Monthly Archives: June 2014

Lights, Camera, Skype: The many uses of modern technology

For many years, landline telephone calls have been the primary way to reach out to folks for both business and pleasure.  College students called home to their parents.  Stock brokers called their clients.  And physicians called their patients.  However, today, new technologies have replaced the use of the traditional telephone.  Cell phone calls, texts, instant messaging, and even Skype and Facetime are more common ways to “talk” to others than traditional land lines.  In fact, many households no longer have landlines and only a handful of Americans say still can’t give up their landline (See Washington Post).  While most of us are familiar with using this kind of technology for social purposes, many of these have business applications as well.

Recently, my students and I visited Sixteen South, a producer of children’s media in Northern Ireland.  We learned that they used Skype to communicate to others around the world during the creation of Lily’s Driftwood BayColin Williams, Creative Director of Sixteen South, told us that during production, they would use Skype to coach the voice actors for their show.  The first few times the actors met face to face with Sixteen South during rehearsals and recordings of the voices for characters on the show.  However, the remaining voice recording sessions were conducted via Skype with members of Sixteen South giving direction to the actors online as the actors worked in another location.  The voice tracks would then be sent electronically to Sixteen South’s offices in Belfast to be used in the final production.  I was stunned!  I know that Skype has business applications, but I had never heard of it being used this way – in the actual production of children’s television.  AMAZING!

A few days later, I was using Skype myself, but in a less stunning way…to stay in touch with my family back in the states while I was traveling in Ireland with my students.  During my conversations with my family, my son would type his conversation using the messaging tool while my daughter would talk and wave at me through the audio and video connections.  My son quickly discovered the emoticons in the messaging system and began adding those to his typed messages.  I found it interesting that they both found a way that was most comfortable to them to share their thoughts and feelings with me.

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My son is shy, so he found it easier to type rather than talk to convey his feelings.  My daughter is very expressive, so she was more comfortable talking than typing.  Yet both children were connecting and sharing in ways that put them at ease with the distance between us.

Technologies have provided a way for us to connect even though we are physically miles apart.  That connectivity can be achieved for business applications or personal ones, to give direction or to share love.  It is the same tool used differently by different folks in different places for different occasions all at the same time.  That which makes us different also makes us the same…all wanting to reach and connect in our own special way.

From Early Impressions to a Research Agenda: Children’s Media in my Life

5-year-old Nancy:  “Mommy, can we get a pet?”

Mom:  “What kind of pet would you like?”

5-year-old Nancy:  “An iguana.”

Mom:  “An iguana!  Like you saw on Sesame Street?”

5-year-old Nancy:  “Yes, just like on Sesame Street!”

It was clear from an early age that children’s media was going to have an influence on my life.  Little did I know then that I would be researching, writing, and teaching about it in the years to come.

Back in those days, there were only 3 major broadcast channels.  We had a television with a dial to change the channels and an antenna tower to capture the broadcast signal.  Today, my children have iPads with wifi internet access and digital cable to watch their favorite children’s channels.  Who could have imagined these changes?  While the times have changed, we have similar questions.  How do children understand the screen?  Do they see what others see?  What do they learn from those screens?  Are these screens harmful or helpful?

These questions are asked by parents, teachers, social workers, grandparents, and researchers alike….or as John Wright, one of my mentors, would say, “big people who care about little people.”  I happen to now be one of those people, and I wear many different hats.  I live and breathe children’s media in many, many ways.  I’m a parent.  I’m a sibling.  I’m a teacher.  I’m a researcher.  I’m an advocate, and I’ve been inspired.

Recently, I had the opportunity to watch Lisa Guernsey give a TED Talk.  In this talk, she focuses on the “Three C’s:  Content, Context, and the Child.”  These are all important for understanding the impact of media and technology.  What content is being viewed?  In what context?  By what child?  Guernsey suggests that every family should have access to a “Media Mentor” who can help families manage the media that is all around them.

I’m hopeful that this blog will provide a space for media mentoring to help us answer questions and take on different perspectives about media and technology in the lives of children and their families.  I will be sharing my thoughts, my observations, my research, my knowledge, and my inspirations here.  Please take this journey with me and share your ideas as well.  Together, we can learn about the different ways media is being used and understand how media works in the lives of families.

Drive About: Number Neighborhood by Artgig Apps

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Drive About: Number Neighborhood by Artgig Apps is a play-centered world full of well-designed and engaging educational math readiness games for preschoolers. The app contains 9 mini games which practice a wide range of math skills including number recognition, number sequencing, addition, counting up to 20, shape recognition, and number writing. The mini games do not require mastery or progress in one game to advance to the next resulting in forever fun-filled experiences. Children can follow a map to lead them to different games or can drive different vehicles (a submarine, a tug boat, a car, and even a rocket!) to find each game. The mini games demonstrate mathematic principles through play such as finding number balance on the teeter-totter or number sequencing through skiing. In-game cheers and smiles of in-game characters reinforce accomplishments of successful skill mastery within each game. There is no negative feedback within the mini games which encourages continued play and practice of math skills. In addition, children will find relatable objects in the games including familiar animals, household objects, and outdoor settings. A playful and smart way to make math fun!