If you peruse Apple’s App Store, you’ll find thousands of apps that claim to be educational. But do these apps really promote learning? Or is the word “educational” just thrown in to make them more appealing to teachers and parents?

As you know, it depends. Teachers need to be able to determine which apps are worth their students’ precious time. A team of experts recently examined this question and published their findings in an issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest. The article, found here, presents four pillars that lead an app to an educational outcome. These pillars are active involvement, engagement, meaningfulness, and social interaction.Apps that promote learning- Like One Minute Reader

  • Active involvement means the student is required to actually think. Too many apps are largely brainless, addicting games. A truly educational app requires the student to actively work to understand a worthwhile concept or skill.
  • Engagement refers to a student’s ability to stay on task. The bells and whistles that make an app exciting should all be related to the educational goal. If these features are just for fun, they’ll distract the student from learning.
  • Meaningfulness refers to how students are required to process new information. Studies have shown that deeper learning takes place when students relate new knowledge to their current knowledge. Educational apps promote these kinds of connections.
  • Finally, it’s important that the app facilitates social interaction. When students interact with others about what they’ve learned, their understanding of the material is reinforced.

Read Naturally’s apps are educational in every sense of the word. All four of our tablet-ready tools, Read Naturally Live, One Minute Reader, Splat-O-Nym, and Funēmics, strongly integrate each of these four pillars.

For example, our most popular app, Read Naturally Live, requires students to be actively involved with the material. As students use the Read Naturally Strategy to build fluency, they’re required to think critically and work hard towards a learning goal. The app’s educational features, high-interest content, and motivating strategy keep the student engaged and on task. The app also promotes meaningful thinking. Students make reading predictions and answer comprehension questions that require them to connect their personal experience to what they’re learning. And finally, the Read Naturally Live app requires social interaction with teachers and parents. Placement, goal setting, hot timings, reports, and more physically connect the student with teachers and parents to ensure the student’s learning is supported and solidified. One Minute Reader, Splat-O-Nym, and Funēmics integrate these four pillars in similar ways.

We’re hopeful that the Psychological Science in the Public Interest article will help educators make informed choices about app purchases, and we’re pleased with how well our apps align with the research. Check them out and see for yourself!