• Whether you opt for a smartphone through your wireless carrier, or for many of the other tablets that continue to hit the market, there will be plenty of kid-friendly content to consider. You need to learn to distinguish between educational and entertainment-based content. Another good idea is to look for an age range listed on the app, keeping in mind what your child can handle.
• For users of the iPad or iPhone, there are many apps that teach basic math, metric conversion, time, money and fractions, geography, the U.S. Constitution, Shakespeare, as well as tools for learning art and music. LeapFrog, known for its educational games and products for children, recently introduced a tablet for children ages four to nine called the LeapPad that has its own apps. Parents can also download apps from www.smartappsforkids.com/preschool, www.commonsensemedia.org, and http://www.zoodles.com .
• Many games and interactive activities on mobile devices are activities that engage children in thinking skills like memory games, puzzles, spatial reasoning activities; nurturing skills such as digital pets; and creative skills – drawing, making music – are also great choices.
But So Does Adult Assistance of the Child
• Take it for example the relationship between counting and the concept of number. When asked to count all these bears, a four-year boy can count meaningfully to twelve and rote to fifteen. This is his independent performance on this task, the best he can do alone. When the teacher structures the activity differently, the same child can perform at a higher level, counting meaningfully to seventeen without missing any bears.
• Assistance – we take it from teacher’s hints or clues, or otherwise setting up a situation so a higher level of the outcome can occur. This higher level which the child is currently capable attaining only with help is called the level of assisted performance.
• The area between the level of independent performance and the level of assisted performance is the Zone of Proximal Development. It is here where the teacher must focus attention. The assistance used by the child needs to be intentionally provided by an adult.
• The zone is not stoic. It shifts as a child aggressively attains a higher level. With each shift, the child is capable of learning more complex concepts and skills.
• The concept of the zone of proximal development has at least three important implications for early childhood education. First, it causes us as the educators to rethink how we intervene, what mediation or action on our part will help this particular child make the next step in his understanding.
• Second, the zone of proximal development has an important implication for how we assess children. And third, the Zone of Proximal Development causes us to rethink what is developmentally appropriate. Teachers according to this stance should provide activities that are just beyond what the child can do on her own, but within what she can with the assistance. With this in mind, we feel that sensitive teacher interventions can enable children to operate the higher level of their zone and that should be considered developmentally appropriate.

ZPD or the Zone of Proximal Development is the basis of the Techstars program.
This is the second in a series informational pieces to guide parents in use of technology by their children. H. Wagner, Director Techstars by Computer Explorers

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