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CMC Workshop – “Playful Learning”

(Danielle Vallely) This morning I attended the “Playful Learning” conference of the workshop held in Sheffield. This topic focused on educational games for children and the strategic outline to follow in order to create a truly popular app. There were four panelists who delved into their personal experiences within the IP (Internet Protocol) world of educational games for children. Each speaker focused on three important factors to look for when designing an app: reach, cost and partnership. Most importantly, educational objectives need to be considered for the app to reach a high level of success.

The first speaker Mahesh Ramachandra designed a video app entitled Hopster, which provides a safe and advertisement free environment for children. He explained Hospter reached great success due to its’ popularity growing nationally. However, he noted that something can be popular throughout the world, but for different reasons. It is important to be cautious when attempting to gain a global appeal in order to translate well within each culture.

Josh Davidson is the managing director of Night Zoo Keeper. He explained that children are almost fearful of the word educational. This is why it is important to incorporate interactive involvement within each app that is designed. The third speaker, Phil Stuart, created an app entitled Story Cards. This app takes pre-existing IP characters (including Frankenstein and Charles Dickens) and creates a game that encourages children to read more. As the children completes a story they unlock and collect cards that gain them access to other levels of the game. Children participating in this educational app read twenty percent more compared to children who do not play the game.

Chris O’Shea is the creator of several apps, including Cowly Owl. His apps are designed with a built-in objective. For example, children use their sense of touch within the Ipad or cellular device to learn to count and understand numbers. O’Shea believes simplicity is key within children apps; it is important to make it clear what children are doing wrong throughout the game.

Each speaker identified that is important to measure the level of success throughout the creation of each app. What is the end goal? What is the role the child is taking throughout the game? This is why it is important to note the environment in which the app is first being tested. For example, if they are around their teachers or parents their reactions can vary. When testing the app it involves solely observing the child, rather than discussing with the child the ways in which they are playing the game.

The article Zero to Eight, a media research article, identifies that half of all children now have access to at least one form of a mobile device: either smartphone, iPod, or iPad or other tablet. This directly correlates with the need for educational value with the games children play. This conference really gave insight to why strong educational content is the direction children’s game apps need to take.

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