For years our family has resisted the gravitational pull of the Apple product phenomena. It hasn’t been easy, watching everyone with their brightly-colored iPods, super-slick iPhones, and description-defying iPads. However, with two young kids, and my own notorious clumsiness, we have never been able to justify a purchase of that magnitude for something we considered to be a fragile toy. This changed recently when I was exposed to some of the latest apps. Yes, I was drawn in by apps, those cute, fuzzy bunnies of the otherwise-serious gadget world.
My first exposure to apps was through a high school friend who wrote a trivia game app called Categuru. It was modeled after the sorts of nerdy, wordish party games we would play every weekend while the cooler kids were doing cooler kid things in places without parental supervision. From the demo video, the game looked simple yet challenging, a perfect time-waster. However, I wasn’t inclined to spend several hundred dollars on a new iTouch just to play one little game.
Then as the iProducts multiplied, so did the app users in my life. I began to hear from friends and family how they loaded up their iStuff with life-changing apps. They had apps that maintained their daily schedules, delivered their news, and kept them informed on the health status of every player on the Steelers roster. I was beginning to get a little more curious, but still, I waited.
And then one of my friends recently demonstrated for me the educational apps she had been putting on her new iPhone for her own children. Math games, word games, storytelling – the list is endless. Finally, I was seeing the full potential of an iThingie. It wasn’t just a shiny game unit – it could actually be a valuable learning tool.
As a home-schooling mother, I often feel the proverbial weight of the world on my shoulders. Not only am I the primary caregiver, but I am also the primary teacher. Though I have willingly assumed this mantle, I am happy to find anything that makes any part of my job a little easier. An iSomething would actually be a fantastic supplement to our school day.
After our Christmas trip to the US, we now own an iTouch (a good introductory device). My son Myles is, as any 7-year-old boy would be, delighted by it. I do have a few apps for him that are purely for fun (like Mythbusters), but what I’ve been seeking are enrichment activities. Time-telling, spelling, Greek myths, and – for my young paleontologist – dinosaur apps of every kind have all reinforced material he’s learned while giving me a much-needed break. My daughter Brigid is just starting to assert her desire for her own turn on the iTouch. I’ve found a few toddler apps, giving her a nice diversion for when I really need to focus on Myles’ lesson.
Indeed, I have bought a few apps for myself, too, since the gadget is technically mine. Among the first is Categuru. I can be found playing it for a few stolen moments here and there. It isn’t a total time-suck, like Angry Birds, to which I am now redirecting what’s left of my resistance. If I can just avoid that temptation we will all be able to take turns.
Jennifer Ambrose hails from Western Pennsylvania and misses it terribly. She still maintains an intense devotion to the Pittsburgh Steelers. She has lived in China since 2006 and is currently an at-home mother. With her husband Randy and children Myles and Brigid, she resides outside the Sixth Ring Road in Changping, northwest of Beijing. Her blog can be found at http://jenambrose.blogspot.com.