Log On and Learn: Devices, Sites and Apps for Kids

A look at some of the coolest devices, sites, and apps for kids to log on and learn.

Related Link: “A” is for App




Mobile Apps

TeacherMate Innovations for Learning’s $100 handheld computer, designed for use in schools, helps children begin reading, writing, and math lessons. It’s much simpler and a little smaller than a Nintendo DS. The next generation should have wireless capability.
Sesame Street has one of the best educational Web sites out there for children 6 and under. It’s free, packed with games and online videos, and instantly engaging. (What youngster doesn’t love Elmo?) Each week, there’s a new theme, such as body parts or wild animals.
First Words The First Words series of pre-K apps for the iPhone — the only smartphone for which developers have created sophisticated educational apps so far — focuses on learning letters and spelling. Different versions, each of which costs $1.99, focus on animals, vehicles, and household items.
Intel Classmate PC Its sturdy shell and built-in handle make the Classmate PC ideal for children, while the Atom processor provides adult-size power. Preloaded applications — including Internet Explorer and an e-reader — allow the device to function in the real world. Two million are in use in schools worldwide, but at up to $499 retail, it’s not cheap. Discovery Education: Science At, a classroom-targeted site that costs $1,700 per school building per year, students can “learn science as scientists.” We love the interactive glossary; the word “cell,” for example, offers a clickable diagram with animations of mitochondria and nucleus. Oregon’s board of ed recently approved this site as a K-5 science “textbook.” KidCalc Math Fun Designed for children aged 2 to 8, KidCalc is perhaps the best math app for young kids. It teaches basic arithmetic, counting, sorting, and (our favorite) number tracing in a colorful interface with pictures of elephants and one-eyed aliens. It’s also versatile — parents can set the skill level. The $1.99 app comes in seasonal versions for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter.
XO One Laptop Per Child’s $199 XO laptop has a user-friendly interface. Designed for classroom use — it’s mostly distributed in developing countries, though Birmingham, Alabama, has bought 15,000 of them for its public-school kids — it has a “neighborhood”-based network setup that connects all the XOs in a class. In 2012, OLPC hopes to introduce a cheaper, next-generation XO — a tablet PC with a touch screen. Dreambox Learning: Math has a rich online city of math games for K-3 kids. Do your math and you’ll earn virtual coins to play carnival games. (Prizes: virtual teddy bears!) Teachers get data on progress. The classroom version costs about $30 per student per year, while the home version is $13 per month. Clifford’s Be Big With Words Featuring the beloved big red dog from the book series and PBS show, Scholastic’s app ($0.99) for kids aged 2 to 6 teaches spelling, word building, phonetics, and vocabulary. Do well and characters from the show will say, “Absolutely amazing!”