Mobile Computing | News

New Service Reviews Educational Apps

A new service has launched to help teachers and parents sift through the thousands of mobile applications available for children to determine which ones have educational value. Balefire Labs currently includes reviews of 1,200 apps. The company accepts no advertising dollars or third-party vendor payments for review.

According to company Founder and President Karen Mahon, the reviews are handled by people who are trained on an evaluation system that covers 14 criteria around two metrics: instruction design characteristics and usability.

"Based on our objective evaluations of 1,200 educational apps to date, only seven percent scored a grade of A or B," said Mahon.

Among the evaluation criteria are these categories:

  • Feedback for correct responses;
  • Error feedback;
  • Adapting difficulty;
  • Error remediation;
  • Mastery-based instruction;
  • Frequent, meaningful interaction;
  • Clearly-stated learning objectives;
  • Relevant screen and sound use;
  • Learner support;
  • Easy-to-use interface;
  • Age-appropriate reading level; and
  • Performance reports.

In a statement, Mahon, an educational psychologist, said she founded her company after becoming frustrated with the thousands of educational apps available lacking standards for evaluation and failing to provide meaningful learning outcomes for the children using them.

"If a parent or teacher purchases an app that does not provide any educational value, they have to go back to the app store and try again. That's lost time that could've been used on apps that are fun, engaging, and effective," she noted.

The review service is $3.99 on a month-to-month basis and $35.88 for an annual prepaid subscription. The company also offers school site licensing.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.