Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Makego is an app created by Chris O'Shea, a British artist and designer. He uses  "technology to make the unimaginable come to life. Inventing new approaches that explore play, human behavior and engagement through interaction design and the visual arts." What does that mean in terms of Makego?  Price: $0.99 (on sale right now).

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.

Developmental Appropriateness:  So this app does not really have any "educational" content, at least not in the way that the apps I've been reviewing do. But what makes this app so interesting is the innovative way it's blurring the line between virtual play and "real world" play. I at first didn't get what Makego was about - until I saw the picture and video below. Ohhhh.... I get it, the iPhone becomes the toy - (and this does seem more fitting to be used on an iPhone rather than an iPad because of the size). Without "real world" toys coming into play, the app really doesn't come to life on its own. But when used as intended - to augment the traditional sense of pretend play - that's when it gets interesting. Research has shown that pretend play is important to children's cognitive development, so if this app helps to get kids engaged in it, that's a win. It currently provides three premises - race car, ice cream truck, and boat. So it gives kids an easy start to create their own world and story. Further, it brings in a sense of realism - so rather than the kid making the vroom vroom noise, the app does or rather than pretending there are customers for the ice cream truck, the app provides them. While this added sense of realism is nice, is it taking away from the pretend play aspect that helps cognitive development? The child is now taking on less roles mentally, they are not the car nor the customers. But on the other hand, maybe it encourages the child to develop a richer pretend environment by adding on details and providing some interaction that the child may not otherwise have had on their own. I don't know the answer. Maybe like with almost all research, it's a little of both - this will lead some children to run away with their imaginations, and lead other children to get less creative because they are using the app as a crutch. But I do like this app as it opens the door to viewing digital devices in different ways. And maybe in the least, buying this app is way cheaper than buying a toy car, ice cream truck and boat (of course assuming you've already purchased the iPhone for yourself). Rating: 4/5 (aim for around 5 years).

Balance: Some of the interactive features are nice, like actually being able to sell virtual ice cream. Some might be a little limiting in terms of creating a world outside of the app. For example with the boat, the boat develops so many holes that need patching (why does the boat break so much in the first place?!) and ducks keep coming up for bread that it might keep the child from creating his or hers own world around the boat. Rating: 3.5/5

Sustainability: Pretend play can be endless. And I think kids will really enjoy the novelty of using the iPhone as the toy itself. I can't wait to see what new vehicles are next. Rating: 5/5

Parental Involvement: Parents may have an added incentive of keeping an eye on their device to get involved in the pretend play. ha. A goal of this app is to create an opportunity for cooperative play, and I think this app successfully does so, at least for the beginning when the idea of this type of device usage is so novel to children and adults. Rating: 5/5

Total: 17.5 out of 20 = 5 stars

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