David Wiesner’s Spot has been developed for use on Apple’s iPad, and can currently be found on the iTunes App Store for $4.99. Its tagline is “Become the storyteller of your own unique adventure. It’s up to you to decide what happens next in the story!” Parents can download the “Spot” eBook from Apple’s iBooks store. The eBook provides storytelling prompts, writing prompts, and classroom activities for teachers, all of which are designed to help the Spot app become more than just a game of exploration. That being said, the app can be used without these prompts. While the app was made for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, there isn’t an overt commercial feel to the world.
Spot provides children with an illustrated world to explore through pinching and pulling at the screen to zoom in and out. For example, zooming into the spot on a ladybug reveals an island, on which there is another island, on which is a house, etc. Much like a wordless book (Wiesner has written several), the app gives children the chance to pick up on different aspects of the book and create their own story to accompany the details. This type of storytelling helps children develop their oral language and visual literacy. It also allows children to take the book at the pace they want to set. Similarly, the app has no “end”; children can continue to go through the worlds without a final destination set.
Spot draws on several of Wiesner’s go-to motifs, from tiny aliens to the underwater world of Flotsam. Children who have read Wiesner’s previous works will pick up on these moments, but the “story” is still appealing for those without this background. Wiesner is a master of exploring and building fantasy worlds in a way that makes them seem almost real. His dynamic, “real meets surreal” style will draw children into the app just as it’s drawn them into his works.
My biggest complaint is the lack of instructions. While I understand why the app has so few words, it becomes frustrating when users aren’t able to figure out how to work through different sections. For example, when the child has zoomed in as far as possible, he or she can move around the space of a room. But to exit, instead of zooming back out, he or she has to know to tap the “Home” button, which has previously been a “Hints for Parents” button (and a rather unhelpful one). Without parents downloading and reading the eBook, this becomes a guessing game.
Fun Educational Apps named Spot as a “Top Pick,” saying that “It gives children (ages 6-8) an opportunity to view familiar objects in quirky and unexpected new ways and to imagine worlds far different from their own.” http://www.funeducationalapps.com/2015/02/spot-a-top-pick-digital-picture-book-from-award-winning-author-david-wiesner-app-review.html
The iPhone Mom gave Spot 5/5 stars in all categories, saying that “David Wiesner’s Spot is a masterpiece among apps and one that I would highly recommend for family time and classroom learning experiences.” http://www.theiphonemom.com/david-wiesners-spot-review/
Overall I enjoyed the app, and I think it’s a fun way to explore through various worlds. It gives parents and children a way to use technology together. And unlike other game apps, Spot exists without a sense of competition or winning. It allows children to indulge in a self-paced fantasy while developing literacy.