App developer aims for Christian 'edutainment'

New applications for mobile devices are downloading into the Christian world with the help of a Finnish app developer. Over the past 14 months, Congregational Mobile Technologies has been producing apps for an array of Christian audiences.

"Mobile devices are becoming so integrated in everyday life, especially with younger generations, that churches can't neglect on reacting to this development," project manager Ilkka Jormanainen said in an email to NCR.

The term "BYOD" (bring your own device) has been coined as an acronym instructing students of various types to learn about the faith.

"[The] 'BYOD' principle is changing ways of teaching and learning in general, and we see that mobile apps would fit especially well for teaching in confirmation work," Jormanainen said.

Driven by a demand for relevant Christian presence in the mobile sphere, the company has already crafted two games that can be downloaded in most popular app stores. Both games are aimed at youth education and entertainment, if you can read Finnish.

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"CROSS 2048" is perhaps their most popular game. It mimics the incredibly successful math puzzle game, "2048," which emerged in May. In "CROSS 2048," users connect any two symbols of faith (such as a cross, a dove, a candle or two keys) in order to create one new symbol. The goal is to reach the highest symbol without filling up a 16 square board. Each symbol represents an important part of basic Christian education. In order to learn about a symbol, one must find it in the puzzle first.

"With little effort it was possible to add the educational value" to the game, converting it to "edutainment," Jormanainen said.

"CROSS 2048" contributes to the current effort of Congregational Mobile Technologies to educate young Finnish children in the Evangelical Lutheran church in preparation for confirmation. The company plans to test a social media application that can be used to share experiences of a confirmation camp through text and picture sharing. The app will also have educational material and an itinerary for the retreatants.

With so many apps on the market, making a successful app is difficult. For the developers, integrating good content with an enjoyable game that increases a private faith is the challenge.

"In general, the challenge is the same when designing any mobile app or service. You must be able to clearly answer the question 'So what?' " said Jormanainen. "Only after that your mobile app can gain in the desired context."

In addition to serving the needs of the confirmation community, the app developers aim to build and support the spiritual needs of individuals. An app in the works called "Mobile Catechism" is being created with the help of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran church.

The company plans to expand its audience to a wider range of people by releasing the same applications in various languages, including German, Swedish and English.

[Nicholas Sciarappa is an NCR Bertelsen intern. His email address is nsciarappa@ncronline.org.]

This story appeared in the Oct 10-23, 2014 print issue under the headline: App developer aims for Christian 'edutainment' .

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