Written by Maimuna Musarrat
One thing most modern mummies miss is those long periods of escaping with nothing but the smartphone. Remember that time when you could while away playing Candy Crush, or, if you are like me, word games on your phone? That seems like a thing from the long gone era. Having young kids in the 21st century means your phone is no more yours: it is the one toy that can keep your child busy for the longest amount of time, while you can get yourself back some little bit of sanity. Any app you are downloading is probably another new game for your child. Or, if you are one of those tech- savvy mamas, probably checking out the latest app on parental control, in your never ending attempt to outsmart your genius kids.
I am also a big fan of apps for parents, and I install any app that I hear of has something for parents (not that I use them all though). That’s why an ad on TV immediately caught my eyes: it was about a new app released by the Department of Education and Training called “Learning Potential” . They said it was full of tips and inspiring ways for parents to be more involved in their children’s learning – and I felt the urge to install it immediately. In the back of my mind, I was expecting it to be a fun app which would (finally) allow ME to play a game with my little ones. However, I was a bit heartbroken to see that this app was full of articles – I would have to read through (who likes reading articles?) to generate ideas before I could go and implement those on my kids.
The first thought that came to my mind was: most of us parents don’t have that time to read wordy articles. And even if we could go ahead and read some of them (in the little amount of time we get to use our own phones), we would hardly remember what it said when we need to remember the advice. If you have multiple kids under 10, and all of them are around, you would hardly remember which one is called what – let alone some advice we got from a smartphone app. “Instead, give me an activity app that I could “play” with my kids, it would be more helpful”, I thought.
But then when I really got a chance to browse through the articles – I did develop a liking for it. The articles were short and mostly about an activity or advice on what I could do as a parent to incorporate learning into our everyday schedule. For example, ways to make breakfast more interesting, or educational games I could play while driving. Most importantly, as opposed to my initial idea, the articles weren’t too wordy and had bullet points, so were quite easy to follow. Initially all teen related articles were coming up, but when I personalised the app by adding my children’s name and age, the articles I was seeing were more targeted towards my children’s age group. I could easily switch from one child to another to see content that would be more relevant for each of my children. Some of the articles had video content, which I could watch while doing something else (talk about how important it is for mums to multi-task), while others needed to be read. For example, for a seven year old, one of the articles that came up was “Light, Camera, Action”. This article had a video content explaining how I could use my smartphone or any handheld video camera to bring out the news presenter in my child. I thought it was easier for me to watch the video with my child, rather than explaining him what to do. He easily got the idea, and was eager to try out playing a news presenter. Another article was about how to make a board game that would be fun for the whole family to play. This was also an instant hit with my young kids. Even without video, most articles seemed easy to follow for me, and I could “favourite” those I liked by clicking on a star button at the end of the article. This would help me easily access this article later when I needed. There is also a reminder option in some of the articles, so you can set a reminder to do that particular activity with your children.
Having said that, there is still some room for improvement for this app. For example, a search option is a very simple feature that is missing. Let’s say you are arranging a family picnic, and would like to search for educational game ideas in a picnic setting. It wouldn’t be an easy job to find what you are looking for. Instead of having to scroll down to see each article one by one, I would have preferred a list option to see all the articles or a number of articles in one page. Another function could be the “read”, “unread” and/or “read later” option, so we could easily sort out the articles we have gone through from the ones we haven’t or we would like to go through some time later. Also, I didn’t think there were articles relevant to young babies whereas in fact, they grow and learn most in their first year than any other year of their lives , and it’s at this stage that we easily run out of ideas to play with our little ones. When I personalised the app to include my 6 month old, all the articles that were coming up were about activities I could do with toddlers or pre-schoolers who could at least talk. Maybe I should set up a reminder for some of the toddler activities – for one year from now.
Nevertheless, a lot of research went into this app, and the app being free is a great advantage. I don’t think I would have purchased it if I had to pay, because, of course most of the content can be found on the web. However, what this app does is that it collects all the ideas backed by solid research, and places them together – right at our fingertips. Now we have less excuse to be not involved in our chil
dren’s learning. If you are interested, you can download this app on your Android or iOS device from its app store.
|Australian Government Department of Education and Training, “New Learning Potential App,” 21 August 2015. [Online]. Available: https://www.education.gov.au/news/new-learning-potential-app. [Accessed 20 October 2015].
|Victoria State Government Department of Education and Training, “Babies (0-12 months),” 2013. [Online]. Available: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/childhood/parents/health/pages/babies.aspx. [Accessed 21 October 2015].
Author: Sim K