and the concerns they had.
Surprisingly the responses were split about 40/60 on strong feelings against using mobile technology with kids. Some people wanted to wait until their children were older, others were frightened by the addictive nature of phones and tablets. A couple comments reflected on how as adults, it is important to model appropriate use of mobile technology to kids. There were grandparents who commented on how proud they were of how easy it was for their grandkids to use these devices.
One comment that really stuck with me and helped me navigate how to use our iPad with young visitors said simply, "iPads are tools, just like hammers and knives. All tools can be constructive or destructive, depending on how you use them. The tool is not the villain."
We are all trying to figure this future out and having conversations about what works, what doesn't, what scares us, what excites us, and everything involved in new technology is part of that.
So, do you use mobile technology with your children? Tell us.