Anti-Coloring Book App promotes mobile creativity for kids

p1-anti-coloring-9-4Modern children are growing up alongside mobile technology and as they grow together, the demand for engaging apps that can both entertain and educate has increased as well. Cos Cob School art teacher Susan Striker has recognized this demand, and is now taking the steps to convert her successful series of activity books into an interactive app for children six and older.

Ms. Striker’s Anti-Coloring Book series launched in 1978, with the goal of providing a creative alternative to simple coloring books. Rather than directing children to fill in drawings or color by numbers, The Anti-Coloring Book series encourages them to create drawings of their own based on prompts and scenery provided on each page. This new approach to art activities became a hit and the series expanded to include books for adults and toddlers in addition to several sequels with 14 total books in the series now.

“I am anti-coloring book. They’re pictures that someone else drew and you were told to color in like a little robot,” Ms. Striker, a past winner of a Greenwich Distinguished Teacher award, said. “Don’t think, don’t imagine, don’t draw it yourself cause you’re a kid and you don’t know how to draw. Just color. So I got mad about that and wrote The Anti-Coloring Book, where kids draw their own picture, and I give them an idea.”

In recent years however, activity books have given way to interactive toys, games and electronics that capture and hold the attention of children for hours on end. In an effort to provide a creative outlet on a new digital platform, Ms. Striker began seeking developers for the Anti-Coloring Book App. The app is more than a direct transfer of the book series; it provides read-along features, book recommendations and online sharing capabilities that promote an educational and creative experience.

After several years and several unsuccessful developers, Ms. Striker approached Greenwich High School teacher Matt Meyers to assist in the app’s development. Prior to his involvement, Ms. Striker employed a series of unsuccessful developers who struggled to complete the project.

“He said ‘You’ve had such bad luck with developers; even if you hire someone else, I’m going to look out for you, and I’m going to see to it that you get your app,’” Ms. Striker told the Post.

A day later, Ms. Striker was shocked by the amount of work Mr. Meyers had already done for the app, and eventually hired him. Mr. Meyers teaches chemistry and computer science at the school, but is also the co-founder of Slate & Tablets, an educational app development company he started with his brother Brian. With Mr. Meyers’ help, the Anti-Coloring Book App has seen leaps in capability in a matter of months. Children can now utilize seven unique drawing tools and a full set of colors to craft their creations.

“You can choose any color, you can choose any tool. There’s no button here that will fill it all in, there’s no bucket, because if you want to make it a certain color, you have to make it that way; like real life,” Ms. Striker said. “My idea was that I really wanted to simulate the experience. You want to color it in, you have to take the time to color it in. You need fine motor skills; you don’t need a bucket. My idea is that the app should not be smart, the child should be smart, and that’s what this is working towards.”

Additionally, each page offers recommends a children’s book related to the drawing, providing direct links to digital versions of the book for purchase or rent via their local library, Amazon’s Kindle services or Barnes & Noble’s digital store. This feature mirrors Ms. Striker’s own practice in the classroom, as she begins each art lesson with a story to provide context for the day’s activity. She hopes that parents will use the recommended books as an opportunity to further engage in the app alongside their children.

Once the app is live, there will also be an option for children to upload their drawings to a public gallery online, where they can view and exchange their art with the app’s other users.

Greenwich Public Schools have begun implementing a digital learning program at the Hamilton Avenue and Riverside elementary school using iPads in the classroom, featuring apps not unlike the Anti-Coloring Book. While it is too early to say whether or not the app will be adopted into that program, utilizing the digital learning environment has proven fruitful for the children at those schools.

Ms. Striker has launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign in order to fund the development costs for the app. Those who pledge to the campaign will receive Anti-Coloring Book App themed gifts such as T-shirts and backpacks and will be featured on the app’s website for their support. The Kickstarter campaign can be found at the following url: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1102025763/683482325

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