You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!
South Pacific - Rogers and Hammerstein
Values are learned. But despite the muscial observation above, can they be taught? Especially by a computer program.
So I found this article interesting: 10 Best Apps to Promote Kindess in the Classroom (GettingSmart, Dec 30, 2016. Mainly aimed at younger students using simulations, these apps are a radical departure from most activities I have experienced in computer play - how many points can one rack up by killing monsters, pigs, zombies, etc.. At least one "kindness" app, does retain the spirt of competition:
3. The Great Kindness Challenge: School Edition
The School Edition of this app is perfect for the classroom. The “acts of kindness,” such as “Smile at 25 people” or “Pick up 10 pieces of trash,” are appropriate for students of all ages and teach them simple but important acts of kindness they can do every single day. Set a goal with your classroom, and the countdown timer will remind everyone how long they have to reach their goal along with the number of acts of kindness left to complete.
Good to see there is nothing that can not be done for extrinsic reward and the satisfaction of wiping up the floor with the competition. Sigh.
Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of kindess. In a 2005 column, A Secret Weapon - Nicess*, I suggested it "has a bigger impact on our effectiveness and job tenure than any technical or professional skill we might hone." and added "... behaving well is learned, not genetic. And I continually look for those who can teach me the skills that make me a person with whom others like to work."
I don't suppose there is much harm in having a child play with an app that is supposed to teach a deep, very human affective behavior like kindness.
But I sure as hell wouldn't depend on it. One adult demonstration of a positive interaction with another individual will "teach" more that all the apps the iPad can hold.
* Niceness is Minnesotan for kindness.