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Earn It Stars: a motivating little app

David Winograd

I came across a very simple little app that I felt would be useful -- at first thought, just for small children, but after thinking about it for awhile, realized that it could be helpful for just about everybody who tends to procrastinate (guilty!), or wants to reinforce or change a behavior. The app is Earn It Stars [iTunes Link] which sells for $.99 US and runs on iPhones and iPod touches with OS 3.0 or better.

This app is all about motivation and is really very simple; in this case, that's a good thing. Let's say you want to get your kid to clean her room and no amount of hectoring is getting the job done. Earn It Stars works on a reward basis, which some may call bribery, but I'll just call it positive reinforcement. Negotiate what the pay-off will be and how many times the room will be cleaned before the the prize is awarded. Let's say 20 cleanings before the kid gets to go to the movies to see something that will probably make the parent gag and retch. I'm looking at you, New Moon.

The app lets you designate what the task will be and how many times it needs to be done before it pays off. Then each time the room gets checked and you can see that the color of the carpet isn't laundry, someone gets to tap on Star Earned which plays a nice sound and increments the counter. When the counter hits 20, a badge is displayed that says: Earn It Stars. You did it! That's Great!! Enjoy (your) New Moon, or whatever the reward might be.

That's about it. It's really nothing more than a fancy looking counter, but sometimes simplicity is a good thing. Having grown children, I know that I could have used this years ago and that it would have worked. It would have eliminated the circuitous discussions based upon: Yes I did. No you didn't, Yes I did. No you didn't etc. Once you get into one of those, getting out is never easy, or fun, and if you don't think that kids like getting stars, ask any first grade teacher. Given the app's meager aspirations, I think it's fine, and the only thing I would add is a big audio flourish when the goal is reached.

Earn It Stars can be used for anything and can be used by anyone. Right now, I have it set that if I write 10 posts I get to eat. Simple.

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