We’re honored to present our readers with another fantastic guest post from Ms. Samantha Koopman:

The sight is all too common now: You are in a waiting room, or waiting to be seated at a busy restaurant. You look over, and there are two young children, around two and four years old sitting quietly on a bench, waiting to be done. Each child has one of the parent’s phones, and is flipping through the applications at lightning speed, progressing through the different menus and options without a second thought to find the game they want to play. They are engrossed, like moths to a flame, in the colorful and attention grabbing games and programs. Children today are growing up in an unprecedented age – one that is providing digital experiences their parents never had.

smartphone 2We have entered an epoch truly submersed in the distinctly technological. We wear technology like Smart Watches and fitness trackers, and we carry Smart Phones and tablets that connect us day and night to our friends, family, and work, through texting, emails, and calls. With all of the devices available, we have reached a point of having nearly 24/7 limitless access to the Internet, placing the Holy Grail of information and knowledge at the tips of our fingers. Technology is an ever-changing force, which, in just a few short decades, has become a protracted and intrinsic aspect of our daily lives. We are so inundated in the digital domain, that we rarely take notice of its presence anymore.

Even with the emergence of technology as a normal aspect of society, many parents are technological immigrants, those that were born prior to the widespread integration of digital tech.  These are individuals who have risen to the challenge, and adapted to the digital world in the wake of a rapidly evolving deluge of technological advances. It is unsurprising then, that children born into this new, digital landscape are also the first to experience an unprecedented developmental environment, the likes of which have never been seen before on such a scale. They are not naturalized citizens of technology; they are the genuine denizens of the digital domain -– true, technological natives who are more congruent with technology than any generation before them.

It is hardly fortuitous then, that such technologies have become a habitual and acclimatized presence in both the classroom-learning environment, and culture. Classrooms now have iPads, furnished with a staggering range of innovated applications for learning concrete skills in math, English Language Arts, social studies and science. Homerooms now have access to E-Reader textbooks, with online, interactive labs that provide active learning experiences to engage students in meaningful, hands on learning, rather than the traditionally passive acquisition of knowledge associated with reading a conventional textbook.

Even the range of uses for computers has shifted and evolved to a variety of programs and immersive learning software capable of assessing and tracking individual learning abilities, and evolving to provide tailored lessons for a child’s unique progressing skillsets. In fact, my own first grade classroom is no different, utilizing all of the above-mentioned digital mediums and resources on a nearly daily basis. Technology has become the new frontier in education – a way to engage and gratify children with learning experiences that appeal to the distinct digital cognizance and perspicacity that captivates the digitally fluent, and which has rapidly become a base characteristic of what is “cool” or “fun”.

iPad 1
As parents of these children, many have experienced their child’s new digitally defined idea of “cool” or “important”. A common example seen with my nephews, is the struggle my sister has getting them to go outside and play on a nice day, rather than playing their favorite video game, or reading a book instead of browsing fun games on the internet. But, as frustrating as the technology fixation of today’s children can be, it also offers multiple opportunities for parents to capitalize on their child’s interests to create learning opportunities at home. Below are some of my favorite applications and programs that address the areas I most frequently am solicited about for helping children develop educational skills at home:

Handwriting Development
Developmentally, young children are still developing their fine motor skills –- the skills that require the coordination of the small muscles in the hands and fingers that help us do things like eat with silverware, tying shoes and writing. While tracing letters with a finger on a tablet might not seem helpful in the big picture, these apps help develop those find motor skills and often incorporate short, fun games that your child will enjoy. Check out the links below for some programs for iPad, many of these programs are also available on Android Tablets as well:

iTrace Handwriting For Kids
 https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/itrace-handwriting-for-kids/id583678381?mt=8

Handwriting Without Tears
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/handwriting-without-tears/id548753732?mt=8

Monster ABCs Letters Handwriting Game for Kids
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/monster-abcs-letters-handwriting/id892135140?mt=8

Reading and Literacy
Getting your child invested in reading as an enjoyable activity is incredibly important from a young age. Below are some applications and games that are awesome for developing readers.

Raz-Kids: Age appropriate eBooks with fun games and quizzes to finish after reading. *This is an absolute favorite for my first graders, they go nuts for it.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/raz-kids/id474207297?mt=8
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.learninga_z.onyourown
http://raz-kids.com

Storm & Skye: An Animated Magical Adventure Story for Kids
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/storm-skye-magical-adventure/id951794124?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D8

Mr. Thorne’s Phonics Myths & Legends Games – Awesome phonics games incorporating cool themes like mermaids, unicorns, dragons and more.
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/mr-thornes-phonics-myths-legends/id883745171?mt=8

ABC Guru Phonics And Letters
https://itunes.apple.com/app/id932417099

Looney Tunes Click and Read Phonics
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/looney-tunes-phonics/id498656973?mt=8

http://www.looneytunesphonics.com/?pop

The Sight Word Adventure – Fun filled adventure themed games that build sight word skills.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-sight-word-adventure/id931529829?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D8

Billy Possum’s Interactive Comprehension – One of the best apps I’ve seen for games with reading comprehension that bests most comprehension apps by focusing on vital higher-level comprehension skills and strategies with multiple opportunities to visualize skills with scenes from the story.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/billy-possums-interactive/id875598691?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D8

Special Education Applications
For apps and learning games focused on different disabilities and realms of special education, check out the applications and programs that are divided into categories focused on specific characteristics of various special education learning needs, such as communication, emotional development, sensory & visual perception, seeing & hearing, language development, life skills, and trackers & reference.

https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewMultiRoom?cc=us&fcId=399470755

Math Applications

Mathmateer
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mathmateer/id393989284?mt=8

Mathemagics Mental Math Games and Tricks
o https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id306586847?mt=8

Math Bingo
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/math-bingo/id371338715?mt=8
http://www.amazon.com/ABCya-com-Math-BINGO/dp/B008N04YZG
http://www.abcya.com/math_bingo.htm

Kids Ace Math (Free Edition)
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ace-kids-math-games-hd-free/id367798719?mt=8

Intro to Math, by Montessorium
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/intro-to-math-by-montessorium/id381064973
http://www.montessorium.com/math/

Study Aid and Learning Games for Older Kids

Flash Cards (great for making flash cards and saving your hand a lot of work when studying!)
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/flash-cards/id395978981?mt=8

Student Life Organizer
https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/studentlife-organizer/id352743991?mt=8

My Homework Student Planner
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/myhomework/id303490844?mt=8

iTooch – Includes common core aligned instructional games in language arts, science and math, aligned by standards for each grade. Multiple different subjects and grade levels from elementary grades all the way through high school. Also available in Spanish for some programs. A few examples to get you started:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/itooch-elementary/id484570190?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/itooch-middle-school-math/id521676063?mt=8

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