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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Guest Blogger: The Slow App Movement

Yesterday, I introduced you to a new app. Today, Angela... one of the makers of this fabulous app wrote the following blog post for me to share with all of you. I recognize myself in her words as I remember the time when I was the mom she is speaking of.

As a partner at iMagine Machine I am always thinking about what we can make and create that kids will love but also how kids use media in their daily lives. I thought it would be a good idea to step back and take
a detached view of what my three children (aged 10, 13 and 15) are up to. The results of my ‘research’ left me thinking...

The ‘group homework’ sessions on Skype where my daughter and five of her thirteen-year-old friends ‘conference’ and do their homework.

Minecraft on the laptop while BBMing 15 friends at the same time and watching TV (no wonder they don’t answer when I call for them!).

Using ‘internet’ for research on their history project….oh yeah? Then why is FB open. ‘I’m doing both.’

How did this happen? I’m the Mom who said ‘no thanks’ when the grandparents offered to buy the kids a Wii for Xmas. We had a strict no TV or computer game policy on weekdays and I am most famously
known as the mother who yes, GAVE AWAY the Playstation after a month. All my good intentions have seemingly slipped away.

I did some further research. The key finding on media multitasking is that American kids are spending 6.5 hours a day using media but packing in 8.5 hours of media within that time. Brain scans show that
children who are multitasking are absorbing and processing less information. On the other hand, we know that kids who multitask can do things more quickly and have quicker reaction times.

As a parent, I am worried about some of the ways my kids use technology. And it’s not really ‘use’, I would argue they ‘inhabit’ technology. As they attempt to manage all of the information and social media, they are constantly doing too many things at once and this stops them from developing the ability to shut out other things and focus on one task. Doing anything well takes focus and single-mindedness whether that is persevering through a four step math problem, mastering a move in gymnastics or struggling through a complicated piano piece. In order to master anything we must focus and learning to focus takes practice.

At iMagine Machine we have decided to create apps that can promote focus. We are calling this the 'slow app' movement. Every app we make has to fulfill this criteria. As someone once said, just because
you have a hammer doesn't mean you have to smash everything. It's the same with apps. Not every every character needs to be swipe-able and tap-able with everything singing and dancing.
Be a part of *The Monsters Family
Our newest app The Monsters Family is a case in point. It has been designed so that preschoolers must focus on a single game with no distractions. Even the voices of the characters within the app speak slowly and calmly. We built in lots of great rewards and virtual prizes to keep it exciting but it isn't manic in any way.
Right Brain Creativity * Faces iMake
Faces iMake, our multiple award winning app has received rave reviews from parents of children with special educational needs. Their feedback is that it is a calming and immersive app and they are amazed by the focus it promotes as well as the fantastic and beautiful creations their children make. With Faces iMake it’s the child who sets the pace and not the other way around.
Wince *Don't Feed The WorryBug
Our next app to come out is going to take the idea of 'slow apps' even further. With Wince and the Worrybug we have created an app that isall about getting children to explore their feelings about worry. We can’t wait to see the reactions and discussions from teachers, parents and hopefully professionals working with children.

So my advice to parents of younger children is to choose apps that are designed to keep kids engaged and not because the app is packed with overwhelming choices. Is the app engaging because it is trying to ‘hook’
them with unnecessary elements? Or is it engaging because of the amazing things your child can do with the app.

Check out this article for more information on media multitasking.

As we move toward the Common Core and technology integration becomes essential to lesson planning, I believe Angela has a point. We need to not only teach our children how to multitask but also how to focus. 

What are your thoughts on this? 

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At December 5, 2012 at 5:30 PM , Blogger Meg said...

What an interesting post...thank you. I very much agree that "focus" needs to be at the forefront of our decisions as we make educational and curricular plans for our students. No longer can we ASSUME students come in knowing how to focus...we are going to have to learn ways to teach it to those who struggle.


At December 10, 2012 at 10:03 PM , Blogger PJ Jots said...

YES kids need to learn to focus. I think out of my 27 5th graders, about 4 can truly focus. Good thoughts!


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