March 6, 2013

I was thinking about why there are no educational apps that kids love. One of the few apps that schools can officially endorse is MIT’s Scratch. It’s supposed to teach kids how to code, but most kids end up playing with it like any other drawing apps, and just draw silly things or make silly sounds to amuse themselves. It’s not actually educational. And, they get bored of it quickly.

I think the real reason why no good educational apps exist is because they can’t. Even if anyone came up with an app that kids love AND is educational, the fact that kids are loving it would make their parents and teachers uneasy because most of them would not be able to tell the difference between what is “educational” and what is just “addictive”. Anything their kids love on screen, they would just be worried about the “screen time”, and treat it like it’s the same as watching TV, and prevent the kids from playing it.

So, an educational app MUST to be boring for kids, so that the parents don’t have to worry about the “screen time” problem. Any successful educational app that kids love would be banned or discouraged by the parents and the teachers. It’s a no-win situation.

When I was in 10th grade, I was hooked on programming on a small programmable calculator, and spent every free hour I had; even staying up really late in bed coding under the blanket. Most parents would never allow what I did. They’d think it’s unhealthy and take it away. I’m sure people like Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak were even more fanatical about programming than I was. Exceptional people like them are not going to come out of a home where “screen time” is limited. This basically means that if we want our kids to be exceptional in anything, we would need to take some risks, and allow our kids to do things that seem unhealthy. But at the same time, there is no need for anyone to be exceptional at anything either. Life doesn’t have to be all about being exceptional.