The other day I had another reminder of just how naive I really am. You’d think by now I would be a bit wilier. But no.
So here’s the story. You all know that I review a LOT of educational apps. And you also know, from your own experience, that there’s a super ton of junky apps out there. And I’ve been looking at these apps thinking, “Wow, I could really help a lot of these developers to improve these apps!” Because the majority of those apps could be much better just by making some pretty simple changes.
Yeah, so I was thinking that the majority of the educational apps that are out there are crap because the people who develop them don’t know any better.
I know, I know. Naive. Well, last week I had a rude awakening.
I was at an event where I had the opportunity to present what I’m doing with my new business. After the presentations were done, a man from the audience approached me. He asked why it was that I hadn’t decided to go into educational app development, instead of ed app review. I gave him my list of reasons: the space is crowded, the development cycle is long, it’s very expensive to create the type of apps I would want to do, and the volume of sales necessary to cover the development expenses would be very high. Pretty much my usual list.
He looked at me like I was crazy. “How much do you think it costs to create an app?” he asked. I said, “Well, for the kind of app that I would want to make, with adaptive learning paths, sophisticated underlying decision-making algorithms, and signal detection error analysis, it would probably cost between $40 and $50K,” I said. He shook his head in disbelief.
“No, no, no,” he said, “I make educational apps. All you do is throw in a couple of activities that seem educational and some animation and you’re done. You don’t need all of that other stuff you described. It’s a couple thousand dollars and then you put it in the iTunes store and sell it. And people will buy it!”
I said, “Yeah, but that’s not the kind of app I would want to make. I would want to make apps that actually help kids learn and produce performance data showing that the app really works.”
He kind of smirked at me and chuckled. “But you don’t need to do that and you can still sell it and make money.”
So now I’m very depressed. Because I’ve clearly been thinking about this all wrong. This can’t be the only app developer who is fully aware that he is making apps that stink and don’t actually teach kids. And he seemed very amused by my whole pitch that I wanted to help parents and teachers find the best apps that actually teach their kids. Why would I go to all that trouble when there is quick money to be made by developing junky apps that people will still buy?
Am I the only idealist who thinks we can do better than this?