Friday, February 3, 2012

Tillie's TIme Shop

Tillie's Time Shop was created by My Turn Mobile and is an app to help kids learn to tell time. What's interesting about this app is that it's almost like an e-book. There's a story that gives the 3 different time activities a context. Does it work? Price: $2.99

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.Requires iOS 3.2 or later

Developmental Appropriateness: Telling time is considered a math skill and is a general skill that young kids need to learn. I really like that the activities are put into a context. Math educators often stress teaching math skills in a way that is applicable to everyday life. Although it's not often that we encounter clock shops anymore, the story context is still a clever way to engage kids in the activities. 

Where I am a bit surprised is with a couple of usability issues, or maybe glitches (I used an iPhone)? First, the text highlights as it's being read, which is good. You can tap on the text and it repeats, but if you tap on it a few times, the highlighting kinda goes crazy. Then, for the third game, where you have to drop the correct clock in the box, sometimes it doesn't work. Now, I'm pretty sure I can tell time, so I think I'm owed some points here. But when you hold the correct clock over the box and let it drop into the box, it doesn't register and is counted as incorrect. So I thought maybe I needed to more accurately drag the clock INTO the box, which works. But then I realized if I just did a quick, short drag of the correct clock, but not far enough to the area of the box, that works too. This would be pretty confusing to a child just learning about time if the correct answer is counted as incorrect. Finally, I think that on some of the screens, the clocks are kinda small and maybe a bigger distinction between the short and long hands is needed (I'm kinda surprised that no where in this app does it explain the difference between the long and short hand).

Lastly, this app only focuses on telling time to the hour. Seems like it could easily add on activities/levels that factor in the minute hand, which is equally important in being able to tell time. Rating: 3.5/5 (aim for around 4 years)

Balance: This is a little tricky. If I treat it as an app with 3 target activities, then I would say all the hotspots on the other screens are kinda fun. The hotspots range from revealing someone hidden behind a window or leads to someone in the town talking - all adding to the feel of being on your way to work at the clock shop. They do not detract from the 3 activities. However, if I viewed this as an e-book, I would find the hotspots distracting. Especially because it is not always clear where they are and also some hotspots have multi-levels. For example, on the first screen, it is not obvious to tap on the mouse. But actually, he's one of the highlights as he tells time jokes. And you need to tap on him again for the answer. If you keep tapping on him, he keeps coming up with different jokes. (I think I now know too many silly/corny time jokes). Humor is a great way to engage kids. Overall, I think the app can be more consistent in highlighting the hotspots, as some are more obvious than others. Since this app is not marketed as an e-book, I will not rate it as one. Rating: 4/5

Sustainability: I'm not sure kids will keep coming back to these activities. In the first one, you can rotate the clock or the sun/moon to see the correspondence between day/night and time. Fun to do a few times, but then what? In the second activity, you have to fill in the numbers of some "broken" clocks. Although each clock gets progressively harder, there are only a total of 8 broken clocks. And there's no "reward" for completing all of them. Actually, the game doesn't even recognize that they are complete, as Tillie just keeps saying, "Touch a clock to fix it" even though there are no more clocks to fix. In the third game, where you match the clock to the time, you get a score. But it doesn't keep track of your scores. Rating: 3/5

Parental Involvement: I guess parents can treat this like an e-book (but will probably spend a lot of time regulating tapping on hotspots). The activities themselves are basically one-player games. So other than to help explain how to play, parents don't have too much of a role with the activities. Rating: 3/5

Rating: 12.5 out of 20 = 3 stars

Disclosure: I received this app for review for free from the developers.

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