Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Are Toca Boca Apps Really Educational?

The #1 paid education app on iTunes is and has been Toca Hair Salon 2 for awhile. I don't question why - it's super cute, polished, and fun for kids. But what I do question is whether it is really an educational app - as it's categorized or should it really be under the entertainment category. In general, Toca Boca apps walked the line of educational or not, which for awhile I thought was a strength. Toca Doctor was great - kids could learn about some general health facts while having a fun time with the open ended style of play. I was still on board with Toca Band and Toca Kitchen as it led kids to experiment with music or food and learn about rhythm or about different cooking techniques. More recently though, with Toca Tailor and Toca Hair Salon, I'm not so sure anymore. Sure, they have a little more content than just a mere dress up/hair styling app. One could argue it's just the same as the other apps, showing the process of cooking versus the process of designing and making an outfit. I'm not so sure though. The processes taught in Toca Doctor or Toca Kitchen are much more obvious than the processes taught in the newer apps. Personally, I would rather let a kid who's played Toca Kitchen and Toca Hair Salon cook me something to eat than cut my hair (safety concerns put aside). Seems like with Toca Tailor and Hair Salon, kids can just focus on making something funny or pretty and not really get much else out of it.

A big reason Toca Boca apps have been able to walk the line of being "educational" is the open ended
style of play. There's much to be said of just letting kids explore a subject and figure things out on their own. This style of play also leads to "pretend play" which has been found to be important to young kids' cognitive development. While this open ended and or pretend play has good benefits, it doesn't make the app educational. If kids are pretending to have a tea party, I would say that they are having a nice time playing together, but I would not say they are engaged in learning. So let kids keep playing Toca Hair Salon, but don't call it educational.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments or just vote in the poll to the right.

The Survey Spot - Have you noticed the parental gating Toca Boca has in their apps?
Take this quick survey on parental gating on apps! If you've at all thought about children's privacy and safety while playing apps please take a minute to do the survey. Read the parental gating post for some context.

Click here to take the survey!!
The survey's for parents, teachers, developers, and whoever else. The more responses, the better the results - Help spread the word!

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