Most of you probably know of at least one family with a child on the autism spectrum. The current prevalence rate has been estimated to be about 1 in 68, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Because the range of symptoms varies so widely, it can be difficult to quickly describe what this condition is in a way that applies to all children on the spectrum (contrary to public perception, autism can be variously expressed in different people).
Generally, these children have speech and social deficits. Tantrums can be a common expression because they lack the communication skills to communicate their needs and feelings.
While some show extraordinary aptitudes in certain areas, many have trouble learning in the same way as their non-autistic peers. Therefore, teaching has to be highly specialized to accommodate the unique ways these children take in and process information. Proper educational tools and strategies can help these kids better integrate with social settings and even the world around them.
According to Natalie Webber, M.S, “The iPad has become a great tool when working with students on the autism spectrum because it gives them the ability to control a piece of their environment and an opportunity to communicate.”
The number of apps being developed for autism spectrum children has soared due to the high demand for such tools. Here are ten that are highly recommended.
We are now living in a pivotal point in our history. Humankind is actively finding new answers to forging the right balance between the needs of nature and modern living. However, this overall endeavor is not limited to scientists, engineers, and product innovators. And though it requires large-scale institutional change, it also involves the collective participation of regular people, like you and me to build new culture and make positive impact at home and in our communities.
A combination of knowledge and individual action is required to increase recycling and composting, reduce landfill waste, lower pollution, improve water conservation, lower the ecological footprint of conspicuous consumption and action which contribute to a positive environmental impact.
Through other posts on this site, we’ve seen how apps and games can actually help people enjoy the process of learning and ultimately make changing their behaviors and habits easier for themselves or for the greater good. Games offer a fun way for individuals to feel excited and motivated about taking real action in their lives. This is far better than having an idealistic list of things that “should be done,” but end up being forgotten or constantly put aside in favor of old habits.
For you readers out there who are parents, here is some food for thought by Dennis J. Hall, “We have not inherited the land from our fathers, we have borrowed it from our children.” Living sustainably is something that needs to be undertaken by the young and old alike.
Living green is truly a satisfying experience, especially once you’ve mastered this way of life by consistently choosing small actions that make a big impact. Collectively, these actions have an even larger impact so be on the watch for how Core Drive #5, Social Influence & Relatedness plays a big role in creating large-scale aggregate impact.
Here are ten eco-friendly apps that are enabling kids of all ages to enrich their knowledge and make more sustainable, healthy choices, while having fun at the same time.
1. Gro Memo
Eco-consciousness starts with the awareness that many of our simple actions have much larger consequences. Pollution, for example, has a significant negative effect on other humans and entire ecosystems.
Grow Memo is a simple matching game that introduces this concept to younger children. Pictures of cartoon animals are shown in polluted environments and players need to match each image to pictures of where the animal is shown in cleaner environments. As they do this, the entire surroundings become cleaner enforcing the idea that a cleaner environment is better for all. This combines Core Drives #2 (Development & Accomplishment), #3 (Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback), and #1 (Epic Meaning & Calling).
2. Green Me!
Helping the environment involves more than just sharing knowledge. Small conscious acts add up. The Android app, Green Me!, is a great companion for those who want to develop a more eco-friendly lifestyle beyond just remembering to recycle. It is very similar to personal productivity apps in terms of helping users become more consistent with their goals and enabling them to visually see their progress (Core Drive #2 Development & Accomplishment).
The interface is structured as a calendar. For each day, you list five eco-friendly things you did. The calendar square then turns a particular shade of green. It gets darker the more green actions you list.
Naturally, you would want to see every day of the month colored green which can make you feel great about your commitment to helping the earth throughout your daily routines. This is a good combination of Core Drive #1 and Core Drive #4, Ownership & Possession.
3. Green Genie
Besides recycling, remembering to bring your own bag to the grocery store and making earth friendly purchases, there are countless other lifestyle tips and projects one can do. This is where Green Genie can be an eco-enthusiast’s best friend. Users can submit their own ideas for other people to try out, invoking Core Drive #3, Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback.
Green Genie has various informative directories such as a list of different types of plastics. Many containers that you buy are marked with a number (e.g. yogurt). With Green Genie, you would be able to look up this code to not only see what it means, but also to find out whether it can be recycled in your area.
Green Genie puts the power of knowledge at your finger tips to compel you to act creatively on making simple, but critical behavioral changes.
Eco-Dice offers another fun way to turn positive intentions into action. Players simply toss a die using their touch screen and, once it settles, the facing side gives you a green task to do for that day. The options include separating trash, bringing your own grocery shopping bag, sharing your shower (LOL), turning off an appliance on standby, or riding your bike to work.
This is a very simple app that mostly involved Core Drive #7, Unpredictability & Curiosity to compel users to make desirable changes in their lives. Perhaps the developer can use Core Drive #5, Social Influence & Relatedness by combining your friends’ dice with yours to either up the ante (if you both get the same side, you need to do the action twice or for two days, etc.) or generate more actions (you and your friends design actions for each other before the roll is made- a good example of Core Drive #3, Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback as well).
Water1Der is a trivia game app developed by the Groundwater Foundation. It aims to teach kids about water above and below ground. The app emphasizes that water is truly a precious, but finite resource here on earth. New water can’t be created. Conservation and efforts to keep our water supply clean is essential, not just for humans, but general life on earth.
The trivia questions are presented in a variety of different formats such as:
There is even the ability to scroll down the screen to choose the appropriate answer. Players can also move an image of a particular substance or chemical to match it with an appropriate disposal method.
Like all trivia games, there’s a healthy use of Core Drive #2, Development & Accomplishment and Core Drive #8, Loss & Avoidance.
Avego is a carpooling app where users can look up rides offered by people who are headed in the same direction as they are. At the end of the trip, the app posts the amount of money that represents the person’s share of the gas cost. There is even the option to rate the ride. It’s a good way to track your carbon footprint and impact on your wallet by taking full advantage of Core Drive #5, Social Influence & Relatedness and Core Drive #8, Loss & Avoidance.
The simple act of recycling your trash is not as easy as it seems in real life. Not every building is arranged to have recyclables removed separately from regular trash. If it is not feasible to have a recycling truck pick up these items on a regular basis, individuals may have to take the initiative themselves to drop off items at a nearby facility that they’ve researched.
Aside from plastic bottles and aluminum cans, there are other forms of trash that are more difficult to recycle. These include broken electronics, or household chemicals (e.g. unused cleaners, makeup, batteries, ink cartridges, paint, detergents etc.) which are certainly not biodegradable.
The iRecycle app helps users locate appropriate facilities which accepts specific items to be recycled. It also offers over 1,500,000 ways to recycle over 350 types of materials! The motive to use iRecycle is largely driven by Core Drive #1, Epic Meaning &Calling. And the completion of successful recycling (instead of just tossing things into the regular trash dumpster) can fill one with a fabulous sense of Core Drive #2, Development & Accomplishment.
7. Paper Karma
Many of us receive large amounts of junk mail, with only a small percentage of items that are actually relevant to us. One ambitious DIYer made a video on You Tube about how to build a simple outdoor food grill which can be fueled using paper logs made from junk mail!
But Paper Karma offers a more simple way to get rid of annoying postcards, flyers, coupons and offers. Simply take a photo of an unwanted piece of mail. And at the push of a button, the app will automatically unsubscribe you! Talk evoking a sense of Core Drive #2, Development & Accomplishment through efficiency- sheer genius! Plus the trees will thank you.
8. Joule Bug
Joule Bug is an amazing energy conservation app which incorporates very simple game mechanics in the form of badges and a leaderboard. The game includes hundreds of different types of achievements. One example is to combine your errands efficiently into a simple trip instead of doing them on separate outings. Another is to designate a spot in your yard for composting.
Players can announce their eco-positive actions to their friends (Core Drive #5, Social Influence & Relatedness) and earn points and badges for their deeds Core Drive #4, Ownership & Possession and Core Drive #2, Development & Accomplishment). What’s more is that Joule Bug even links to the individual utility accounts of players so that they can see how much money they saved.
The app also calculates other parameters related to the user’s environmental impact.
9. Good Guide
What we choose to purchase has an enormous impact on the environment, whether we realize it or not. The types of ingredients matter in terms of safety and whether or not they were produced and harvested in a sustainable and ethical way. With the rising demand for consciously created products, we are seeing more of these types of items being sold. But it then becomes important to ask how earth friendly are these brands?
Good Guide is an amazing directory of over 200,000 consumer items. The app allows users to learn more about specific items in terms of how eco-friendly they actually are and provides users with safer and ethical alternatives at comparative prices. Each product is rated in terms of health standards, safety, social and environmental impact. The app successfully utilizes Core Drive #4, Ownership & Possession by giving informed decision-making power to the consumer.
10. Eco Action Trumps
Eco- Action Trumps is a game that can be played with friends. Different eco-actions are represented on individual cards and players choose ten acts that they would actually engage in. Their opponents choose from among the remaining cards. The app then issues a collective score representing the overall environmental impact of each chosen set. And the player with the higher score wins. This is a good example of an app that combines Core Drive #5, Social Influence & Relatedness and Core Drive #7, Unpredictability & Curiosity.
Here’s the card game version in action
Eco-Friendly Apps in Summary
Although not everyone talks about making green lifestyle choices throughout their day, most people ultimately do want to live in a cleaner, greener world. It’s hard to imagine anyone who might argue with this. And while there are tons of things that we know we should be doing, the act of actually completing them may not seem as alluring when it comes down to it. Eco-friendly apps like the ones listed here are a great way to turn positive intentions into positive actions. They have the potential to truly change our attitudes, experiences and how we feel about engaging in eco-friendly lifestyle choices. Give them a try!
The obvious and ultimate point of creating games is to satisfy players. But to do this successfully requires a complex process to develop a game that adequately anticipates and meets its target audience’s motivations. As you’ve seen reflected in previous posts, people are not always driven by logic alone, which makes this development process all the more difficult.
What we might assume to be true about human motivation and thought processes may require further examination and analysis.
While the Octalysis framework focuses on the core drives of players, these principles are expanded upon by other fields. These include behavioral science, human cognition, and other areas that focus on how and why we make decisions or naturally think the way we do. A holistic understanding of cognitive behavior will deepen your understanding of motivation, drives and how to shape experiences for desired responses.
Without further adieu, here are five insightful psychology books that will expand your perspective on the workings of human cognition.
Considering this information within the context of game design will further your ability to create truly winning experiences for players.
For those of you who are truly interested in creating compelling games, here is something to consider: Should a game be judged favorably because players find it hard to break away from and spend countless hours immersed in it?
It would seem so, wouldn’t it? However, it is quite possible to feel compelled to keep playing even though the entire experience has become tedious and the novelty has worn off. Likewise, this same game might instead conjure the strong emotional rewards of true gratification and accomplishment which motivates the player to keep playing.
The difference has to do with two key areas:
The standard use of behavioral conditioning principles
The strategies which engage a sense of Unpredictability as well as Curiosity (Core Drive #7), inspiring the player to find out more.
An understanding of “operant conditioning” will help you understand the fundamental principles that drive behavior. But to go beyond this level, it is important to engage the players’ mental and emotional thirst for curiosity so that they would want to continue playing and explore circumstances that are unpredictable, despite having little sense of control. This experience is vastly more rewarding than simply being in a conditioned state, practically on autopilot. Knowing this distinction will help you become better at recognizing and discerning the finer points of quality game design.
BF Skinner and Operant Conditioning
Some games compel players to reliably perform certain behaviors again and again. Why is this? Psychologists have discovered that behaviors are fundamentally learned through a process of association. Individuals learn to react in a certain way in response to a particular stimulus. This is done by rewarding the behavior. The subject ultimately learns to react in a specific way to the stimulus.
Initial studies in this area involved animals and involuntary reactions such as salivation. Later, a psychologist named BF Skinner took these findings by applying reward associations to voluntary behaviors.
Crowdsourcing is a method of actionable community engagement that harnesses the collective wisdom, contributions, and capabilities of large numbers of people (i.e. the “crowd” in crowdsourcing). Crowdsourcing has been used to solicit, improve, and address complex virtual and real-world challenges. Some of these applications are in the areas of:
Innovation and creativity
Building accurate and vast knowledge
Solving complex multi-layered problems
Achieving complicated feats within a short span of time
Crowdsourcing utilizes several core behavioral drives that compel users to collectively work together to solve problems (sometimes by breaking them into tedious, and manageable tasks). Wikipedia is one example of a crowdsource information platform that utilizes gamification principles to entice users to curate and publish regular content while holding the community (and its content) responsible for accuracy and quality.
While different crowdsourcing application utilize a wide-range of gamification principles at varying degrees (and with differing success), the decision to implement gamification mechanics depends on the quality of experience the project seeks to offer based on the understanding of their users’ drives and motivations.
In some cases, people may be naturally inspired to contribute their time and efforts towards a particular cause (e.g. Wikipedia). In other instances, it may be beneficial to enhance the experience of the crowdsourced endeavor by making it more immersive and compelling through the integration of key game mechanics.
Here are several examples (in no particular order) which highlight the achievement of large scale or complex feats through the integration of gamification and crowdsourcing.
Humans are inherently driven to play, imagine and create. Games that enable the healthy expression of Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, can offer intensely compelling experiences.
One emerging and increasingly prevalent game design strategy focuses on providing players opportunities to consider weighty moral choices. This reflection leads them on an inward journey to venture beyond the confines of their current perspective and mindset.
A related tactic involves creating situations where players are asked to perform seemingly simplistic actions that lead to consequences that force them to reflect on how their choices derived these outcomes. Again this strategy compels players to rethink their boundaries and definitions of their personal system of beliefs, expectations, and ethics.
With both types of game designs, players are empowered to use their creativity to influence the course of the storyline. The consequences serves to provide feedback on their actions and decisions. This offers a very different and interesting experience from typical games that requires making calculated decisions that follow a pre-determined path.
In these types of scenarios, right versus wrong is not simply a black and white distinction. As the player’s emotions strongly contribute to their decision-making and reflection, these strategies add a unique and interesting twist to game play.
What Is Meant By Moral Choices and Consequences?
Naturally, in every game, players have to make calculated choices which entail either desirable or undesirable results. But if you think about what real life is like, not all choices can be calculated. Consequences have to be anticipated by using imaginative foresight and they have to be judged according to a person’s subjective set of individual values.
There is a story of a little boy who overheard two men kicking and physically abusing a fox. The dilemma is apparent: should he ignore the situation or step in to do something? Should the fox be sacrificed to ensure that one’s own safety is preserved by avoiding a potentially violent confrontation? Or should a person demonstrate the highest level of compassion by intervening on behalf of a defenseless animal?
As it turns out in this particular situation, the little boy decided to heroically jump in and grab the fox while kicking and screaming at the perpetrators. He succeeded in running away and bringing the fox to safety (FYI, this was a true story that was recently shared on social media).
Philosophers who seek to understand morality and our social dilemmas explore deeper and more extreme scenarios and questions that cannot be definitively resolved.
One example is the question of the overcrowded lifeboat.
Learning should be fun. However, this is not the experience of most kids in conventional schooling systems. Reading and math can be frustrating for a child who does not understand the underlying concepts or the larger picture of what they are learning. In many cases, students are structurally encouraged to just rote memorize information and simply go through the motions by following the school curriculum. Without establishing the right building blocks and foundations for comprehension and critical thinking, school can become even more daunting as courses become harder as the student rises through the grade levels.
However, by integrating imagination, creativity and game mechanics with the desired information, knowledge can come to life in meaningful ways. Compared to traditional grading systems, this offers a far more effective way to inspire the core drives of Core Drive #2, Accomplishment & Development as well as Core Drive #3, Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback.
Immersive game environments can incorporate visual, auditory, and tactile modes of exchanging information with players, which creates an interactive learning environment where engagement is key to success.
The rewards gained from feeling an internal sense of real achievement and having the ability to creatively solve and master challenges becomes far more meaningful in this type of learning environment.
And with games, it is also possible to effectively utilize other forms of motivation such as Core Drive #4, Ownership & Possession and Core Drive #5, Social Influence & Relatedness to further enhance the experience of players and add a greater sense of personal meaning and significance to what they are learning.
Here are five examples of educational games that are transforming the way kids are now learning in school.