Thursday, 18 September 2014

New app, New beginnings

Has it really been this long? This blog has been rather neglected, but should be used a bit more from now on. How have you been?

So the hot news is that we have released a new app Mathsplat - Alien Addition which is our most complexed app to date. Please go over to www.app-patch.com to see all about the app and watch the preview video, oh and please buy a copy!

They say that marketing for a product shouldn't be negative, so I have bitten my tongue on the AppStore description and our webpage, only saying our app offers something better than most other apps. I am going to say here what I feel - In reality a lot of other 'educational' apps just don't seem to get it! When I first started designing this app I looked at what was out there, and what I found were apps that...

  • Only offer multiple choice answers to the user. Why? Well I think it's easier to program that way, but in life we aren't given the answer, so that was the first thing we did differently, allow a freeform answer. Also most apps require you to type in the answer and then hit a submit button. We found a way to not need a submit button, making things simpler.
  • Are dry and unengaging. Many maths apps treat the exercise much like a maths test, and are about as interesting. Kids (and adults) don't just want to be given a list of questions, it's got to be fun. The iPad offers so much functionality for great interaction, so why not use it? Our app is REALLY fun, and funny. Kids laugh and snort when they play our app!
  • Reward kids with stars, virtual stickers (graphics that can be moved around the screen), coins, gems, or a predetermined game that the child can't influence (yes you Squeebles!). This is so lame! Kids don't want to collect gems (only adults do stupid things like that! yes you). So the reward in our app is FUN! Get a question right and the slime rises... kids know what's going to happen, the anticipation is great for engagement. Answer five question and splat, you get slimed. All kids love that. Then for each round of five questions you collect a rocket stage, and then you can launch your rocket! Fun, fun, fun!
  • Offer no education. An educational app without education? Well you could say that practice makes perfect and any app that allows practice will help the child learn, but why not go further than that and offer ways to help the kids answer the questions? Our app does that. Kids can apply several different techniques through interactive guestures, which will help them answer the question. By doing this they will learn to use these techniques in their head. We also point out to kids when they see a 'number fact', that is something important to learn. These are things like the pairs of numbers that make 5 and make 10. If you learn those you can then approximate the answer to the nearest 5 and solve from there, a technique kids should do without thinking.
  • Rely on written instructions (yes you Squeebles!). Kids who are first learning addition also can not read very easily, so giving them a long amount of text to read is just making it more difficult for them. Again it's easier to program that way, and you don't have to spend hours with a voice actor getting the audio recorded (never work with Children!). Our app is very verbal. Kids have to be able to read numbers, but that's part of learning right? Everything else is given by verbal instruction.
  • Show them when they are wrong. I found that in most apps out there if you get the answer wrong your answer vanishes. So there you are having to start again. If like me your memory is really bad, you can't necessarily remember what you typed in. Maybe you mistyped and were actually correct? Our app leaves the last answer on show, greying it out and playing an appropriate sound, so you know it's wrong, but then you can look at it and think about why it is wrong.
  • Target either schools or parents.This is a tricky one. Teachers told us that schools like an app to i) be educational, be a tool to learning, ii) be not too gamified (where it feels more like a game than a learning tool), iii) give the child or the teacher some way to track progress. We hope we have delivered on all those points. But hey parents want those things too don't they? So our app has a very good settings page, which allows it to be set up in any way the parent or teacher wants. We also realised that multiple users may want a different set up, so we added three sets of settings, for three 'lesson plans'. It sounds complicated but when you see it, it's very user friendly!
So this was what went into the design, and we really think we have come up with an app that is different and more useful than most. We don't have a huge marketing budget, we can't afford to give the app away free and rely on future value in our user base, so we have set it at a very reasonable price, and we also offer schools in Apple's educational program 50% off. We think it will become a valuable tool in any classroom and on any home iPad. If we have convinced you, please take a closer look and download it from here www.appstore.com/MathsplatAlienAddition

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