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Introducing the CTR Flex Rubric
CTR's new tool for evaluating interactive media using an adaptable set of criteria
The Flex Rubric is CTR's new tool for evaluating interactive media using an adaptable set of criteria. Because a single set of criteria may not apply to all types of products, CTR has created an array of rubrics comprised of custom-picked Quality Attributes designed to fit various genres. These Quality Attributes can be weighted by the reviewer depending on the perceived importance of each criterion in any particular case. Publishers and CTR Subscribers can evaluate products with the Flex Rubric on CTREX to share their own opinions and become a part of the exchange. A custom rubric tool is also available to rate products using up to ten Quality Attributes.

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Can you get started in 5 to 15 seconds with minimal reading or starting steps? What is the MUC (Minimum User Competence) hurdle? MUC is defined as the prerequisite abilities are required to get into the experience, or the first "hurdle." Are these skills or abilities lower than the skills the experience is designed to foster or enhance? Does the product foster accidental success? Accidental success means you can lean on the keyboard, mouse or touch screen and something "right" happens. Consider all the hoops you need to use the product. Are they minimal and appropriate?
Are the initial launch screens short, and can the by easily bypassed or skipped? If you struggle when in the experience and need help, is that help (or scaffolding) included and/or appropriate? Is the interface crisp and responsive, fostering feelings of success?

HIGH - It does just what I'd expect. You tap the app icon and see a giant "start" button for example. Toca Boca apps are famously easy to use. Just touch the large pulsing start buttons. Key navigation icons are easy to find anywhere in the experience.

LOW - Might have cluttered choice screens and too many instructions that can't be skipped. Key navigation icons might obscured or not visable, making a child feel trapped. An app designed to help a child learn to read that uses a menu where reading is required is a class MUC problem.


http://childrenstech.com/about/ratings#easeofuse
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This item is subjective and should be used only when comparing products that are similar in price, platform and intention. "Entertaining" is a broad category, comprised of many other specific categories... as a result it's use can lower the statistical significance of the overall rating.

Things to consider that might contribute to higher entertainment scores are:
• Do children return to experience time after time?
• Are random generation techniques are employed in the design, to increase elements of surprise.
• Are the speech and sounds meaningful and of interest to children?
• Is the challenge is fluid, or a child can select own level?
• Is the experience is responsive to a child’s actions?
• Is the theme likely to be meaningful to children.

http://childrenstech.com/about/ratings#entertaining
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This item is subjective and should be used only when comparing products that are similar in price, platform and intention. Design features associated with quality can vary widely. It might be the ability to adjust sound or individualize the presentation for a specific child can increase the the overall value and meaningfulness of the experience for a child. Well designed products might be "smart" or can adapt to a child's ability or behavior. Other features might include
• Speech capacity, or text to speech.
• Scaffolding and help features, when appropriate.
• Sharing features -- including the ability to save work, save photos or print reports of progress.
• Record keeping of a child's past performance.
• Branching, meaning a fluid challenge that gets hard or easier depending on how the child does?
• The ability for a child to put their ideas into the experience.
• The ability to adjust or toggle sounds.
• Feedback that is customized in some way to the individual child.
• Teacher/parent options that are easy to find and use.

http://childrenstech.com/about/ratings#designfeatures
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How much does it cost vs. what does it do? This item is subjective and should be used to compare similar products with the same intention. You can also define "value" in terms of time or money. Complexity of downloading and installing can increase setup time increasing the overall cost, even if the initial download is $free. http://childrenstech.com/about/ratings#goodvalue
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Is there thought behind the interactivity? Do the things that you interactive with support the learning objectives of the work?
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This can be a very subjective attribute, so be award of your own bias. Remember that two people shown the same painting might like or hate it. But in general, ask yourself if you like the illustrations. Do they match the medium? Does the artist achieve his or her goal? Do the illustrations support the overall project?
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From Hirsh-Pasek, Zosh, Michnick Golinkoff, Gray, Robb and Kaufman. Putting Education into Education Apps: Lessons from the Science of Learning, online at
http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/educational-apps.html
Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2015, Vol. 16(1) 3–34

The study of engagement often centers on the idea of student engagement in the classroom. In a review of the literature, Fredricks, Blumenfeld, and Paris (2004) suggested three kinds of engagement: behavioral engagement (i.e., rule-following, effort, persistence, participation in programs), emotional engagement (i.e., affective reactions), and cognitive engagement (i.e., investment in learning, flexibility in problem solving). Each type of engagement is critical for learning because they all foster staying on task. The Science of Learning has highlighted the importance of focused engagement in learning in early childhood. Engagement and distraction have also been extensively studied in the context of executive functions—an umbrella term that covers flexibility in thinking, problem solving, inhibition of behavior, and attention (see Zelazo, Muller, Frye, & Marcovitch, 2003, for a review).

The educational quality of apps depends on their ability to support children’s engagement with the learning process. This means avoiding the myriad distractions potentially available on-screen and allowing for sustained engagement sufficient to meet the learning goals. Extraneous animations, sound effects, and tangential games might be appealing to a child when activated but not add to the child’s understanding of the primary content because they disrupt the coherence of the learning experience and the child’s engagement. We next examine three elements of app design that
can afford this kind of deep engagement in learning. Notably, evidence for the effectiveness of many of these design characteristics has been found in work done more generally on multimedia learning (Mayer, 2014a). Contingent interactions. When contingent interactions occur between children and their caregivers, as in video chats (Roseberry, Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinkoff, 2014), even 24- to 30-month-olds can learn new words that they cannot learn when presented noncontingently by a person on television. The contingent interactions that apps afford are perhaps the most basic element of engagement with a touch screen. When each touch or swipe is met with an immediate response, children feel in control, maintain their focus, and continue the interaction. This sort of responsiveness is a core element of userinterface design in the field of human-computer interaction (Nielsen, 1993/2014). It is also a growing subject of investigation among researchers interested in educational media (Lauricella, Pempek, Barr, & Calvert, 2010). For example, experimental manipulations that required children to use a computer to move the story of Dora the Explorer forward at preselected points were linked to children’s increased understanding of story content (Calvert, Strong, Jacobs, & Conger, 2007). Extrinsic motivation and feedback. Engagement— and its potential to foster learning—is deepened when an app responds to children’s activities with meaningful feedback. Apps with an explicit question-answer format typically provide differential responses to children’s answers. These responses may include labels of “correct” or “incorrect,” motivational messages (e.g., “Great work!”
and “Try again”), parasocial displays (e.g., of a crowd cheering or an animated monkey jumping with joy), points or badges, and access to additional meaningful content that progresses the game. By carefully structuring the feedback as well as allowing progressive access to content (e.g., presenting more advanced content through a series of game levels or adaptively, based on user profiles), apps can focus children’s attention on the app experience and extend engagement for a long time. Children’s engagement in this structured system of learning and feedback is typically driven by extrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Players want to achieve external rewards and avoid the opposite—typically, the absence of rewards. However, extrinsic reinforcements are not limited to question-answer formats but may also be embedded in a more naturalistic context. For example, on-screen environments that let children search for hidden objects may provide a kind of hide-and-seek game in which discovering objects is its own reward. Importantly, praise by an adult or by an app can have differential effects depending on what is praised. A significant body of research conducted by Dweck and colleagues (Dweck, 1999, 2006; Gunderson et al., 2013) has shown that praising children’s intelligence leads them to avoid the inevitable risks of learning for fear of appearing stupid and losing face. Alternatively, praising children for their efforts and hard work helps them understand that learning is not often instantaneous and motivates them to persevere through the difficulties they may encounter and, ultimately, succeed more often. This approach helps children develop a growth mind-set in which they feel a sense of control over their own capacity to think and learn. With this research in mind, the praise offered through apps should be mindful of praising children for their effort rather than for their intelligence. The former can cultivate a growth mind-set, motivating children to tackle and stay engaged in difficult tasks.
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Use this attribute for anything that emit sound, but use it carefully and be careful about your bias.

For hardware (headphones, speakers or tablets), consider volume range and speaker quality, when compared to price competitive products released around the same time.

For apps, video games or software products assess the quality of the music and/or speech. See also narration quality. Does the music support the overall work? Are "real" instruments uses?
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