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The Innovative, Groundbreaking History Of Digital Literacy

what is digital literacy

The defining aspect of the past four decades is the rapid advancement of technology. Across the world, our lives are increasingly defined by our access to the Internet through digital devices.

Yet as the Internet has become more and more a part of our everyday lives, there becomes a deeper question of how we interact with it.

Whether we were adults well before the Internet was such a central part of our lives, or we were born with a cell phone in our hands, how we use the Internet and communicate through it has become increasingly important.

desk-computer-watch-screen-table-keyboard

This ongoing problem, which has social, ethical, and cultural implications, is closely tied to the trend of digital literacy.

But, what is digital literacy anyway?

What Is Digital Literacy?

In the past two decades, the concept of digital literacy has become more prominent.

This concept has been defined differently by just about everyone who has tried.

Under the umbrella of digital literacy is a range of skills, mostly involving the flow of information surrounding new digital technologies.

Since we are all surrounded by digital technology, from the richest to the poorest of us, it is becoming more and more important to know how to interact with the Internet and its other users.

iphone in hand

What skills make you digitally literate?

The scope of digital literacy covers skills that relate to the responsible use of technology.

This is an incredibly wide range, but it can be boiled down to a few core areas.

Consider these:

Digital etiquette, which covers a broad range of behavior, involves respecting other people on the Internet.

It means realizing that the username and avatar represent a real person.

It also means realizing that everything on the Internet comes from somewhere. That means whatever you share, sources you use, bullying you partake in, all have an effect on someone, somewhere.

On the other end of digital etiquette is content curation.

Content curation is being aware of what you put on the Internet, and how it can spread. It's knowing that whatever you put out cannot be brought back in, and can often be tied to you all too easily.

An important part of the future of digital literacy is how it can contribute to success.

The Internet is a pathway for many to pursue their passions, to earn an education, to connect with life-changing opportunities.

Constructive and safe use of digital devices starts with being a decent person. There is no end to where it can take you.

students studying using laptops

How is it different from traditional literacy?

One of the biggest misconceptions about digital literacy is that it has anything to do with traditional literacy — that is, reading and writing.

Many consider digital literacy to be the ability to use critical thinking to sort out unreliable sources on the Internet.

And this is important, it's true.

But that's not any different from what students have been needing to do for traditional sources for centuries.

Thinking of digital literacy in terms of traditional literacy is doing a disservice to both.

Kids that aren't traditionally literate, who don't know how to read deeply or use scientific reasoning, can't use the Internet in place of those skills.

Digital literacy is so much more.

It takes aspects of traditional literacy, emotional literacy, and social literacy to create a new sort of environment.

It's one where sources need to be scrutinized, where you can interact with anyone in the world, where deep secrets can easily be put on display.

So instead of defining digital literacy as a replacement or a challenge to traditional literacy, think of it as complementary. Define it on its own terms.

study table with books laptop pencils and iphone

Looking towards the future of literacy

The concept of the changing face of literacy has been around at least since the turn of the century.

Marc Prensky, an education reformer, divided generations based on their digital experience into “digital natives” and “digital immigrants.”

“Digital natives” are those who grew up in and around technology. They learn through multitasking and are accustomed to instantaneous information.

There is a deep-seated divide between these younger natives and the older “digital immigrants,” who have to adapt and adjust to new media and streams of information.

But that's not all:

Prensky argued that students of the 21st Century don't just use different technology to learn — there's a fundamental difference in how they think and process information.

This creates a teaching gap between older “immigrants” and younger “natives.”

But Prensky's thinking, even 20 years ago, was ahead of its time.

He argued that “Future” content, which includes software and hardware, robotics, and other similar concepts, are not complete on their own.

They come alongside the ethics, politics, sociology, and new language that develop and go along with new technology.

man studying with laptop and phone on the table

Digital Literacy By Generation

Digital literacy didn't exactly start with computers. Sure, being skilled in a coding language is a type of literacy.

But digital literacy encompasses much more than that.

Digital literacy started to be important a bit later, as people started sharing information across computer networks.

However, the Internet wasn't always around. Even in the past few decades when it has existed, our methods of interacting with it have developed rapidly.

As sharing information changed, so did what digital literacy looked like for each new generation.

Just to be clear, this is who we mean when we talk about Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z:

The Beginning Of Digital Literacy

Digital literacy started once people began to share information across computer networks. In the early days of computers, this took the form of bulletin board systems or BBSes.

In these days, everyone who used a computer was “literate” in the sense that they had to be skilled in computers. They weren't quite household objects yet, more like tools for scientists and hobbyists.

Here's how that changed:

BBSes let people communicate, share files (slowly), and even play very basic games together.

BBSes took a pretty significant degree of technological know-how, but they forecast an era where everyone communicated via the Internet.

In fact, it was the Internet itself that ended the age of the BBS.

As communicating with people became commonplace, the prevalence of real digital literacy grew.

But a lot of people, whether they grew up well before the Internet, or completely entrenched in it, are still unsure how to be digitally literate.

Online Responsibility For Pre-Internet Adults

The trickiest thing for pre-Internet adults — Prensky's “digital immigrants” — is separating technological capability from digital literacy.

It goes something like this:

Baby Boomers, who were born around 1946 to 1964, are quite a bit less likely to have broadband internet at home than Generation X or Millennials.

They are also less likely to use forms of technology like smartphones and tablets, or social media.

So for Boomers, digital literacy isn't so much learning about the politics or ethics of the Internet and digital devices. It has a lot more to do with just learning how to use it.

In fact, there's an interesting rift growing between members of this older generation.

Many don't use the Internet at all and think that it is largely irrelevant to them. A lot of Boomers would rather communicate via traditional channels.

But plenty of others use the Internet to stay relevant. This may be at work or in their everyday lives.

Lots of older people use digital communication to stay in touch with their friends and family (and to connect with their tech-savvy grandkids).

Resisting digital literacy, however, is crippling to those who choose it.

It widens the generation gap between young and old. And it can also restrict their contact with the outside world.

With only traditional channels of communication, anti-tech Boomers limit themselves to old news and social isolation.

Adapting to new forms of tech and communication is important for Boomers, even those in the later years of their lives.

Continuing education for Gen X-ers

While many look to Millennials, or Generation Y, as the first digital generation, it is the generation that came before which paved the way.

Generation X, situated in between Baby Boomers and Millennials, have something of a “digital dual citizenship.”

Here's why:

After spending the first years of their lives in the relatively tech-free environment of their parents, their teens were filled with a boom of digital technology.

Generation X watched change happen firsthand, being more-or-less thrown into the new Digital Age.

Computers, which at their birth were room-sized contraptions, could be shipped in boxes by the time they joined the workforce.

While they adopted technology quickly and use it as readily as any later generation, they had to fight against older generations who were resistant to new approaches.

Gen X-ers can appreciate the power of technology, but they are old enough to have seen it fail.

The dot-com crash of 2000 saw to that. So, they know how to balance their expectations of technology while still taking advantage of it as much as possible.

Where Generation X really excels is in the combination of pre-Internet techniques with new digital systems and approaches.

Having seen life function without digital technology, and seeing how much easier it can make life, gives them a perspective that neither generation before or after has.

Growing up in the digital age

Digital tech has been relevant long enough that there are now two, if not three, generations of digital natives.

One of these generations is Generation Y, also known as Millennials, who were born from the early 1980s to the mid or late 1990s.

Following Millennials are Generation Z, which includes everyone born since 2000.

These two generations are often confused for each other — Millennial is sometimes used as a catch-all “kids these days” term.

But although they have a lot of distinct differences, they are similar for having never lived in a time where the Internet and digital technology was not prevalent.

For Generations Y and Z, devices such as computers, cell phones, and video games were ubiquitous throughout most of their childhood. They are certainly central to their experiences and lives now.

Most children of these generations view being online as a generally good thing. Very few have experienced times when being online was largely a bad thing.

This is because the Internet, for these two generations, is their main form of interacting with, well, everything.

It's like this:

These two generations use online platforms for all sorts of things.

They use computers and cell phones for homework, for connecting with friends and family, as a form of expression.

They share and access information, and find solutions to everyday problems through the web.

When the Internet is their primary form of keeping up with their friends and keeping up with the world around them, it's almost impossible to view it as a bad thing.

Of course, when almost 40 years' worth of people relies on the internet so strongly, it makes sense that most of the concerns over digital literacy come from them.

But some of the most significant advancements do as well.

Digital literacy for digital natives

For those who have grown up in the digital era, digital literacy is something of a first language. We assume Generations Y and Z are digitally literate because they are digital natives, after all.

And although they are much more proficient with digital devices than their older counterparts, their digital literacy is still in question.

In fact, they are often less digitally literate than they think.

Check it out:

The culture of digital use that surrounds Millennials and Generation Z is completely pervasive. There's rarely a time when someone from one of these generations isn't connected to the Internet somehow.

But the kicker is, that culture of use is completely recreational.

It's all about communication, entertainment, and leisure. They primarily use the Internet to stay connected with their friends.

But when it comes to academic and professional purposes, Millennials and Generation Z are lacking.

Higher education institutions often eliminate computer class requirements, usually because students have received computer education beforehand.

But many of their students do not have computer competence, even though they are always online.

A study of students and their professors tested perceived computer skills against how competent they actually were.

Millennials in the study rated their computer competency highly but when the time came, they scored worse than they predicted they would.

Meanwhile, their professors rated themselves lower overall but proved that their computer skills were better than expected.

Overall, just because digital native generations are more proficient in using technology does not mean they are naturally good in professional settings.

The ease of use that comes from recreation and socialization does not translate to the ethics and politics that come with true digital literacy.

business woman showing plans using laptop

Aspects Of Digital Literacy

Although digital literacy's face changes from generation to generation, there are still ways that it looks the same for everyone.

One of the key aspects of digital literacy is being able to evaluate information for accuracy and bias. While this is valuable in any situation, it's especially helpful on the open forums of the Internet.

Remember:

Digital etiquette is also a huge part of literacy.

Behind every username and avatar is another person, putting their opinions and ideas into the world. Remembering that goes a long way towards conducting yourself properly on the Internet.

And of course, using the Internet is not just about treating other people with respect.

It's about making sure that the content you add, whether its images or opinions, are not something which will come back to hurt you later.

Being able to balance all three of these (and the various ways they present themselves) will go a long way towards becoming digitally literate.

internet sites and applications

Evaluating information

A notable issue which has been on the Internet since its creation is that of fake information. Early on, this often took the form of a malicious download link with a virus hiding on it.

But times have changed:

Nowadays, it often comes in the form of articles that are either entirely false or depend on misinformation to get the point across.

Being able to tell when information is untrue, or at least biased, can make for more responsible Internet users and limit the spread of misinformation.

However, this seems to be a learning point for older Internet users, who may have less experience with false information on the internet.

A study examining sharing behavior surrounding the 2016 presidential election showed that age was overwhelmingly the deciding factor when it came to false articles.

Education, race, income, and political affiliation were all secondary to age.

Why is that?

Well, one hypothesis was that older people are less digitally literate than younger generations, as they adopted the Internet later in life.

The good news is that evaluating information seems to be more of an issue for new Internet users. A study of seventh graders in 2005 showed that they were likely to believe a false article from the Internet.

One way to be more discerning of your news sources? You might want to try keeping a cool head while you browse, and read through the whole article.

A study published in Research and Politics showed that people who only read article previews — the snippets that come up on your Facebook feed — tend to think they're better informed than they actually are.

What's more, those that were looking for emotional responses were more likely to focus on previews.

So, remember to let your better judgment prevail and make sure you get the whole story.

woman sitting on the couch and reading news paper with fake news as the headline

Digital etiquette

The process of interacting with people over the Internet is a tangled web of rules, both unspoken and very much written down.

Part of this is due to the fact that many times, Internet users forget they are interacting with other people as long as they have the shield of anonymity.

Other times, it is because the lines between digital and physical blur, meaning your once-online interactions become very personal.

As much as the younger generations find the Internet to be an overall positive thing, it's pretty easy to see that we don't teach responsible use of tech.

Cyberbullying and public shaming are prevalent on social media, both on a public and private scale.

The numbers are proof:

Worldwide, around 62 percent of children have had negative experiences online.

And out of kids on social media, 74 percent have dealt with some sort of meanness or unpleasantness, most often out of interaction with their peers.

A big part of this is because tech no one teaches tech. The vast majority of our digital interactions are purely independent.

Anyone who is over 13 and has a smartphone can use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, and there are definitely not classes on how to use these platforms in high school.

But everyone on social media, regardless of age, needs to be taught how to treat others with respect and kindness just like they are for physical interactions.

This is a part of digital literacy that users often overlook. Many focus on using digital tech in professional spaces but forget that social interactions on the Internet are mostly self-taught.

Web users, whether parents, friends, or family, can hold others accountable to treat others online the way they should be treated in real life.

suit formal wear

Content curation

The sad truth about the Internet is that, despite our best efforts, there will always be someone out there looking for a new way to take advantage of you.

Because of this, one of the third keys to digital literacy is content curation. Content curation is the practice of regulating what you put out into the Internet.

The first thing to teach new Internet users is that information on the Internet doesn't go away.

It could be an embarrassing picture or an embarrassing opinion from youth. Either way, someone could pull it back up after years of dormancy.

But embarrassing (or, potentially, career ruining) social media posts are not the most of your troubles when it comes to oversharing on the Internet.

Giving away too much information can make you an easy target for hacking and other cybercrime.

It's all too easy to give away too much information on the Internet. This could lead to something relatively benign, like your Twitter account sending spam to your friends.

But that's not all:

It could also lead to someone accessing your credit card and sharing it on Facebook for anyone to use.

Curating the things you share on social media isn't limited to content about yourself.

Parents might share too much about their children, or you may end up mentioning something about a loved one that they would rather keep private.

Going Deeper Into Digital Literacy

Of course, these three aspects of digital literacy are very broad. While they may not emphasize some of the finer points, they encompass a core set of skills needed to maneuver through the modern Internet.

One point that may fall under content curation, is security. Many people are happy with their password process and think they are secure.

Sadly, it is often not enough.

A recent study used an algorithm that could accurately guess 73 percent of passwords in just 100 guesses.

It does this by using public information to guess things about you, like your pets names or graduation year to hone in on what your likely passwords are.

Digital literacy is an evolving discipline, just like the medium it uses.

digital security entering user name and password

The Global Reach Of Digital Literacy

Just like the Internet, the importance of digital literacy is a worldwide phenomenon. It is far from limited in its scope or its use.

While most people will be content to use the Internet for personal or professional purposes, the youngest generation is using the Internet for truly world-changing ends.

using internet to communicate

Using the Internet to change the world

Technology is full of potential as a tool for youth to succeed in a modern, interconnected world.

The presence of technology everywhere in the world is a great advantage for children in conflict zones.

It allows them to access high-quality educational tools and content where they otherwise might not be able to.

Mobile technology also allows migrants to access information and contact their loved ones even during travel.

And having technology at your fingertips helps in an emergency. You can reach help or access cash even when otherwise cut off.

And there's more:

Digital literacy is also a powerful tool for social organization.

Both the younger and older generations are using the Internet to create social change.

Members of Generation X often make use of their own experiences adopting tech into their lives. By drawing from this, they help older digital immigrants make full use of the technology that is available.

Meanwhile, members of Generations Y and Z take a more active role in creating the change they want to see in the world.

By organizing peers and spreading their message on social media, young digital natives are making their mark with the defining aspect of their lives.

What does digital literacy mean to you? Do you consider yourself to be digitally literate? Share your thoughts in the comments.

The Effect of the Digital Age on the School Classroom

The Effect of the Digital Age on the School Classroom

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Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad: Hope or Hype?

Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad

As a parent and former teacher, I'm naturally suspicious of screen-based "edutainment" systems like the Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad. Instinct tells us that kids should be out in the sunshine, making friends and learning by exploring. At the very least, if they have to engage with screens, they should be creating rather than consuming. Research has shown that screen time harms elementary-age children's abilities to engage socially. And the American Academy of Pediatrics says that children under two should have no screen time at all.

But many people also believe that logic and coding skills are the paths to the jobs of the future. Many also think that the sooner kids can get on with learning these skills the better. And let's face it, kids of all ages enjoy playing video games. So, where does that leave us?

What is the Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad?

First things first: the Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad isn't a video game system. Nor is it, despite the bright colors and simple interface, designed for toddlers. Rather, Osmo is an accessory kit that you can use with your iPhone, iPad or Fire device. The kit comes with several different games and activities to support different kinds of learning. There are math games, coding games, word games, and art games. Additionally, kids aged four through twelve can explore music, drawing, critical thinking, money skills, spelling, and more.

What makes this system unique is that it is interactive on several levels. Of course, your child interacts with the screen. But Osmo also has physical components that your child can manipulate for simultaneous digital and physical play. It's an interesting concept, and it has my attention.

It has also captured other people's attention. For example, Osmo won the 2015 Scholastic Teacher's Choice Award. It also won a Parent's Choice Award. This toy also won a Kapi Award for Innovation. Furthermore, Time Magazine awarded it "Best Invention of 2014." So I'll set aside my prejudices for now and give the Osmo a proper look.

What's in the Box and How Much Does it Cost?

The Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad is not a full-console gaming system. Rather, it's a set of accessories that you use with your device. The Genius kit is one of several different available kits. It comes with a base to hold your device, a "reflector," and five different games for children aged five to twelve. The included games support learning in the following areas: math, drawing, spelling, visual thinking, and problem-solving. It comes with a plastic tangram set, as well as number tiles, letter tiles, and stacking storage containers to hold them.

The Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad is available from various online retailers, as well as from Osmo's own website. Depending on the retailer, you can expect to pay between $75 and $100.

Osmo Genius Kit

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Osmo Genius Kit for iPad
  • Five award-winning games that transform your iPad into a hands-on learning tool
  • Turns core subjects, like math (numbers) and spelling (words), into fearless fun
  • Encourages visual thinking (Tangram), problem solving (Newton), and creative drawing skills (masterpiece)

How it Works

The Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad comes with a base and a red reflector. First, you stand your device in the base. The camera's eye should be on top, facing front. Then you place the red reflector over the eye. This will allow the camera, and therefore Osmo, to see what's in front of the device.

What will be in front of it, you might ask. Your child's hands, and whichever of the manipulables your child is using. ("Manipulables" is teacher-talk for physical objects a student manipulates with his or her hands.) For example, if your child is working with the tangrams program, he or she will use the enclosed plastic tangrams in front of the device stand. And Osmo will be able to "see" what he or she is doing and offer feedback.

Which Games Come Included?

This is actually pretty impressive. The Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad comes with five nifty games.


Masterpiece

My favorite is Masterpiece, a drawing game. Your child engages with Osmo by drawing on a piece of paper within the reflector's viewing area. Osmo responds by showing both the drawing and your child's hands, as he or she creates.

Tangrams

Tangrams are a puzzle system invented in China between 960 and 1279 AD. Trading ships brought it to Europe in the early 19th century. Parents and teachers love it because it teaches kids analytical and creative thinking. The gist of it is creating pictures and patterns from different sizes of triangles, squares, and parallelograms.

Like with Masterpiece, your child chooses an image to create from the catalog. Osmo puts the image onto the screen, and your child uses the enclosed pieces to try to recreate the image. Your child can choose easier puzzles or harder ones, do them for their own enjoyment, or compete against a friend. It's a new twist on an old educators' favorite.

Newton

Now, this is really cool. Newton is a problem-solving game that encourages three-dimensional thinking. Here's how it works. First, your child takes any small object and places it on the pad in view of the red reflector. Alternately, he or she could draw a line, a curve, or a figure.

Then Newton shows the image of a ball slowly dropping from the top of the device's screen to the bottom. The player's job is to manipulate the drawing or object to guide the dropping ball into a target area. It's harder than it sounds, and chances are, kids will master it a lot faster than their parents will.

Words

Words is a game that teaches spelling skills. Osmo shows an image followed by a number of blanks to indicate the number of letters in the word. Your child uses the enclosed letter tiles to spell out the word. Because Osmo can "see" your child's work, it can also offer feedback. You can also upload words that are important to your child, like the names of family members, or download free content like geographical names. Your child can play this game on his or her own or compete against others.

Numbers

Numbers is, as the name suggests, designed to help with math skills. But not just skills -- this game teaches mathematical creativity, and this is something a lot of schools ignore. Wait, how can math be creative? I'm glad you asked that.

We're all used to thinking of creativity in terms of art and written expression. But mathematics isn't just memorizing facts and formulas. Just like words have synonyms, there are different ways of expressing numbers, too. The number 16 isn't just 15 + 1, for example. It's also four times four. It's also 19 minus three.

Numbers lets your child stretch their mathematical creativity by displaying a number. Your child then uses the enclosed number tiles to create that number by adding, subtracting, or multiplying other numbers. It teaches that math can be fun and creative, just like art. Once again, I'm impressed.


Other Osmo Games and Kits

The Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad isn't the only kit available. There are two other kits. What's more, you can buy individual add-on games as well. The Racer Kit and Explorer Kit come with all of the games described above, plus a few others. Additional kits will set you back between $100 and $200, depending on your retailer.

The Racer Kit, for example, comes with the Hot Wheels Mind Racers game. This, as the name suggests, involves racing two Hot Wheels cars down a ramp and into a virtual world. You get six different cars, and each has its own personality and specs. They can race through eight different worlds. It's a fun, fast-paced game with lots of yelling and throwing things. And if you have a Hot Wheels enthusiast in your house, chances are, they'll love it.

The Explorer Kit comes with three different coding games, as well as coding manipulables to help your child get the hang of programming logic. A lot of people tune out when they hear terms like "programming logic" and "coding." But these are fun, interactive games that kids can play alone or with others. There's a quest, several puzzles, and a "coding adventure" that make these concepts interesting and accessible to kids aged seven and up.

You can buy all of the above-mentioned games individually. You can also buy add-on games like the three Disney/Pixar-themed drawing games and a pizza-making game that helps develop money skills. Individual games will set you back between $20 and $60.

Using Osmo in the Classroom

According to Osmo, 30,000 schools use their products to teach both academic and collaborative skills to children in kindergarten through sixth grade. The company encourages teachers to use it to teach collaboration and teamwork, as well as academic skills. Toward this end, Osmo provides free lesson plans and a user-friendly teacher's guide. And from this former teacher's point of view, it looks pretty neat.

Positive 

  • There really is a lot to like about the Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad. The combination of virtual and physical tasks is one of the most innovative things I've seen recently in toys. The system helps kids to develop a range of skills in exciting and interesting ways. And it's surprisingly reasonably priced.
  • At the same time, it's a real drag that it's only compatible with Apple and Amazon products. Our family, and most of the people we know, to be honest, are Android users. And we're not interested in switching over to a whole new technological ecosystem just for the sake of one toy, no matter how cool.
  • Is the Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad for you? Of course, only you can decide that. But if you're already an Apple device or Kindle Fire user, you should definitely check it out.

There really is a lot to like about the Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad. The combination of virtual and physical tasks is one of the most innovative things I've seen recently in toys. The system helps kids to develop a range of skills in exciting and interesting ways. And it's surprisingly reasonably priced.

At the same time, it's a real drag that it's only compatible with Apple and Amazon products. Our family, and most of the people we know, to be honest, are Android users. And we're not interested in switching over to a whole new technological ecosystem just for the sake of one toy, no matter how cool.

What About the Competition?

Osmo is an innovative product, and it looks like lots of fun. But is there anything similar out there? Yes and no. There are plenty of children's tablets on the market. But as far as educational toys that merge the virtual and the physical, there is only one. Sort of.

LeapFrog LeapPad1 Explorer Learning Tablet

LeapFrog LeapPad1 Explorer Learning Tablet, green
  • Introducing LeapPad Explorer, the personalized learning tablet just for kids!
  • 100+ games, apps, digital books, videos and flash cards (sold separately, works with all Leapster Explorer games and...
  • Includes a built-in camera and video recorder, 5" touch screen and 4 apps (Pet Pad, Story Studio, Art Studio and one of...

You've probably heard of Leapfrog. Leapfrog is Osmo's main competitor. Their LeapPad was one of the earliest tablet-like learning technologies aimed at kids. The first LeapPad came out in 1999. Since then, their product line has expanded to include a wide variety of apps, devices, games, toys, fridge magnets, and more.

The two main differences between Osmo's and Leapfrog's product lines are these. First, Osmo's target market is children aged four through twelve. Leapfrog aims its products at ages three months through six years. The second difference is that while Osmo addresses a variety of subjects, Leapfrog's product focus specifically on reading and writing.

There are other differences as well. For example, Leapfrog's product line includes devices, stand-alone manipulables, and a whole range of interactive toys and games. In addition, parents can also subscribe to a paid monthly service that provides educational games. Osmo, and the Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad does a small number of tasks, and does them well.

Leapfrog tablets can cost as little as around $40 to $60 for a large-key keyboard with a black and white screen for toddlers, to over $100 for a tablet for older kids.

Our Verdict

If you're looking for a fun way to use technology to support different kinds of elementary-level learning, the Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad could really be worth your time. It's innovative, both in the way it combines virtual and physical learning and in the way it focuses on some of the kinds of learning typically overlooked in traditional education. It's also really reasonably priced.

But remember that Osmo is for kids aged four through twelve. If your kids are younger than that, Osmo probably isn't for them. And if you're an Android-only user, well, it's probably not for you, either. Will the company make Android-compatible products in the future? We sure hope so.

Do you have experience with the Osmo Genius Kit Game System for iPad, or any other virtual learning toy? Let us know about it in the comments!

Ematic FunTab: A Comprehensive Product Review

ematic funtab

What crosses your mind when you think of a tablet device? You are probably thinking of performance, design, and top-notch specs, forgetting that not every age group should have its hands on a full-featured device. For your kids, Ematic has created a tablet experience that will cater to their curious minds: the Ematic FunTab. This device is specially designed both for kids, and parents. It’s perfect for entertaining and is educational as well. Parents will love it just as much as their kids.

This device comes preloaded with the Android 4.0 Ice-cream Sandwich operating system and numerous child-friendly games. Ematic went a step further and made sure their device takes advantage of the Zoodles Children’s Computer Interface. This collaboration ensures that this device offers a safe online environment. This makes it easy for parents to tailor their children’s tablets to what they feel is appropriate. Since the Ematic Funtab is Wi-Fi capable, it's vital that parents take advantage of its parental controls.

However, there is a downside to the Ematic FunTab. If your children already have experience with devices such as the Amazon Kindle or Apple’s iPad, they might get frustrated by the FunTab's slower speeds and limited utility. People in the "know" recommend this tablet for preschoolers and young kids who don’t have previous experience with tablets.

Design Features and Performance

The Ematic FunTab was designed for comfort. Built with a durable rubber texture that is perfect for gripping, it also comes preloaded with many popular apps, your kids will get the chance to play an assortment of fun games such as Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, and many more. It also features child specific apps such as Art Studio that will let your children nurture their inner artist.

Safety is Ematics most valued priority. By collaborating with Zoodles, parents can monitor the online content their children access through their devices. You are also able to customize a list of safe websites as well as track your child’s activities.

The Ematic FunTab has a captivating multi-touch seven-inch 800-pixel x 480-pixel screen. This tablet runs on a 1.2 gigahertz (GHz) processor and 512 megabytes (MB) of random access memory (RAM) that is ideal for a variety of children’s games and applications. It also has both a front and rear camera. The Ematic FunTab has a built-in three-axis gyroscope for advanced motion sensing and a five-hour constant play battery time.

You can get the Ematic FunTab in two sets of colors pink/purple and blue/green. It retails in some major chain stores as well as online retail platforms.

Sale
Ematic 7-inch Android 5.1 (Lollipop) Funtab 3 Touchscreen Tablet PC...
  • Android 5.1, Lollipop, with Fun Tab mode and over 50 Preloaded apps featuring Fun characters like Garfield and Norm of...
  • 7" HD 1024x600 capacitive multi-touch screen
  • 1.5GHz Quad-Core Processor with dedicated GPU

Ematic FunTab FAQs

Here are a few frequently asked questions about the Ematic FunTab Pro that may help you make a well-informed buying decision.

What makes the Ematic FunTab special?

Can it be used as a regular tablet?

How does the Ematic Parent control work?

What We Liked About the Ematic Funtab

It's always good to begin with the positives. So let's check out some of the reasons why your child would love owning an Ematic FunTab.

Ergonomic design

This tablet has an easy to grip design that is perfect for young children. It has special moldings on the back that make it easy for small hands to hold. Its rear surface has a rare soft matte slip-resistant material design.

Interactive interface for kids

When turned on, the Ematic Funtab will present an icon where each child is expected to customize their homepage. There are several large tabs on top that children can access to select games, videos, books, art, and video mail.

Parental control

This tablet includes a basic parental control feature, however, to get more detailed customizable features you need a Zoodle’s premium subscription. Guardians have the choice of establishing a PIN or swiping a pattern.

Preloaded popular games

It’s hard to find a child who doesn’t enjoy Angry Birds. The Ematic Funtab comes preloaded with a variety of games, so kids jump right into the fun.

Educational material

There is a variety of educational material including videos and books. Some of them are simply linked to YouTube. There’s also a series of Bill Nye, The Science Guy and many more that children love.

Video mail

Kids have the chance to send videos to any adult registered on their Zoodle account. You can also send videos to your child too. It’s a cute feature!


What We Didn't Like About the Ematic Funtab

Now that you know some of the best aspects of the Ematic FunTab, its time to look at a few disadvantages. It’s a good thing to know the good along with the bad so that you can make a well-informed decision.

Slow

The Ematic FunTab is slow; however, if your child is not picky about processors and internet speeds, then it won’t be a big deal. Multitasking will considerably slow things down.

Scattered content

The developers could do a better job getting things organized. It’s not hard to find educational videos mixed up in the gaming section.

Icons are random and without text

Rearranging the many different video and game icons is almost impossible. The best thing you could do is wait for your favorite apps to make it to the favorite tab, which is an entirely automated process. The icons don’t have text, and your child might have to select the icon to see what it is.

Setup is hectic

The device is already slow, combine that with the tasks required to disallow or allow games, and you can expect to spend some time setting up your child’s preferences and experiences.

The Ematic FunTab is a phenomenal device, and your kids will enjoy playing games and exploring the art and video mall. However, the device could do with more advanced games and apps. Regarding preloaded games and activities, it’s great for kids between the ages of two and eight. It’s an awesome device to travel with, thanks to its headphone and carrying case.

Price

This device is reasonably priced based on its functionality and close rivals. It is available from all leading store chains as well as online retailers such as Amazon. The Ematic Funtab costs between $60 and $70.


How We Reviewed

The Ematic FunTab is a popular tablet device that is generally well received and highly rated by its customers. Other than its speed, the device has very few negative features. We, however, conducted independent, in-depth research based on its specifications, consumer reviews, and market comparison. The Ematic FunTab has a 2.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon. It costs between $60 and $70.

How Does the Ematic FunTab Compare to Its Rivals?

Ematic is a leader in portable media, offering above average consumer electronics at an affordable price. The Ematic FunTab isn’t different from any of their other products regarding quality. It’s easy to grip sleek design and preloaded games and applications make this one of the most prevalent first-experience tablets for kids.

Compared to its rivals, it doesn’t have very long battery life. The Ematic Funtab offers only five hours of battery life compared to the seven hours you get with the LeapFrog Epic, which is the FunTab's closest rival. The Ematic FunTab is lighter and offers better resolution than the Amazon Fire HD 10, a close competitor. While the Amazon Fire HD 10 offers a better and more interactive user interface (UI), the Ematic FunTab offers a better screen resolution.

LeapFrog Epic 7" Android-based Kids Tablet 16GB, Green
  • The most advanced Android-based tablet from LeapFrog, the Epic is uniquely designed to grow with your child and ignite...
  • Excite your kids with a virtual world they create on the LeapFrog Epic 7" Tablet. Manage what, when and how long each...
  • Exclusive to LeapFrog, the LeapFrog Epic 7" Tablet includes Just for Me Learning technology that personalizes select...

This seven-inch tablet runs a proprietary UI on top of the existing Android OS (operating system). It is popular for its interactive virtual world where children can customize their own. The LeapFrog Epic has a green rubber casing for easy gripping. It’s also designed for durability and is believed to be capable of surviving a toddler-meltdown throw. It has a 1.9 MP camera on its back and weighs 20.64 ounces. The LeapFrog is heavier than both the Ematic FunTab and the Amazon Fire 10 Kids Edition.

The LeapFrog Epic comes with 16GB internal storage, expandable to 32GB. Also included are a calculator, calendar app, notepad, music player, and a photo and video gallery. The device has a selection of about 20 apps from its eBooks, games, and learning material.

Its 2MP front and rear cameras are ideal for older kids, as they allow children to create all manner of comical images of their friends, pets, parents, and siblings. It also records 480p videos, which is worth its purpose.

Its display isn’t the best but may suffice for the inexperienced toddler. Just like the Ematic Funtab, the LeapFrog features parental control capabilities. Parents can set up a user account with a four-digit code that will keep the device on parent mode. The LeapFrog Epic costs between $200 and $220. It has a rating of 3.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Pros

  • Perfect size for tiny hands
  • Aimed at younger, inexperienced tablet users
  • LeapSearch browser customized pages
  • Multiple user profiles in one device

Cons

  • No warranties
  • Poor screen quality
  • Pricey subscription apps

All-New Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet, 8" HD Display, 32 GB, Blue...
  • Up to $144 in savings on Fire HD 8 tablet, 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, and a Kid-Proof Case, versus items...
  • Not a toy, a full-featured Fire HD 8 tablet with a vibrant 8" HD display, 32 GB internal storage, up to 10 hours of...
  • The included 1 year of FreeTime Unlimited gives your kids access to over 20,000 popular apps and games, videos, books,...

The Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition, christened as a tablet in kid’s clothing, is the same device available for adults but concealed in a protective rubber case. Its known for its variety of apps and software additions including subscription-based goodies. The Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition has superior specs compared to the Ematic Funtab.

It has a 10-inch 1080p full HD display, an internal storage capacity of 32GB, and offers up to 10 hours of battery time, which is twice as much as the Ematic FunTab. The Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition is heavier than the Ematic Funtab, weighing about 1.45 pounds.

The Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition costs between $120 and $140. This tablet has a rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Pros

  • Superior specs
  • A large variety of kid-safe content
  • Protective casing kids can throw around without parents worrying
  • Great 1080p full HD display
  • Parental features

Cons

  • Looks awkward playing non-Amazon content
  • Bulky and not ideal for younger children
  • Expensive
  • A lot of subscription-based applications
kurio tab 2

The Kurio Xtreme two is a seven-inch kids tablet. Its performance isn’t as notable as the Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition or the Ematic FunTab. It compensates for that with a ton of preloaded games and a colorful bumper that is likely to appeal to young children.

The Kurio Extreme also features a variety of popular games and applications, just like the Ematic FunTab. HelloKittyCafe, Motion Extreme, and Motion Playground are just a few of the games and apps your kids have access to. The Kurio Extreme 2 has a 1024x600 resolution with a 2.1MP camera. The camera, however, is nothing to get excited over. It doesn’t matter what the lighting conditions are, and it will still capture unfocused and grainy pictures. According to critics, the Kurio Extreme 2’s front-facing camera will only pass for a video call.

This device runs on Androids 5.0 Lollipop OS. Parents also can grant and deny access on the web through filtering. This device runs a 1.2 GHz MediaTek quad-core processor. It costs between $80 and $100.

Pros

  • Great content for children
  • Parental controls
  • Small, sturdy form
  • Affordable
  • Variety of preloaded apps and games to choose

Cons

  • Poor Camera
  • Short battery life

The Bottomline

The Ematic FunTab tablet might not be the cheapest tablet on the market for children, but it runs Android’s 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich for its general use. It comes packed with a bunch of favorite games that your children will dive right in and have fun. The Zoodle interface offers a spectacular, stable platform your children will enjoy. For a retail price of between $60 and $70, the Ematic FunTab is a tablet you child can call their own.

Primo Cubetto Playset: Reviewing the Toy That Teaches Coding

Primo Cubetto Playset

Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to teach your children how to code? The Primo Cubetto Playset does just that. With this toy, your child can spend hours solving problems and playing games. Meanwhile, they’ll be learning a new skill without even knowing it.

As parents, we are all quite used to seeing hype about one educational toy or another. And, of course, there are a number of other coding toys on the market today. You might be wondering how the Primo Cubetto Playset compares to them. Also, how well does it work? Does it really teach your children how code? And how long will it hold their attention? These are a few things you need to know before buying the Primo Cubetto Playset.

What Is the Primo Cubetto Playset?

The Primo Cubetto Playset is a fun toy that teaches your children how to code. They navigate Cubetto, a small robot in the shape of a wooden cube, around a playmat with blocks and an interface board. It doesn’t require reading skills, which means even very young children can have fun with it. That makes it a fun, easy way to teach children of all ages a skill that will last them a lifetime. Montessori approves this toy, inspired by LOGO Turtle.

This playset comes with Cubetto, a playmat, an interface board, 16 coding blocks, and a storybook. More mats and storybooks can be bought separately to expand Cubetto’s adventures. These include maps based on Ancient Egypt, outer space, the ocean, and more. In this way, your child never runs out of things to do with Cubetto.

Sale
Primo Toys 1 Cubetto Playset Coding Toy
  • A coding toy for girls and boys aged 3 and up. It takes coding off of the screen, and into the real world with a...
  • Kids help Cubetto, a friendly wooden robot, find his way home using hands-on blocks to write their first programs.
  • Montessori and Logo Turtle-inspired, Cubetto makes programming accessible to children before they can read or write.

FAQs

Here are a few things you should know before buying the Primo Cubetto Playset.

How do you use it?

Does it really work?

What does it require?

Is it appropriate for all ages?

How Much Does It Cost?

One major downside to the Primo Cubetto Playset is the price. It’s going to cost between $200 and $300. On top of this, the extra playmats will each cost an extra $20 to $30. Although most parents enjoy this toy, several have complained about the hefty price tag. Many felt it should’ve come with more than one playmat for the price they’re paying.

You can find the Primo Cubetto Playset on Amazon or the official Primo website. Unfortunately, you probably won’t be able to find this toy in brick and mortar toy stores. You’re going to have to shop online for this one.

How We Reviewed

We gathered most of the basic information about these toys from Amazon and their official websites. We turned to Amazon for customer reviews. We chose to focus on features such as replayability, educational value, ease of use, and of course, affordability. We also took recommended age ranges into account when reviewing these products.

How Does It Compare to Other Coding Toys?

The Primo Cubetto Playset isn’t the only coding toy on the market. So how does it measure up against the competition?

Think Fun Robot Turtles Game
  • Game Board
  • 4 Robot Turtle Tiles
  • 4 Jewel Tiles

Robot Turtles is an award-winning board game that teaches coding skills based on the Logo language. It’s also the most backed board game in the history of Kickstarter. It comes with a board and a variety of different cards. These include forward, left, right, and a Bug card in case you make a mistake. The goal is to use the cards to help the turtle find the jewel. The makers recommend this game for children between three and eight years of age.

Many customers have enjoyed playing this game with their young children, and they feel it really does teach coding skills. They also love the fact that it doesn’t require batteries or an app. Unfortunately, several have complained that it’s not interesting enough to hold their child’s attention. It’s a very simple game, and it doesn’t offer much regarding replayability.

Luckily, it’s also very affordable. Robot Turtles will only cost between $20 and $30. It’s a great choice if you’re shopping on a budget, but you have to consider how long your child will stay interested. The Primo Cubetto Playset will likely hold your child’s attention much longer if you can afford it. Amazon gives it 4.1 out of 5 stars.

Quality

Usability

Support

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Sale
WowWee COJI The Coding Robot Toy
  • Download the app to control COJI from your smart device
  • Program using emoji language
  • Play games that test your memory and problem-solving skills

The WowWee Coji is a small robot that uses emoji language to teach your children STEM skills. That's a language that everyone is familiar with, which makes coding an easy transition. Your child can use the WowWee Coji to play a variety of different games with the help of a smartphone app. You can also play with it in limited ways without the app. This toy requires three AAA batteries. WowWee recommends it for children four to seven years of age.

Many customers say the WowWee Coji is a fun toy for young children with an interest in electronics. It’s a good choice if your child likes gadgets and robots. Unfortunately, a lot of parents also had trouble getting it to work properly. Many had difficulty connecting it to the app, and the batteries tend to die quickly. Also, older children might get bored with it quickly.

This toy will cost between $35 and $50. Again, it’s much more affordable than the Primo Cubetto Playset. However, Cubetto doesn’t suffer from most of Coji’s problems. It also doesn’t require batteries or an app. Therefore, it’s still the better choice if you can afford it. The WowWee Coji has 3.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Quality

Usability

Support

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Sale
LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox 17101 Fun Robot Building Set and...
  • Who doesn't love robots? Introduce kids to the creative world of coding with the best educational STEM toys to foster...
  • Includes 847 LEGO pieces that kids can build and rebuild into 5 cool multifunctional models. The best and most popular...
  • Construct and code Vernie the Robot to dance, rock out on the Guitar4000, foster Frankie the Cat, interact with the...

The LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox is a LEGO set that allows your child to have fun building and coding. With this set, you can build five different models, including a robot, a cat, and a guitar. You can use the app to program different behaviors once your child is finished. That teaches them STEM skills while they have fun with their new creation. Like all LEGO products, it is compatible with other LEGO sets. LEGO recommends this product for children between seven and twelve years of age.

Of course, everyone loves LEGOs. Lots of customers have raved about how much their children love playing with this set. The fact that you can build different models leads to plenty of replayability. On the downside, some customers had difficulty connecting it to the app. Also, the LEGO Boost’s coding aspect isn’t quite as intuitive as other coding toys.

The LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox will cost between $150 and $180. That's cheaper than the Primo Cubetto Playset. In this case, your decision will largely depend on the age of your child. The Primo Cubetto Playset is more enjoyable for younger children, while the LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox is more appropriate for older kids. Amazon gives this toy 4.3 out of 5 stars.

Quality

Usability

Support

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Osmo Coding Jam Game (Base required)
  • With Osmo Coding Jam, place tangible blocks into patterns and sequences (coding), to enter exciting way-out worlds,...
  • Create and layer melodies, drum beats, and more while building original compositions with fun characters from different...
  • Combine unique coding blocks into sequences & patterns to make your beat come alive. A great introduction to the...

The Osmo Coding Jam teaches children how to code by combining coding skills with music. The 23 blocks that come with this set arrange in different patterns that resemble coding sequences. These patterns are recognized and used to create different beats and melodies by setting your iPad into the Osmo base and downloading the app. Unfortunately, you have to buy the base separately. Osmo recommends this product for children between ages five and twelve.

Customers love this toy because it’s engaging and easy to use. If your child loves music, they can easily spend hours and hours creating different songs. Most of the complaints have been relatively minor. The most frequent complaint is the actual coding isn’t deep enough. Many parents found it to be overly simplistic.

The Osmo Coding Jam will cost between $50 and $80. It’s much cheaper than the Primo Cubetto Playset, and many say it’s just as engaging. However, the Primo Cubetto Playset does a better job of actually teaching children how to code. It’s still the best choice if coding is important to you. Amazon gives the Osmo Coding Jam 4.6 out of 5 stars.

Quality

Usability

Support

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Comparison

Pros and Cons

Overall, the Primo Cubetto Playset has a lot of things going for it. It challenges your child’s imagination and problem-solving skills while teaching them a skill that will last a lifetime. Moreover, it’s simply a fun and engaging toy for children and adults. On the downside, it’s also pretty expensive. Also, children under five might find it too complicated.

Pros

  • Teaches children how to code
  • Doesn’t require an app or a smart device
  • You can play with it in many different ways
  • It’s fun!

Cons

  • It’s expensive
  • The mat bunches up occasionally
  • It might be too advanced for younger children

Our Verdict

In the end, reviewers on Amazon gave the Primo Cubetto Playset 4.6 out of 5 stars. It’s fun, easy to use, and does a great job of teaching coding skills to your child. Compared to other coding toys, it's highly engaging. You can also play with it in a variety of different ways. That is especially true if you choose to buy the extra maps and storybooks.

The only real big question is if you can afford it. Unfortunately, this toy is simply going to be out of the price range for many parents. You also have to consider your child’s age. Children in the age range of five to eight will have the most fun with it. If these things are not an issue, then there’s no reason not to get the Primo Cubetto Playset. It’s simply a great way to have fun with your child while teaching them a skill they can use later in life.