Avokiddo Emotion Review
Product: Avokiddo Emotions (app)
Age Range: 2 years and older
Content Area: social skills
Skills: emotion recognition (through animals)
The “Avokiddo Emotions” educational tool, created by Avokiddo (http://avokiddo.com), is an app that is created for children who are beginning to learn how to read emotions through facial expressions. This application is geared toward individuals who are two years old and up. At the cost of $2.99, “Avokiddo Emotions” is available for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Fire phone, and Kindle Fire. Following is an official trailer of the Avokiddo Emotions application: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaI0OijZupo.
As mentioned, this application helps to build a young child’s ability to read emotions through a character’s facial expressions. This is done through allowing a child to choose one of four personified animated/cartoon animals: “zany zebra, shy sheep, jolly giraffe and modest moose” (Avokiddo). The child is then able to choose from 110 themed props to see the reaction of the character. From this point, the child can continue to use the prop to interact with the character of his/her choice or choose a different prop based on how the animal is responding. There is the option to use multiple props at one time. There are a variety of props ranging from hats, trumpets and horns, bubbles, food, etc. In the top right corner of the interactive screen there is a camera icon that the child can select to take screenshot of the emotions that the animal is showing while it is using the props. This application is extremely straight forward and does not have any purposes other than using props to interact with the animal characters. It is very user friendly for both the child and the parent. Seeing as it is geared towards children two years and older, the simplicity of the tool seems justified.
The application claims to give your child “a serious case of the giggles” (Avokiddo) and to teach them how to identify emotions. Agreeably, Common Sense Media suggest that this a useful tool for children who fall somewhere on the autism spectrum, especially those who are on-verbal and may have some pragmatic deficits. Observing how the characters interact with the different props and taking screenshots to compare the different emotional and facial responses allows for the child to understand what is best used for
Beyond daycare and preschool, this learning application does not appear to be suited to use in a formal setting. However, teachers could implement this tool in their classrooms to teach young children to read emotions. Commonly, daycare and preschool are times when children are first interacting with other individuals outside their family. A teacher could use this tool to tell a child the meaning of the different emotions the characters are presenting. Further, if there is conflict between two children the teacher can refer to the application and possibly say something along the lines of “see how Zany Zebra looks when you give him something he doesn’t like? This is how you made your peer feel when you do did . . .”. It would also be beneficial to create a learning activity by printing screenshots of different emotions and printing the name of the emotion for the children to match together with the help of the instructor. Outside of using the screenshots as an activity, the teacher could use the screenshots as posters to display around the classroom. The screenshots have the potential to help a parent in an informal learning setting to compare different emotions to one another. The application is also an engaging activity that a parent can have their child use when they have time to spare. Finally, this application could be used in a special needs classroom to use with non-verbal students and students who are on the autism spectrum that do not have a grasp on reading emotions. In each of these scenarios the help of an instructor or parent would enhance the learning from the technology by explicitly explaining to the child what each emotion is. There are a variety of ways to apply this tool to a learning environment.
The research on the application is limited to what the Avokiddo website has to say. The website does not include any specific research about the tool, but feels it is effective due to the background of the founders, which is limited to architecture, computer science and mechanical engineering. Since these degrees highly differ in the knowledge that is necessary to create a thoughtful piece of learning technology it seems that the founders are not the best suited professionals to discuss the implications of the application. However, a presentation given by Mary Airy and created by the Heartland AEA Early Childhood Consultants and the Erickson TEC Center describes that it is important for learning technologies to have a manipulable quality when you are teaching children in both a formal and informal setting. Manipulable is described in the presentation as something that “encourages critical thinking, [gives] multiple responses, allows for choice, guided discovery, [and] might have level of prompts included” (Aiya). This presentation includes Avokiddo Emotion as valuable tool that meets these learning standards since it has many of these qualities. Although there is not further research on the effectiveness of Avokiddo Emotion on teaching children emotion recognition, there is research specified to using technologies to help children on the autism spectrum develop these skills. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders completed a study using a different type of technology to help aid children on the spectrum to learn these skills. The study measured participants’ ability to recognize emotion before and after using the technology and found that using a digital tool that teaches children about reading facial expressions increases their understanding and recognition ability. The study concluded that using the technology “significantly improves emotion recognition in children with ASC” (Enhancing Emotion Recognition in Children with Autism Spectrum Conditions). Although these learning technologies do differ, the research supports that implementing interactive digital learning tools in a simple way improves a child on the spectrum’s ability to understand and read emotions. Avokiddo’s research is backed up not only by the claims of the founders of the site, but also by research from reputable sources who have completed extensive research on the topic.
While this application may not seem to provide the typical learning information you would expect from an ‘educational tool’, it is does assist with pragmatic awareness that is valuable to a growing child. Social and emotional awareness is important for children to understand and if this tool is used in an effective manner, it has the ability to positively help a child gain the skills they need to be sociable.