Beyond games: Tips for tapping tech for education

(BPT) - We know kids love technology for fun - video games, movies, keeping in touch with friends - it’s easy to spend hours glued to the screen, wasting time. But there’s also plenty technology can do to enrich learning and help kids develop new skills in this digital age.

The key is finding the right ways to use technology that take it from easy fun to learning opportunities, both in the classroom and at home. The following tips can help you ensure the kids in your life are taking full advantage of the deep wealth of knowledge available online as part of their everyday screen time.

*Let’s get visual: The Web is full of images, audio and video of nearly anything and everything you can imagine and this multimedia content can be a great learning tool. You can look at famous works of art before a field trip or listen to landmark speeches from historical figures like Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King, Jr. You can even find videos that explain the lifecycle of the bug your child found in the backyard yesterday. This sort of content is available in mere seconds, no trip to the library or museum is necessary. Think about looking up relevant videos, images and audio recordings next time a child is curious about something they encounter, or as they relate to topics of study in school. Bringing concepts to life and showing, rather than telling, can help kids absorb and relate to content.

*Put them in the driver’s seat: Beyond digestible content, there are also a vast number of tools and resources on the Web that can take kids from seeing and watching to doing themselves. Mapping tools, for example, can help kids develop problem solving skills and critical thinking. When they are learning about a specific rainforest or city they can use mapping tools to answer questions like, “How far away are we now?” and “Are we closer to that city or the north pole?” These kinds of exercises help kids use the Web to solve problems and take action, rather than just absorb content, helping them develop tangible digital skills.

*Keep their eye on the prize. The Internet is full of endless content that, while often amusing, can serve as a big distraction. This includes everything from cat videos to memes to social media, and, of course, online ads. Sometimes it can be tough to know whether something is reliable content or an advertisement. Luckily, there are some programs available that can help students search the Web ad-free when they’re at school, so they can avoid the distractions of online ads. For example, Bing in the Classroom lets students in school search for what they need in an ad-free, safer, more private search environment via Rather than clicking on shiny links for airline ticket offers or video game ads, kids can focus on book report research, learning about Africa or other relevant education content.

"I want kids to know how to find the answers they're looking for,” says Everett, Wash. teacher Wanda Hill. “They need to know where to go to search for information and how to decide if what they're finding is credible. Quite often kids just click on the top two or three links in their search without realizing those are sponsored links.”

The Internet is an amazing place and a great resource for kids. Learning how to use it for educational purposes might not be as fun as those cat videos, but it’s certainly important. Follow those tips and you’ll be well on your way.