Designing a Rubric for Preschool Bilingual Apps

I first wrote this in 2012 on the day of the release of the position statement from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center (FRC): Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children Birth – Age 8.  Today’s article is an example of how NAEYC/FRC position statement can be used by practitioners on the front lines. This is an area of consideration that has not been covered in the recent national studies of technology availability and use such as Common Sense Media and The Joan Ganz Cooney Center for Educational Media and Research.

My goal is to be able to recommend apps for supporting the different home languages of children in English-speaking classrooms or for apps that would support the learning of new languages by English-speaking children. One thing has become increasingly clear: lots of free, low-quality apps take up teacher time and student time with little benefit, when investing in one or two high quality apps can yield far greater results!  I will leave questions about basic functionality and appearance to other reviewers. Here are the questions I propose to use. I hope you will respond with your comments and suggestions.


R.E.A.D.  Rubric for Evaluating Apps for DLLs©


  • What languages are available?
    1. Are additional languages free?
    2. Provided via in-app purchase?
    3. Available by downloading purchasing different versions?


  • What is the complexity of the language used in the app?
    1. One word at a time?
    2. Simple vocabulary that is traditional for preschool but adds little to the child’s ability to communicate or process knowledge (like names of animals, shapes, or colors)
    3. Sentences?
    4. Stories/songs?
    5. Complex activities that require thought and response?


  • In what language was the app written?
    1. Was the app written in English, then translated?
      1. Do the graphics change with the language?
    2. Was the app developed in another language, then translated to English?
    3. Does the developer offer any documentation to support the accuracy of the translation?
    4. Is the whole app available in the two languages?  Or
    5. Are the instructions in English, and some of the activity is provided in another language?


  • Is there any way for the app to grow with the child?
    1. Are there multiple levels?
    2. Is there a way to track what the child has learned or accomplished?


  • Does the app meet with Developmentally Appropriate Practice?
    1. Does the app take a flashcard approach? Or
    2. Does the app engage the child in activity such as singing or solving puzzles or problems? Or
    3. Are there opportunities for children to choose, plan, or create?
    4. Are these opportunities superficial or truly meaningful?
    5. Do the activities and content impart vocabulary and concepts that are connected with the child’s non-screen learning, conversations, and play activities?
    6. Do the activities and content provide clear purpose and connection to each other?


  • Are the images and activities culturally appropriate and free of stereotypes?
    1. Can the child see different cultures, ethnicities, lifestyles represented?
    2. Are there characters and themes that enhance learning by giving the child something he can relate to?
    3. Are the images authentic and meaningful, helping children who speak different languages to make vocabulary connections?


  • How does the app function to support diverse languages?
    1. Can the child or adult record their voice using any language?
    2. If the app is multilingual, does the child have to exit the activity to go back and change a setting to get a new language? OR
    3. Can the child toggle back and forth to different languages while using the app?


  • Does the content of the app meet your specific objectives for each child?
    1. Does it teach “math”? or does it identify specific math skills and levels?
    2. Does the app go beyond promising to “teach” something by providing a way to check if learning happened?


Most importantly: Do you know what you expect each child to accomplish by using the app and have you chosen apps that address to that purpose?

We welcome your comments and questions. How has this worked with the apps you’ve found?



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