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Learning Library Blog How to choose digital apps, games and services
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How to choose digital apps, games and services

By Tammi Sisk
September 4, 2019
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Teachers understand how critical it is to use quality curricula in the classroom, and they know it’s important to help students select books that match their needs and interests.

But students today are learning from an expanding array of digital content, both at home and at school. This means teachers and parents have shared responsibility for teaching students a new set of skills for selecting media.

The six steps below will help teachers and parents discover quality media and learn what to look for and discuss with their students. Teachers should follow their school or district's software approval process before using digital content, but they can reinforce the skills and ideas below.

Step 1:

Make a list of the specific games/apps/media your children use or would like to use.

Step 2:

Use reviews to learn about the game/app/media your child wants to use. These two sites provide information about a game, app, movie or online service. This helps parents make informed decisions about their children’s media use.

  • Common Sense Media. Reviews help find age-appropriate apps, games, movies, music and TV shows. They also provide information parents need to know.
  • Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Reviews rate games based on what’s in a game or app (violence, inappropriate language, graphic content, etc.).

Step 3:

Consider the following questions to inform your decision and what you need to talk about with your children.­­

Step 4:

OK, you’ve done your research! Next, decide if the app, game or media is right for your family or your classroom. Does your child have the maturity, and critical thinking and self-regulation skills to use it in a safe, responsible and ethical manner? 

Step 5:

Establish expectations and consequences for not following the agreed upon rules.  Parents should be transparent about any parental controls you are using and why.  Be consistent in upholding the expectations and consequences. Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia provides guidance and resources for establishing expectations.

Step 6:

Enjoy media together. Look for teachable moments to help children develop a safe and healthy relationship with their media and devices.

Better Edtech Buying for Educators - Education Technology Resource Guide

Tammi Sisk is an educational specialist with 25 years of experience supporting technology integration at the district level for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in Virginia, the nation’s 10th largest school system. She supports and promotes a shared responsibility approach to digital citizenship education by involving school staff, students and parents.