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Wizard School (formerly WonderBox)
iPad, iPhone
Ages: 8-up
Teaches: science, history, creativity, art, music, geography
CTR Review
CTR Rating: 86%
Ease of Use:
Design Features:
Note: See Khan Academy Kids 7/18/2018.

The concept of selling families a "safe social media" experience that is educational is hardly new. But many services have tried and died in recent years. What kills 'em? Trying to be too safe, too cute, or offering too little compared to "real" services that children are already using, like YouTube Kids or Google. Call it COPPA disease: meaning its so safe you can't use it (COPPA stands for the Children's Online Privacy Protection act).

Many families that already own an iPad have children who graduate from preschool with a gmail address, and are soon sending photos and movies to parents and Grandparents.

Will WonderBox survive? If it does, it's because it contains amazing curated content -- including YouTube videos you'd have to spend days searching to find. It helps that it comes from Duck Duck Moose, an experienced venture-backed company run by parents who have kids that are the same age as those this app targets. And finally, this "free" (another plus) app is richly infused with maker-inspired content. You don't just watch an amazing video of a treehouse. You're given a sketch pad for making one. It's as if there's a creative teacher living inside this app.

One big snag to note: you can't use this app without a solid, continual online connection, and slow connections affect responsivity. The app promotes sharing, but only within the context of the app (meaning both parties must be in the WonderBox ecosystem). Pairing a child with a parent can be sticky and stubborn (thank COPPA). It means requesting permission and remembering a passcode. There's also a built in currency system, rewarding you with coins for rather unnecessary things (like drawing a picture). The idea is to encourage you to try different features, while your progress is saved on a Wonder Card.

So there's the big question -- "how does this free app make money." Duck Duck Moose Co-Founder Caroline Hu Flexer responded "We initially considered a subscription model. But we want to build the audience. Longer term, after growing the base, we are considering options such as premium content/services and advertising to adults (not kids)." It's clear that the coins and Wonder Card system lay the groundwork for this.

The bottom line? If you have an iPad, good Wi-Fi, and your child is connected to others who are also willing to jump through a few hoops, WonderBox can work. And the quality of the curated content is definitely a plus. But you have to invest a bit of energy in the process.
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