Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2019
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KIDS

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An avant-garde journey of group dynamics sparks discussion

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Character & SEL
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
6–12
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Pros: This unusual, experiential app will get students talking, guessing, and developing stories and ideas about what's happening with it.

Cons: Teachers will need to be creative to extract educational benefits; gameplay is quite short for the price.

Bottom Line: An unusual app that will confuse and entertain classrooms, generating discussion on a number of societal and philosophical topics.

It may take some deep thinking to decide where the KIDS app best fits in your lesson plans, but it would fit in a number of areas. It can be included as an ice breaker at the beginning of the year, or as a fun way to end the year. It can fit well with social and emotional learning (SEL) lessons, as well as critical or creative thinking lessons.

Teachers can have students play KIDS all in one go or break it up scene by scene. Play it as a whole class or divide everyone up into small groups. Have students discuss what they're seeing and what they think it might all mean. There are no wrong answers here, so encourage out-of-the-box thinking and expression. Consider having students write down their ideas, reactions, and reflections about what happens in the app. What does it make them think of? How does it make them feel? How do they react to the lack of a sense of purpose?

If you go through the app as a class, take each scene one by one and discuss it. What do students think of it? What does it remind them of? What thoughts come to mind when they interact with it? What are they, the players, trying to make happen? How can it be compared to parts of our society?

Alternatively, students can play this on their own and then write about their experience, talking about the things the app made them think of, or the parallels in our world that they see. Students will draw out their own meaning from playing with the app, and students can broaden their perspectives by comparing notes with each other.

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KIDS is an unusual, interactive, abstract animation app that evokes the experimental ideas of the avant-garde movement. It includes a few dozen scenes of simply illustrated individuals, groups of people, and shapes that kids can interact with, moving people around, pushing them into a hole, making them swim in outer space, causing them to clap, or dragging them along a conduit. Sometimes the action kids take goes with the crowd, sometimes against it. Each scene has something for kids to do, but some are fairly short and some are longer. Many of the scene themes repeat in slightly different ways later in the app. There isn't any real closure at the end of the app; it's just over.

Once kids play a scene, they can access earlier scenes by tapping the pause button. Playtime varies but is approximately 15-30 minutes. The app's few words are available in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and Japanese.

With KIDS, you're in control, but you can't really affect the outcome. You're just the one to make it happen. It feels quite existential, and takeaway lessons can be quite open-ended. On the surface, this app seems like a simple game with a simple premise (though the premise isn't clear). But it can generate all sorts of philosophical and societal discussions about group dynamics, peer pressure, thinking for oneself, flow, order, direction, decision-making, and the inevitable journey toward death. Students can use the app to consider their effect on others, and what it might mean to go with the crowd, or against it. It's a conversation starter, for sure, and fits well with social and emotional learning topics.

Having KIDS at your disposal is a bit like being presented with a pile of interesting, versatile game pieces with no instructions. You get to decide what it all means. It can mean something different to everyone playing it. This is an ideal opportunity for teachers and students to discuss thoughts, compare notes, and write response papers about their experience with the app. It can even generate creative writing exercises.

KIDS encourages play, exploration, and experimentation. Students may want to play it more than once, to see what happens when they try something different.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The simple illustrations and basic actions make interacting with the app easy; it's a matter of experimentation. The lack of clear purpose may confuse students but will keep them moving forward, hoping (in vain) for resolution.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

There are no clear inherent lessons in this experimental app; it's all about what you bring to it and take from it. Teachers can assign this in the context of SEL writing or discussion activities.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Likely on purpose, there's no help in-app; students interact with it as they see fit, and learn how it works along the way. Teachers will need to create a lesson framework to get the most out of the app.


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