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★★★ Open House ★★★
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CTR Weekly 9/12/2018
Best/Worst practice plus Fiete Math Climber, Little Fox Train Adventures and Meow Match
"What most people couldn't see in Fred (Rogers) was his enormous power. Power with a capital 'P' ... His power derived from a really unique place. It was his absolute self-possession, which is very different than from self interest... He didn't need anything from you." Eliot Daley (A friend of Fred Rogers, on page 349 in the new book The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King).

If you are interested in Fred Rogers (I'm teaching a class on his methods, so I am) get the new authorized biography by Maxwell King. It took six years to write, and Max worked closely with Fred's family and associates -- so it is full of details you won't find anywhere else.

Best practice for children's designers: Over disclose
Just because you don't collect information doesn't mean that parents and librarians don't know that you don't collect information. We liked how Fiete Math Climber included the message "information is only saved on your device." They didn't legally have to do it. But they did.

Bad Practice for Apple and Google
Apple is featuring Meow Match as a game of the day (review below). It is an app children will want to play (free with kittens) that is specifically designed to trick you into handing over your time, money and information. Over in Google Play, Google is promoting a series of pink apps for role playing that contain some of the worst gender stereotyping we've seen. Here's their current list --

Rather than complain, we suggest the following steps to improve the interactive ecosystem for children:
STEP 1: Describe. You don't know there's a problem unless you play these apps yourself (danger -- you'll get cranky). We're trying our best with our close -- and we hope fair -- review of Meow Match. We encourage others to join us.
STEP 2: Follow the money. Publishers and app stores won't stop listing these types of products unless there are economic consequences.
STEP 3: Educate the market -- your friends, family, patrons and students. Let them know there are ethical products hiding in the app stores that cost far less in the long run. "Free" can mean many different things. Be a media mentor, and promote quality.
STEP 4: If you list these products, please take care of every child. If you make or sell products to children, you need to own up to the responsibility and understand that children are a vulnerable audience. If you're Amazon, Apple and Google, hire some people with child development backgrounds, and do a better job helping publisher understand the power of the experiences.

* Fiete Math Climber
Ahoiii Entertainment UG, , ($2.99 on iPad, iPhone, Android, for ages 5-10.
Looking for a fun, well designed math facts drill experience? Keep reading. Designed to "make mental arithmetic child's play" this app is all about math facts, starting with simple addition and going up to multiplication with carrying of tens. After you create an account for your child by entering your child's name an grade, it's very easy to get started. The app does all the hard work -- with auto leveling, and automatic bookmarking -- so your child's progress is saved (locally). Because it is possible to create multiple accounts, this app would work well in a classroom setting.
The app comes pre-configured with problem sets, or you can design your own. The more you play, the more "climbing" characters you can collect. Note that getting back to the main menu can be confusing (we wish there was a better pause and exit routine). But we liked this apps child controlled pacing, and fun game elements which include the ability to earn a stick of dynamite that you can use to blow up hard problems. All in all, this is an excellent math facts app for elementary age children.
Video Link:

Little Fox Train Adventures
Fox and Sheep GmbH, , ($2.99, for ages 2-5.
This nicely illustrated starter app will work well with a young preschooler, despite an interface that could offer more to do. The idea is to move a train through a series of stops, by tapping on the screen. The trouble is you don't know exactly where to tap.
To move the train, you touch it (a longer touch makes the train move faster).
Your first stop is the orchard where you load three cars up with apples, one step at a time. Each screen tap moves a crane, which fills the car. The process can't really be sped up -- so you have to move through the process at each station. The next stop is the pie factory.. and so on. Each station is operated by sheep. We liked how the colors of the sheep have nothing to do with good or bad behavior (the "black" sheep are depicted in both helping and mischievous roles).
Content includes 30 stops. Testers noted that it is possible to accidentally reset progress which makes you start over. No internet is required, and no information is collected.
Video Link:

Meow Match
Ember Entertainment, Inc., http://ember.gam es/, ($free with IAP on iPad, iPhone, for ages 4-up.
Apple's "Game of the Day" (September 11, 2018) features cool kittens, which children will find of interest. Because the app was free, we decided to review it... and sure enough -- there is a clear underlying motive. Money.
This is a "match three" puzzle game (like Candy Crush) mixed with kitten characters. The levels are carefully engineered to keep your playing, giving you extra treats for turning on game alerts, sharing your social media information, and giving you bursts of success, with addicting intermittent reinforcements and masterful behavioral shaping techniques. Then -- about 16 minutes into the game (on the first play) you start running out of the things you need to take care of your kittens. The only solution is to buy more fish, in bundles of up to $60 per transaction. This is bad behavior in the app store -- children are pulled in with the kittens and 4+ age rating (a label that has nothing to do with the level, but most consumers don't know this). The real price is wasted time.
Our evil inventory for this app includes:
• The app urges you to turn on push notifications.
• Reward are given for your social media access and information.
• Lots of fast, easy fun at first, then lots of punishing pain points later on that can be fixed with purchases.
• Listed for ages 4+; a label combined with a pet theme.
Created by Seattle-based Ember Entertainment.
Video Link:

* Denotes Editor's Choice

Folks we've just learned that Jim Marrgraff (the guy who invented the LeapPad) and Emmett O'Neill (the brain of the Very Hungry Caterpillar, StoryToys and a puppeteer) will be speaking at 18th Annual Dust or Magic in Lambertville this year!
Nov. 4-6. Learn more at .