New resource helps educators teach with digital apps

Common Sense Media says its system is the first centralized source for unbiased reviews of the learning potential of apps developed for a variety of platforms.

The sheer volume of new learning apps being created every day poses a key challenge for educators looking to teach with mobile devices, as many teachers say they don’t have time to find and evaluate the best apps for their classrooms.

But a brand-new service, announced June 24 at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2013 conference in San Antonio, could help.

Called Graphite, it’s a free online portal to help educators from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade find, use, and share the best digital apps, games, and websites for their students.…Read More

51 award-winning apps, games, and websites for learning

Common Sense Media’s ON for Learning Award is given to the very best in kids’ digital media, as rated by the nonprofit organization.

This year, Common Sense Media has recognized 51 children’s apps, games, and websites with its highest (five-star) rating for learning potential. These digital resources are “really engaging” and take an “excellent approach” to learning, according to the ratings system.

At this page of Common Sense Media’s website, you can browse the winning resources alphabetically or by age group (preschoolers ages 2-4, young kids ages 5-6, kids ages 7-8, preteens ages 9-11, and teens ages 12-14).…Read More

Project to evaluate use of tablets in schools

Michael Flood, kajeet’s education VP, said kajeet “expects to learn a lot from this project,” particularly about what types of web activity students gravitate toward—and whether mobile device use improves academic performance.

Tablets—with their lightweight portability and interactive touch screens—have been hailed as the next “must have” as schools move toward mobile computing. But questions linger: How much network access do students need? How can schools ensure that students will use the devices appropriately? Does more time using mobile devices translate into better academic performance?

Kajeet, a cell phone carrier that specializes in kid-friendly mobile service, announced June 25 its participation in “Making Learning Mobile,” a pilot program that assesses the mobile computing needs of students and teachers.

Sponsored by Qualcomm Inc.’s Wireless Reach initiative, the project will incorporate the work of partners Common Sense Media, Emantras, and EduTone.…Read More

New initiative offers digital media ratings

Parents know that digital resources offer learning benefits, but they are skeptical about the products' educational claims.

A new learning ratings initiative will evaluate the learning potential of websites, video games, and mobile apps and will offer ratings and reviews to give parents, teachers, and students a guide to find resources to extend learning time, make learning fun, and build 21st-century skills.

Launched by Common Sense Media and social investment foundation SCE, the learning ratings are based on comprehensive research and a rigorous evaluation framework. The framework was developed after conducting interviews with academic experts, a literature review of key 21st-century learning skills, and research with national samples of parents and teachers, who voiced a real need for learning ratings like these.

Learning ratings and reviews are available now for more than 150 mobile apps, games, and websites, with more than 800 expected by the end of 2012. New digital media products now will be reviewed for learning potential as they enter the market, while earlier digital media reviews will be updated on an ongoing basis. In addition, Common Sense Media’s editors will be compiling special recommendation lists by age and subject or skill to help parents identify the products that best meet their kids’ and teens’ learning needs.…Read More

Government urges more info on kids’ apps

The FTC is especially aggressive protecting the privacy rights of children.

Who is monitoring the apps that kids use on their phones? The government complained Feb. 16 that software companies producing games and other mobile applications aren’t telling parents what personal information is being collected from kids and how companies are using it.

Apps could quietly be collecting a child’s location, phone number, call logs, and lists of friends, said a report by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC blamed the companies that make the apps, and the online stores that sell them, for failing to explain where that information might be recorded, for how long, and who would have access to it.

“As gatekeepers of the app marketplace, the app stores should do more,” the report said. “This recommendation applies not just to Apple and Google, but also to other companies that provide a marketplace for kids’ mobile apps.”…Read More

New resource will help educators, parents evaluate digital tools

Teachers might incorporate more digital tools into classroom lessons if they feel secure in evaluating those tools.

A nonprofit organization plans to launch a resource that will help teachers and parents rate and review digital media and assess the learning value of various digital tools.

The resource, set for release later this year from Common Sense Media, will address age-appropriateness and entertainment value and will guide users on learning potential along with advice on how to get the most out of playing a game, exploring a website, or using a mobile app. It will be similar to Common Sense Media’s current media ratings.

Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer said the new evaluation tool might inspire the creation of more high-quality learning media.…Read More

New campaign targets online privacy for children and teens

New campaign says legislature must support children's online privacy.
Common Sense Media's new campaign asks schools to do more to teach students about online privacy.

Amid growing concern about how much information students are revealing about themselves in their personal profiles on social networking web sites and other online services, the national child advocacy group Common Sense Media is asking adults, parents, and teens to help make a stand for online privacy by demanding that companies provide an “opt-in” feature for sharing the information of all children under the age of 18.

Common Sense Media’s national campaign, called “Do Not Track Kids,” began from what the group considered to be startling statistics about online privacy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, 50 of the most popular U.S. web sites are placing intrusive tracking technology on visitors’ computers—in some cases, more than 100 tracking tools at a time. Fifty sites popular with U.S. teens and children placed more than 4,000 “cookies,” “beacons,” and other tracking technologies on their sites, the Journal reported—and that’s 30 percent more than were found on similar sites aimed at adults.…Read More

Panel: Cell phones have much potential in classrooms

Teachers should embrace the technology that students use outside of classroom while creating compelling lessons.
Teachers should embrace the technology that students use outside of school while creating compelling lessons, panelists said.

Teachers are finding interesting and creative ways to include mobile phones in classroom instruction in an effort to bridge the divide between the technologies children use at home and what they use in school, education technology experts say.

Common Sense Media hosted a series of panel discussions April 21 that examined how mobile technology can both help and hinder children’s development and education.

Kipp Rogers, principal of Passage Middle School in Newport News, Va., said students at his school have used cell phones in class for the past three years. The practice began when he was teaching a math class and did not have enough calculators for every student during a test, until he realized he had a calculator on his PDA.…Read More