The Ask Ed app is designed in order to help children to deal with their insecurities, worries and concerns. Children, even though encouraged from early ages to express themselves, don’t find it as easy when they have to share their problems or when they need to find solutions and put their problems into perspective. This is why having a tool like this app to support children and address their social and emotional problems is a brilliant idea.
So who’s Ed? There’s a very witty answer to this question, offered by the app’s developers. Ed’s name comes from the beginning of the word “educate” and Ed is represented as a cat because “cat” is included in both “educate” and “catastrophe”.
Ask Ed uses the Catastrophe Scale to help children put their problems in perspective. This approach is good because it makes children understand that some of the issues they are facing may not be as serious as they first thought they could be. Teaching the ability to assess your problems and finding different ideas in order to overcome them are at the core of the app.
Though the app is easy to use we recommend that adults (parents or teachers) oversee their child’s activity. Because the app is heavy in text and also asks for text input, children need to have a good command of English. The app is suitable for children aged 5 to 11 and can be used by older children, but they might not be as interested in using the app. Also an older age group has a different set of problems all together.
When you first open the app you will be presented with the catastrophe Scale on the right side of the screen, a welcome message from Ed the cat and a section where you are asked to type your name in order to get started. There is also a “Help” button which includes guides for children, parents and teachers.
After you type your name, Ed the cat is asking you to share your problem. You can type a sentence or even a word and then search to see if Ed can identify problems that match your own. We recommend to type more than one word because results are not generated if you use just one word. For example, when I searched for “cry” no results were shown but when I searched for “cry all day” I had 10 possible problems that match my searching criteria (e.g. “I am not allowed to go at a party” ; “I accidentally did something wrong”).
The next step is to select the problem that best matches your situation. Once you’ve done that you are told by Ed what would be the “fair” rating for your problem according to the Catastrophe Scale. Problems are rated from 0 (no problem) to 10 (worst ever). You are then asked to rate the problem yourself by touching a number on the scale. Asking children to rate their problems will help them learn how to assess their difficulties. The cat’s face expression is changing according to the number you choose.
Next, Ed will ask the child about how he feels about the problem; the child can then choose from a list of feelings or type their own answer. Each problem listed in the app comes with suggested ways of dealing with it and you can even add or delete form the ideas list. Children are encouraged to seek help or to talk with someone they can trust, especially when they are faced with serious problems.
At the end of the process, the child gets a summary report stating all the steps he’s been through: the problem, the child’s feelings, their ideas and an encouraging message from Ed. This is to reinforce the fact that the child has identified the problem, he is aware of its feelings towards it and knows what to next. The report can be sent by email and is presented in a pdf.
Parents can use Ask Ed to talk about issues that they think are upsetting their children either regarding house chores such as cleaning or tidying up their room, his feeling in regards to his friends, problems at school, etc. It will help build their resilience, nurture their emotional well-being and strengthen their social behaviour.
Teachers can use Ask Ed in the classroom to identify solutions for problems like: being late at school, not handing homework in time, interrupting other colleagues, bullying, bad language. The Catastrophe Scale can also be introduced and referred to every time is deemed necessary to assess how serious a student’s problem is.
The app would benefit if reports could be saved locally and if it would allow you to search for problems by categories for easy reference (e.g. problems related to School, Home, Friends, Parents, Play, etc). The app’s design can also be improved and it’s worth considering integrating sound - especially where Ed is encouraging children or asking them to use the Catastrophe Scale.
Even though the problems defined by the users of the app are stored locally we are sure the database of “known problems” and “ideas” will grow in time. We like the fact that you can delete the problems entered by the users of the app but it’s also worth considering adding a button where a parent or a teacher decides to share it with the community.
Ask Ed will undoubtedly help children, parents and teachers work together to tackle social, emotional and behavioural problems.
The apps cost £1.49 and it includes a link to the Ask Ed website but access is controlled through a call to action directed at an adult.