Common Sense Review
Updated September 2015

The Everything Machine by Tinybop

Inventive tinkering app is great fun, has limited classroom potential
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 3
  • The start screen has 5 pre-loaded machines with how-to videos.
  • Simply turn on a light bulb, or invent the yet-unimaginable.
  • Each pre-loaded machine has a clear, non-narrated how-to video.
  • Design a machine that “works” when it sees red.
  • The dashboard provides no info about user work or progress.
Kids (and grown-ups) into creating and problem-solving will love to manipulate, tinker, and also be silly.
The potential for reinforcing misconceptions about electric circuits is problematic, and connections to real-world applications are largely missed.
Bottom Line
This one isn’t going to support most classroom learning, but it can join your suggestions list for fun, creative after-school extensions.
Christie Thomas
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

View your camera’s image in kaleidoscope or hear fart noises when someone walks by. Silly sounds and face detectors are hugely fun, and the sleek design is alluring. Still, real-world connections could extend interest and increase learning.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 2

Many kids will powerfully puzzle-solve to satisfy their whims. Science concepts are a concern, though: App imagery looks like circuits (dry cell, wire, bulb) and moving dots suggest electrons, potentially reaffirming misconceptions.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 2

Non-narrated how-to videos and a succinct manual (in tons of languages) guide users, but pop-up tips would help. Ordered activities direct, but young players would be better supported by simpler tasks which then unlock more advanced options.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

Please note that using The Everything Machine in your classroom may require an immense capacity for listening to fart sounds. Kids across grade levels can use the app individually or in pairs at your tech center/station. During a unit on energy transformations, have kids keep a class list of energy changes that occur in their digital machines. Address the “errors” in circuit imagery by asking kids to redraw machines they invent with more accurate representations. Let tinkering expand by using the app as a blueprint for the “real” thing: Connect younger kids to the high school tech or electronics classes or clubs, or make this a cross-content project with your middle school or high school colleague.

There’s also a fun potential for team-oriented playfulness (imagine a kid-created “fart-when-it-sees-a-face machine” in your classroom). Just be sure this fits your (and your school’s) comfort zone. Employ lots of good humor -- and be ready to intervene if mischievousness is not well-received.

Read More Read Less
What's It Like?

The Everything Machine is an app for building, well, almost anything. To begin, users select an icon (from two male and two female options) and add a name. Start screens open with five pre-made examples of machines (ordered by complexity), each with some components laid out and a coordinating step-by-step video. Users can create what’s modeled, or (truly) do anything they’d like. Touching the “+” on the start screen creates a new “blank” machine (only the battery) that can be designed by the user. Progress is saved between visits, and both pre-loaded and created machines can be reworked or deleted.

Tinkering is a drag-and-drop process that is intuitive to even young users. Icons along the bottom organize components like inputs (including the device’s camera or mic), detectors (for faces or motion), modifiers (kaleidoscope), and outputs (light bulb, speaker). Some outputs require access to your photos, videos, and other services on your device.

Read More Read Less
Is It Good For Learning?

The app is an awesome, even hilarious opportunity to create, play, and problem-solve. (There's also some serious prank potential.) For the most part, though, it’s not a great fit for classroom learning related to science content or engineering practices.

Primarily, the wary-factor involves how the app imagery looks like traditional circuitry, including a dry cell, wire, and light bulb. Moving dots even emulate electrons. But this analogy is not intended: No wires (nor dots) return to the energy source. Further, and/or “logic gates” resemble parallel/series circuits -- but that's not how they function. In terms of engineering, kids can imagine, try, and redesign, but they also might pick up some critical misconceptions along the way. Moreover, important connections to the real world must be teacher-provided: Building a motion-sensitive machine, for example, can be linked to the use of such cameras in ecological studies. Also, important conversations about trade-offs (materials, cost) are absent, since there’s no limit to what the app can build.

Read More Read Less

See how teachers are using The Everything Machine by Tinybop