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Grab your fancy shoes and dim the lights. It’s time to celebrate the best of the past year in children’s interactive media.

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Kids at Play Interactive Awards, aka the KAPis; an ambitious attempt to identify and formally recognize excellence in children’s interactive media over the past 12 months. The winners will be formerly recognized on Janurary 12 at world’s largest technology gathering, the Consumer Electronic’s Show in Las Vegas.

Making such a selection is a big job. This year, a 13 member volunteer jury selected by myself and Robin Raskin considered 635 children’s technology products and 30 individuals. In order to qualify for the award, the products were required to have a 2011 copyright date. In some cases, such as for virtual worlds, the jurors agreed to accept a major feature or an upgrade. The nominees for the pioneer awards were collected both online and during the Dust or Magic Institute. Here are this year’s results, as well as more background on the prize.

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Best App for Older Children: Bobo Explores Light by GameCollage LLC
Enjoyed a slight margin over Bartleby’s Book of Buttons Vol. 2 for cleverly mixing play and science facts in an active learning setting. iOS
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Children's Book App or eBook: Cinderella – Nosy Crow Animated Picture Book by Nosy Crow
This was another full category this year. In the end, it was the craftsmanship in Cinderella that put it over the others. Jurors: “We all want the very best quality for children — the best sights, sounds and interactivity. Cinderella raises the bar for all of these.”  Juror Kate Wilson of Nosy Crow recused herself from this category. iOS
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Most Innovative Technology Toy: Disney AppMates by Disney Consumer Products
Several of the jurors were less than enthused by some of design features in the interactivity of the AppMates, but in the end, they liked the innovative approach for leveraging the iPad’s potential for content delivery. Jurors: “This is was the most interesting product we’ve seen to bridge the world of toys with the world of apps.”
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Best App for Younger Children: DoodleCast for Kids by zinc Roe Design
This was an incredibly competitive category this year. In the end, after spirited debate, DoodleCast edged out Toca Tea Party by a nose. Jurors: “DoodleCast removes any doubt that a screen can be a powerful creative, collaborative tool, even for the very young.” iOS
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Virtual World: Minecraft by Microsoft Studios
After discussion about the improvements this year in both Club Penguin (especially the new chat system) and Moshi Monsters, the Jurors selected Minecraft. Jurors: “Every child loves to play hide-and-go-seek, but few have figured out how to bring this play pattern to the screen… until MineCraft.”
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Educational: Noodle Words by NoodleWorks Interactive
Jurors noted that “just 18 little words can change how children read” calling this “a skillful application of the principles of magic on the iPad.”  Juror Mark Schlichting recused himself from this category. iOS
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Video Game Software: Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
Jurors were impressed at the way this Xbox title effectively tapped the power of the Xbox Kinect for children. Jurors: “This is one of the most innovative titles of the year.”  Juror Carley Schuler of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop recused herself from this category.
Hardware: iPad 2 by Apple
After consideration of the Nintendo 3DS and Android tablets like the Nabi, the selection of the iPad 2, with the addition of the two cameras, was a fast one. Jurors: “Apple made an amazing product more amazing.”
Emerging Pioneer: Ge Wang
Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, Smule; Assistant Professor, Stanford University. Ge Wang was recognized for his continued streak of innovation, for MadPad. On the short list for this category was Dale Dougherty, the guy who started the Makerfaire Movement and Michael Acton Smith of Moshi Monsters.
Legend Pioneer: Mark Schlichting
Creator of the Brøderbund Living Books and now founder of NoodleWorks was recognized from a list of a dozen for inspiring a generation of younger designers, twice. The first at Brøderbund, by way of the Living Books with titles like “Just Grandma and Me” (Schlichting played the voice of Grandma himself), and the second with his new app, Noodle Words, the winner of the education category. Jurors: “It’s about time this guy is recognized for his contribution to the field.” This year there will be an acknowledgement to the late Steve Jobs. Mark Schlicting was not involved in the selection of this category.

The People Behind the Choice— Meet the 2012 KAPi Jurors
The volunteer jurors used online polling and conference calls to narrow the field from over 600 to 10. Each juror had one vote and were not allowed to participate in categories in which they had a vested interest. There were three such cases: Ann McCormick, Mark Schlichting and Scott Traylor were nominated for “Legend” categories, and Mark Schlicting and Kate Wilson had products that were nominated. Here are the jurors for 2012.

Warren Buckleitner, Editor, Children’s Technology Review
Lana Castleman, Editor, Kidscreen
Claire Green, President, Parents’ Choice Foundation
David Kleeman, President, American Center for Children and Media
Ann McCormick, President and CEO, Learning Friends and Co-founder of The Learning Company
Frank Migliorelli Sr., Founder of Mig Idea; on Faculty at NYU
Robin Raskin, Founder, Living in Digital Times and former Editor & Publisher, Family PC Magazine
Mark Schlichting, President, Noodleworks; creator of Broderbund’s Living Books
Carly Shuler, Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop
Andrea Smith, Producer and Technology Reporter, ABC Radio News
Aleen Stein, CEO, Organa; Co-Founder, Voyager and President, The Criterion Collection
Scott Traylor, President, 360KID
Kate Wilson, Managing Director, Nosy Crow


When we were faced with the challenge of creating an award program, we considered two outcomes often associated with research findings. Validity (does the award have meaning to the outside world?) and reliability (can you trust the outcome? Was bias recognized and managed? Would a second jury, comprised of different people come up with similar conclusions?)  In order to ratchet both of these measurement benchmarks as high as possible, we began by casting a several nets. Our first “net” is an online form at http://childrenstech.com/kapis. Any publisher, large or small can enter, from any location, for no cost. This year 112 nominees and people were collected from this form. These were combined with the 643 products we reviewed for CTR, and the entire list was presented to the 60 attendees of the Dust or Magic Institute (http://www.dustormagic.com); a meeting of reviewers and designers that takes place in early November. Each participant was given a sealed ballot and asked to nominate and rank the products and the people. Megan Billetti, one of our staff members who is not me, tabulated the results. This list was given to the jurors, who were selected by myself and Robin Raskin for having knowledge of recent products. Each juror is required to disclose potential conflicts and cannot nominate, discuss, or vote on their own products. This year two of the jurors (Wilson and Schlichting) were on the final ballot. Because this presented a conflict of interest, we removed them from the jury pool when it was time to discuss their product. We also want you to understand the motives behind this award. The KAPi awards are funded by Robin Raskin of Living in Digital Times, and managed by me and my publication (Children’s Technology Review) who has no knowledge of the KAPi conference sponsors. At the end of the judging, after the results have been tabulated I always take a moment and ask the jury “If any of you disagree with these choices, speak up now, or forever hold your peace.”  It is important that we all feel that we’ve done good work and our selections are valid, and that we are each proud to have our names on this prize…for the good of our children. To the 2012 jurors, Robin and I say thanks, and to the winners, we offer our congratulations. You earned it.

For further information:

Tonda Bunge Sellers
Phone: 512-626-3334
Email: tonda@livingindigitaltimes.com