Theater of the Absurd: Now playing on selected smartphones and tablets

This week, Claire Green, co-founder of Sandbox Summit and president of Parents' Choice Foundation, takes a rather cockeyed look at the apps of the moment.
August 28, 2013

This week, Claire Green, co-founder of Sandbox Summit and president of Parents’ Choice Foundation, takes a rather cockeyed look at the apps of the moment.

At Sandbox Summit, Wendy and I are always on the lookout for the new and the “to be” at the intersection of play, learning, and technology. Outthink, Inc., TimeTribe, KidzVuz and Yummico all debuted new work at the 2013 Sandbox Summit @ MIT, and each one offered a unique and promising premise. Back at the office, The Parents’ Choice Awards for mobile apps uses a multipronged (and paged) evaluation tool that assesses UX, UI, DAP — all of which contribute to or detract from the success of the app’s educational and play value.

Last Sunday night, I was casually browsing for new apps for kids and the parents doing their best to raise them. Yes, there’s a treasure trove of the fascinating. But with very little effort, one can easily compile a roster of the ridiculous. So based only on title, description and user comments, here is my short playlist of the absurd.

Rumor has it that potty training was so traumatic for Lyndon Johnson that the only way he could give dictation was if his secretary was sitting outside his bathroom door.  If Lyndon Johnson’s mother had had an iPad, she may have used Potty Training: Learning with the Animals. (Really?) See me Go Potty (No thanks.) My Potty Chart  (Oh great. Kids aren’t competitive enough.) The Talking Toilet (would you ever use a toilet that talked?)

All of us benefit from good manners – whether in the dining room or the boardroom. Apparently these lessons are best instilled as an inheritance. A quick iTunes search of “good manners for kids” returned six results. Two had negative comments, two had none at all, one boasts teaching reading and manners at the same time (that’s novel) and one had a strong warning to Stop Spamming! (pretty sure spamming is bad manners).

Android smartphone users rejoice. The absurd is not limited to iOS. Not much could kill a love of learning faster than My Grades to Go. It’s a grade calculator and predictor that allows users to record multiple grades in multiple subjects, all based on the weighted percentage that makes up the overall grade. But wait, there’s more! The app adds everything up and reports what needs to be done to get an A in the course.

Always an optimist, my hands-down favorite of the frivolous could actually prove helpful.  Fast Customer  takes the horror out of being on eternal hold. Dial a number, and with a single tap, the app connects you to whichever department you need – then signals your phone once  an agent on the line. So if your honor student is home from school because his delayed potty training trauma decided to make a house call, and the cable repairman is nowhere in sight, this is the app that may actually make a difference.

Seen anything out of the ordinary yourself lately? Email me at

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