Educational Apps Aren’t Fun

Educational Apps Aren’t Fun

I’m an Educational Publisher but I’m also a parent.  I have three children aged 7, 5 and 1.  The two eldest already possess Apple portable devices so I am pestered to purchase Apps for them both daily.  I have to admit it does make a long car journey more enjoyable to replace the bickering and screaming with the gentle sound of small fingers tapping glass.  I am therefore further motivated to buy more Apps. Now, I should also mention that my wife is a Primary school teacher and is therefore very engaged in our children’s learning.  So, knowing this background you may think that my search for appropriate Apps may be a no-brainer.  You would be forgiven for thinking that I would be very interested in Apps that are: educational; pedagogically sound; backed up with strong efficacy.  But none of these things are true.  I look for Apps that feature Peppa Pig and Harry Potter as these are the things that will engage my children (at the moment anyway).

I ease my conscience by making all the old arguments to myself that my own parents used to make when letting me spend ages on the Atari.  ‘It’s good for their hand-eye coordination!’  ‘It will help them develop their analytical and problem-solving skills!’   If I can find some tenuous link to education, all the better for easing conscience but, certainly not essential.

But are the big Education Publishers getting this message?  That Apps are first and foremost about entertainment for most kids and things like ‘pedagogy’ don’t even factor into parent’s minds during the App selection process.  Maybe they don’t and maybe that’s why the ‘Education’ area of the App Store is so woefully lacking in Apps that get this balance right.

If you work in the field of education publishing, your desire to gain market share has directed your focus to producing products that show great pedagogical benefit and are backed up with iron-clad efficacy.  Put simply, they are good at teaching children things a structured way that are research-driven.  But they’re not fun.  They are the sort of things that one would give great consideration to before buying.  They are not impulse purchases.  They are the sort of things that require considerable investment to develop and therefore can be very expensive.  They cannot deliver a good ROI at 99p per unit.  The model is broken and Publishers are hopefully waking up to this.  

They need to start thinking from another part of the brain-the part that puts ‘fun’ and ‘entertaining’ solidly first and ‘educational benefit’ second if they are to make a go of it in the App business.  

Once more Apps are made to entertain children-whilst having an almost hidden educational side benefit, the market should take off.  As a parent, I’ll be reaching for my wallet.