It’s an almost comical image: a child sitting at a tablet, eyes glazed, flipping back and forth between games as if they have an extra pair of hands. It’s a bit of an exaggeration perhaps, but it does speak to the reservations a lot of parents and educators have about letting younger users spend a lot of time with electronic devices. Common questions we hear include:
- Are the games provided by apps too fast and frenetic, without providing any real educational content?
- Do they encourage children develop thinking skills, or are they just a quick thrill?
- Will using apps too often get in the way of a child’s ability to focus?
In some cases, the answer is obviously yes. There most certainly are a large number of apps designed specifically for excitement and entertainment, and not for long-term learning. In small doses, these are fine. However, there are also apps that move at a slower pace, inviting users invest a little more time in what they’re learning. These apps are part of a “slow media” movement in technology, which encourages users to take time to engage, enjoy and absorb what’s presented to them. Slow apps are a great compromise between the focus and attention demanded by more traditional media (like books), and the interactive, multimedia features of new technology.
Here are five good reasons to seek out slower apps:
- They’re a great support system for literacy initiatives. Interactive eBooks and apps that teach vocabulary, grammar or other literacy-related skills appeal to a variety of learners (including reluctant readers), while still promoting a love of language.
- They encourage critical thought and reflection, both of which are vital 21st Century skills, and both of which play a big role in character education.
- They allow for sharing and collaboration. Spending a little more time on an activity, instead of just hopping from one to another, provides extra time to share and discuss with other children, as well as parents and educators.
- They’re often creative! Many slower-paced apps involve art-based activities, as well as storytelling.
- They teach patience and focus. Even in an age of multi-tasking, these are still important, both academically and personally.
Remember that slow apps aren’t just beneficial to young learners. Adults too can gain from taking time to really engage with materials that are more substance than flash and sparkle.
Amy Leask is an educator and children’s author. Although she still likes her media in really slow form (the paper kind), she’s delighted that so many ideas are being shared through new technology.
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