Motivation: Extrinsic reward

Top-level category  Motivation: Extrinsic reward
App Name  Super Why!
App Maker Bean Creative, PBS, and Out of the Blue Enterprises LLC
Screenshot *
General Description The Super Why! app contains four different interactive activities. Each activity is associated with a different cartoon character. In “Alpha Pig’s Lickety Letter Hunt” the user identifies the correct letter from among several choices to complete words and help Alpha Pig find his way home; in Princess Presto’s Wands-Up Writing activity the user makes an object appear by tracing the shape of letters on the iPad screen; in Wonder Red’s Rhyming Time the user chooses a rhyming word from among several words; and in Super Why’s Story Saver the user selects a word from among several to complete a sentence from a story context. The user may make several attempts to find the correct answer; when the correct answer is chosen, the user receives a digital “sticker” that is briefly displayed on the screen.
Screenshot context This screenshot shows the character Super Why presenting the user with a digital “sticker” as a reward for choosing a correct answer. The sticker shows the character Rapunzel with long brown hair–a character from the story on the previous screen.
Explanation and/or commentary The digital “stickers” children earn in the Super Why! app are an example of an extrinsic reward. Unlike extrinsic rewards in other apps–which can sometimes be loud, long, and distracting, involving such things as an animated dancing monkey (e.g., the Reading Comprehension Level 1 app by Angela Reed)–this extrinsic reward is relatively lightweight and unobtrusive. The image on the sticker also has a connection to the sentence that was just read on the previous screen. In the example, the sticker shows Rapunzel–arguably providing an opportunity for a child or teacher to reinforce learning by saying something like, “Look, there’s Rapunzel on the sticker you just earned–with her long hair.” Still, many studies (see Lepper & Henderlong, 2000) exploring children’s motivation to learn have suggested that intrinsic motivation (i.e., motivation stemming from enjoyment of an activity and connected to an authentic, personally felt purpose for doing it) is in many ways preferable to extrinsic motivation (i.e., motivation linked to “goods” located outside the learner, such as praise from adults, or material rewards unrelated to the activity, such as a food reward earned for reading a book). Further, extrinsic rewards have been shown to often undermine intrinsic motivation (for a review, see Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999). In sum, there are reasons to dislike the “sticker” rewards in this app and, when using the app with children, at the very least to downplay their importance.

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