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(This post was written for The Book App Alliance, an organization of leading authors in the publishing industry who create interactive books for kids. See: http://www.bookappalliance.com/

 

To engage children and keep them interested, and to impart information in a fun way, many app creators use simple forms of “gamification”: lift-the-flap activities, mazes, guessing games, inside-outside concepts, search-n-find, ABCs and numbers, puzzles, matching games, Q&A, hidden objects, word/noun object recognition, and so forth. The games have to be logically associated and integrated with the subject – not just put in gratuitously.

I don’t do fantasy or digital video-type games. I make mainly nonfiction apps. However, many subjects lend themselves to these sorts of game-like interactive formats. It’s great for Common Core. For learning about concepts, people, animals, a historical period, science, a workplace, you can cast the content in an interactive way – children can look under flaps to discover things, answer Q&As (and earn points), play matching games, find and count items, look for hidden ABCs, solve a maze…often in collaboration with others.

Some of my apps with games, all built by OCG Studios:

Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure” (games: solving interconnected mazes, out to the goal and back to the starting place, through 16 screens; finding various items like a recurring penguin, other animals, designated vehicles, numbers, alphabet letters, more; score is kept; up to five players):

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Roxie’s Doors” (games: seek-n-find objects behind flaps, doors, in drawers, under/inside things, etc; naming/vocabulary [word highlighting]):

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Roxie’s Puzzle Adventure” (game: 16 interconnected jigsaw puzzles/screens – choose between 6 and 260 pieces per puzzle/screen; choose rotation, hints, music; up to five players):

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Coming out in September 2014: a series of 11 AR (augmented reality) apps designed to work with KIWiStoryBooks (giant interactive walk-in picture books; themes: Rainforest, Dinosaurs, Space Station, Coral Reef, Farm, Maze, Castle, Fire Station, more):

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“Seek-n-Find.” Matching game; with iPad camera, match images found in backdrop (here, Maze and Farm):

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“Make Some Noise.” Click on images, hear the sounds, and record your own (here, Fire Station and Space Station):

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“Explore & Learn.” Q&A with information and fun multiple choice answers with rewards, games, hidden details/scratch off (here, Rainforest, TV Station, Castle, and Dinosaurs). Activated by scanning markers/stickers placed on KIWiStoryBook:

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“Movie-making.” Use iPad camera and supplied frames to make series of 1-minute videos. Combined/edited into 8-minute movie w/kids’ own voiceovers/narration (here, Coral Reef and Wild West/Native Americans):

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“Puzzles.” Activated by scanning markers/stickers placed on KIWiStoryBook (here, Desert and Fire Station):

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Engaging in games helps children with concentration, setting goals, problem-solving, working together and collaboration (many allow multiple players), perseverance, and celebrate achieving goals. Many games, and mazes in particular, also help children learn decision-making and critical thinking skills. They make them think ahead and plan steps in advance. Mazes teach alternative ways to solve problems and judge spatial relationships. For younger children, they help develop fine motor skills; for older children, maneuvering through mazes helps improve handwriting. Game formats are particularly suited to reluctant readers, special needs children, and boys (although girls are rapidly catching up).

So, using games in apps enhances learning, engagement, and collaboration. And, of course, they’re fun!!!

More info, see Gamification post below on interactivity in print books, and

Using games in the classroom: http://teacherswithapps.com/teachers-surveyed-on-using-games-in-the-classroom/

 

 

Recently, on Facebook, I did a “small rant on a snowy day,” and thought I’d post it on this blog…

“I wish more of my children’s book illustrator friends would do apps. You are needed! The ‘art’ in most kids’ apps these days (particularly the ones purporting to be educational) looks so much alike – computer-generated, bright primary colors, cartoon-y… Children recognize good art, and deserve it. Children’s book artists have so much more style and variety.”

To expand a bit: Art makes content. Kids love and appreciate beauty. Why shouldn’t they have well-crafted and elegantly-made visuals, seamlessly integrated?

An anecdote: On a school visit once, after the program, we had a Q&A. Later, as I was packing up my materials (which included big spreads of the original art – this was before Powerpoint), a teacher came up with a 3rd grade girl, and said, “Ellen had a question – you didn’t call on her.”

“Oh,” I said, “What is your question?”

Ellen asked, “How do you make them so pretty?”

I almost teared up, and kept her question on a post-it in my studio for years. I have never forgotten that girl.

Do not underestimate the power of beauty.

Here is a quote from a great recent post by the app developer and author, Sarah Towle:

“…However, lacking in the above equation, I felt, was the time-honored lesson to be drawn from the world of children’s publishing: that the visual element serves a valuable role too, and one often neglected in today’s interactive media for kids.

As a children’s author and a connoisseur of picture book art, I was shocked by the low visual quality of some of the media products we studied at Dust or Magic. Many of them, I’m sorry to say, were just plain ugly, with illustrations that looked little better than clip art.

Anyone working on behalf of children must appreciate the role that great illustration plays in communicating with and teaching children. In illustrated books, the story and images weave seamlessly together to create something better than the sum of their parts. Indeed, great illustrations tell at least 50% of the story and can make an already great text shine even brighter.

Yet, this is not often the case in today’s digital products.

Not all children’s digital media will contain story. They don’t all have too. But digital media are nothing if not visual. It is imperative, therefore, that we developers make our products visually appealing. To make them works of art.”

You can read the rest of her post here:

http://sarahtowle.com/…/26/j07i91um0k19nt0aeuku4avd5xx3as

The 13th Annual Dust or Magic Institute: Magic-Making Factor #4

So lots of illustrators and authors responded to my FB mini-rant (we also need better and well-edited writing in apps! I’ve seen purported “educational” apps with spelling and grammatical mistakes.). They are very interested in doing apps but many don’t know where to start. Here’s a kind of “basics” post I did about a year ago for Digital Storytime…of course, things have changed in the last year, including the fact that you now get 100 free promo codes with each app publication and update, and I now have a new app out based upon the maze app, called “Roxie’s Puzzle Adventure.”

An a-MAZE-ing Transition: Roxie Munro Talks about Print, Digital & Lessons Learned

http://digitalmediadiet.com/?p=2266

But the main problem, of course and sadly, is money. There are various issues re ROI (return on investment) – a few, of many (also discussed in the Digital Storytime blog, above):  development costs are high/price point for apps is low; marketing is very difficult; discovery is an issue; there are too many kinds of devices out there which require different platforms, and so on …

And children’s book authors and illustrators, who have so much to offer the app world in creativity and originality, have to eat and support themselves, their families, and their art too.

But, I just wish more of these talented folks could make apps! The industry needs them.