“Thanks to cheap and easy-to-use recording devices – digital cameras, camcorders, camera phones – today’s kids are forming the most documented generation ever, as parents, relatives and friends capture forever the first, second and hundredth smile.
But all this documentation may carry a price if parents, in spending so much energy creating and preserving a digital archive, fail to enjoy living the moment.
And will future generations even have time to look through stacks of CDs containing tens or hundreds of thousands of photos, and even if they do will individual memories become less precious because there are so many?
What if disk drives fail or software formats change, rendering photos unreadable by tomorrow’s computers? Will CDs even work? Think of those reels of 8 mm home movies with no projectors for viewing them.”
Posts in category 'Children'
The 330-page report takes a comprehensive look at the way Britons use new and old media and reveals a nation in love with its media, gadgets and hi-tech gear.
16% of Britons aged 65+ spend 42 hours per month online – more than any other age group.
Another striking result, especially for traditional-media executives looking for their future customers, is that “kids are abandoning old and not-so-old media for the new. Whereas two years ago 59% of those aged 8 to 15 regularly watched videos, only 38% do now. Two years ago 61% regularly played video games compared with 53% today. Most are abandoning stand-alone media, such as DVDs, and turning instead to media such as the internet and in particular social-networking websites. The trend seems to accelerate as children move into their teenage years. Nearly two-thirds of children between the ages of 12 and 15 use the internet, compared with 41% of those aged 8 to 11.”
“They are well aware of the problems of viruses, hackers, paedophiles and online scams, and most claim that threatening text messages are no different to any other form of bullying and admit to being victims and perpetrators.
The older children get lighter supervision from their parents. But they recognise that parents are right to supervise them and only 12-14 year-old girls get angry when Mum wants to read what they’ve said in an email.
Children worry about damaging the family computer with a virus, running out of credit on their mobiles, becoming internet addicts and damaging their eyesight or losing sleep if they stay online too long.
They know not to give out their email address or mobile number to strangers and never to agree to a meeting with a stranger, although some admit to breaking these rules or know of friends or apocryphal friends of friends who have.”
The study covered children (age groups 9-10 and 12-14) in 29 countries (the 27 member states plus Iceland and Norway) and was based on group discussions.
“In order for asthma inhalers to perform effectively, the discharged medicine must be taken in coordination with a deep breath. This action can be very difficult for young children gasping in the midst of an attack. In these cases, supplementary devices called spacers are used to capture and hold the medicine until the user is ready to inhale. Over 8 million children in Mexico suffer from asthma who are without proper medical care or preventative measures and spacers, at more than $50 a piece, are far too costly for Mexican health centers to stock.
Stanford’s Design and Medical Schools teamed up to face this obstacle, creating a super cost-effective and easily distributed solution. With a cost reduction of over 99% (dang), the flat-pack, foldable paper Respira spacers can be shipped by the hundreds for the cost of a stamp.”
Opening in fall 2009, the school is being created by the Gamelab Institute of Play (blog), a New York City-based not-for-profit organization that leverages games and play as transformative contexts for learning and creativity, in collaboration with New Visions for Public Schools, a not-for-profit organization that works in partnership with the New York City Department of Education to improve academic achievement in the City’s public schools.
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recently awarded a grant of $1.1 million to help with planning and development.
According to a Wired news story, the planners “are looking at how games naturally engage players and teach them new skills, and hope to apply those principles to create kids who not only ace their SATs, but are also well suited for the 21st century.”
“Games offer a context for problem-solving with immediate feedback, and often involve social interaction that can reinforce lessons learned. Combine that process with the skills that modern games encourage — like computer literacy and navigating through complex information networks — and you have the basis for a brand new pedagogy. [...]
The meaning of ‘knowing’ today has shifted from being able to remember and repeat information to being able to find and use it.”
Only a handful think of technology as a concept, and just 16 percent use terms like “social networking”, said two combined surveys covering 8- to 24-year-olds published on Tuesday by Microsoft and Viacom units MTV Networks and Nickelodeon.
“Young people don’t see “tech” as a separate entity – it’s an organic part of their lives,” said Andrew Davidson, vice president of MTV’s VBS International Insight unit.
Talking to them about the role of technology in their lifestyle would be like talking to kids in the 1980s about the role the park swing or the telephone played in their social lives — it’s invisible.”
The surveys involved 18,000 young people in 16 countries including the UK, U.S., China, Japan, Canada and Mexico.
TVs and computers are the “electronic babysitters” for a generation of children who are losing out on family life and becoming more materialistic, a report says today. The study paints a picture of a breed of “screen kids” who are spending more and more time watching TV and surfing the net in their bedrooms, unsupervised by adults.
The Watching, Wanting and Wellbeing report from the National Consumer Council found nearly half the children from better-off families surveyed had televisions in their bedrooms, compared with 97% of the nine- to 13-year-olds from less well-off areas.
Children from poorer areas were also six times more likely to watch TV during the evening meal. And around a quarter of youngsters in this group admitted that they regularly watched the television at lunchtime on Sundays, compared with one in 30 children in better-off neighbourhoods. The NCC’s report links increased TV viewing hours with greater exposure to marketing and higher levels of materialism.
The authors, Agnes Nairn, Jo Ormrod and Paul Bottomley, also found that materialistic children were more likely than others to argue with their family, have a lower opinion of their parents and suffer from low self-esteem.
That is the message that emerged from the 7th World Young Reader Conference (presentation summaries), where a fresh approach to attracting young readers was presented by those who have succeeded in getting young people interested in their products.
“Stop writing surveys about readership, and start watching people. Learn, look around, open your eyes,” said Anne Kirah, Dean of the 180° Academy in Denmark and a cultural anthropologist who has helped Microsoft design its products. “You need to engage in people-driven research and look at their entire lives. Observe people doing activities that define themselves, and are meaningful to them.”
Ms Kirah said she was distrustful of traditional readership questionnaires because “there is a difference between what people say they do and what they actually do. Do you really know how much time you spend on the internet, or read a newspaper? But you ask those questions. It’s not that people are lying to you, it’s that they really don’t know the answers.”
The problem is compounded when studying young readers, or the “digital natives”, since their habits are completely different those of the “digital immigrants” — those who remember the analog-only world and are the people conducting the studies, and making the decisions at media companies.
“The so-called $100 laptop that’s being designed for school children in developing nations is known for its bright green and white plastic shell, its power-generating hand crank, and for Nicholas Negroponte, the technology futurist who dreamed it up and who tirelessly promotes it everywhere from Bangkok to Brasilia. What has not received much attention is the graphical user interface—the software that will be the face of the machine for the millions of children who will own it. In fact, the user interface, called Sugar, may turn out to be one of the more innovative aspects of a project that has already made breakthroughs in mesh networking and battery charging since Negroponte unveiled the concept two years ago.
Sugar offers a brand new approach to computing. Ever since the first Apple Macintosh was launched in 1984, the user interfaces of personal computers have been designed based on the same visual metaphor: the desktop. Sugar tosses out all of that like so much tattered baggage. Instead, an icon representing the individual occupies the center of the screen; “zoom” out like a telephoto lens and you see the user in relation to friends, and finally to all of the people in the village who are also on the network.”
“At Club Penguin, which launched in October 2005 and had 4 million unique visitors in January, according to comScore Media Metrix, your 8- to 14-year-old can waddle through a virtual world as a flightless waterfowl, interacting with other penguins of her choice. Registration is free, but if junior wants to decorate her penguin’s igloo or use other advanced features on the site, you’ll need to pay a $5.95 monthly membership. And Club Penguin is just the tip of the iceberg.
A new site designed for the skinned-knee demographic seems to pop up nearly every day. Their potential market is huge: there are some 28.5 million kids between the ages of 8 and 14 in the United States, according to emarketer.com. A 2006 Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg survey found that an equal 38 percent of both male and female teens aged 12 to 14 use MySpace (even though the site’s age cutoff is 14) or some other social-networking site.”
In the interview, Knudstorp starts of by explaining how they became a user-centred toy company by involving their users to an extreme degree. He also states the core brand value as “the joy of building and the pride of creating things”, which is a description of an experience.
The interview, which was conducted by Monocle editor-in-chief Tyler Brûlé and took place at the company’s innovation centre in Billund, Denmark, then goes in to an interesting discussion on the changing nature of play. Knudstorp describes some insights from an anthropological survey the company did recently, in particular about interactivity, community and what children expect from a brand.
(Note that the actual video file seems to be huge and the streaming is not exactly smooth. I couldn’t get beyond the first half: it simply stalled. Unfortunately a download is not possible.)
“[...] the forest of arms waving cell-phone cameras at concerts, the MySpace pages blinking pink neon revelations, Xanga and Sconex and YouTube and Lastnightsparty.com and Flickr and Facebook and del.icio.us and Wikipedia and especially, the ordinary, endless stream of daily documentation that is built into the life of anyone growing up today. You can see the evidence everywhere, from the rural 15-year-old who records videos for thousands of subscribers to the NYU students texting come-ons from beneath the bar. Even 9-year-olds have their own site, Club Penguin, to play games and plan parties. The change has rippled through pretty much every act of growing up. Go through your first big breakup and you may need to change your status on Facebook from “In a relationship” to “Single.” Everyone will see it on your “feed,” including your ex, and that’s part of the point.
It’s been a long time since there was a true generation gap, perhaps 50 years—you have to go back to the early years of rock and roll, when old people still talked about “jungle rhythms.” Everything associated with that music and its greasy, shaggy culture felt baffling and divisive, from the crude slang to the dirty thoughts it was rumored to trigger in little girls. That musical divide has all but disappeared. But in the past ten years, a new set of values has sneaked in to take its place, erecting another barrier between young and old. And as it did in the fifties, the older generation has responded with a disgusted, dismissive squawk. It goes something like this:
Kids today. They have no sense of shame. They have no sense of privacy. They are show-offs, fame whores, pornographic little loons who post their diaries, their phone numbers, their stupid poetry—for God’s sake, their dirty photos!—online. They have virtual friends instead of real ones. They talk in illiterate instant messages. They are interested only in attention—and yet they have zero attention span, flitting like hummingbirds from one virtual stage to another.“
The author, Emily Nussbaum, then goes on to describe the three main changes that define the younger generation:
- They think of themselves as having an audience
- They have archived their adolescence
- Their skin is thicker than yours
(via the Design Directory newsletter of Core77 and Business Week)
“In keeping with the general trend toward ‘age compression’ or KGOY (industry shorthand for “kids getting older younger”), toy manufacturers will be introducing a host of adult technologies aimed at small children — including kid-friendly laptops, graphics tablets, digital cameras and a host of other high-tech items.
Consumer electronics for kids is the fastest growing trend in the $22 billion toy industry. With children becoming ever more tech savvy at ever-younger ages, toymakers are scrambling to capitalize on the rapidly growing market for youth electronics.”
The article features the following products:
- colorful optical mice by Kutoka Interactive
- digital cameras and graphics tablets by French toy giant Smoby
- Click & Create With Mia — a kind of Photoshop for tots that teaches kids to draw, paint and animate shapes on screen, and allows them to create posters, invitations and birthday cards
- the SmartKids laptop for children aged 3 to 6 that features a piano keyboard and bilingual programs in Spanish and English
- the Marvel Ani-Movie Studio, which allows kids to create digital stop-motion films starring Marvel Comics characters
- Pressman Toy’s iGamez, which allows kids to play a digital version of Name That Tune
- Fisher-Price‘s Digital Arts and Crafts Studio, a graphics tablet and software package
- Fisher-Price‘s Smart Cycle, a small stationary bike that allows kids to peddle their way through a virtual environment on a standard television set
- Pyramat’s PM440-W wireless gaming chair
“The web site, which is to be activated today, is aimed at children ages 6 to 14, and plays heavily to their appetite for games, the company said yesterday.
Nickelodeon was prompted to join the surging world of online activities for children in part by research that showed that 86 percent of 8- to 14-year-olds were playing games online, more than 51 percent were watching TV shows and videos online and 37 percent were sending instant messages, the company said.
In virtual worlds like Nicktropolis, visitors create alter egos — termed avatars — which then interact with other avatars and the web site environment, like people do in the physical world.”
A few months back I was a jury member of the EUROPRIX Top Talent Award, a contest for the best in European multimedia from young producers, and was delighted to see the puppet theatre reinvented in Tadam, an entry by students of Gobelins, a Paris school of visual communication.
The young team responsible for Tadam (a French onomatopoeia used to express an excited announcement) have deeply understood the fascination of this magic and the three essential aspects it implies, and created an interactive and computer-supported experience that brings delightful freshness to the old art.
The joy of crafting is present in just about everything the project contains: from the soldering of the theatre frame out of metal tubes, to the knitting of the red and gold theatre curtains, from the careful computer rendering of the puppet faces (based on the actual faces of the project members) to the hand-sown clothes of the digital marionettes, from the intricacies of computer coding to the hand-drawn storyboards, and from the electronics-in-a-wooden-box prototypes to the sweet toy instrument music.
The marionettes are digital and only exist on a projected screen. Yet, they are operated like any other marionette: a skilled puppeteer holds a wooden cross that manipulates their arm, leg and head movements, and brings thrilling life to the inanimate forms.
Finally, the direct interaction between the puppeteer and the digital marionette allows for a direct dynamic with the audience, which is essential to this type of storytelling.
As a bonus, the making-off video is a splendid presentation of the project, conveying very well the pleasure the young team felt while working on their challenge.
Tadam is a multimedia puppet show which brings computer animations to life and stages the animation film in a traditional theatre. Users initially build up a plot scene by scene through the director module and can select different well-designed graphic environments and themes. The show can be pre-cut in several parts. Using software similar to moviemaker, static sequences (e.g. transition, fade or text) or sound effects can be added, edited and saved. The puppeteers are free to manipulate 3D marionettes in real time by interacting with a wooden cross lever which is equipped with movement sensors. The puppet’s mouth can even be animated by speaking through a microphone. Once the show is performed, it can be burned on DVD. Tadam is hand-crafted and fully customisable for beginners or professionals.
Tadam, which was rightfully selected as a Europrix Top Talent Award 2006 winner in the category “Digital Video & Animations”, has a project website in French only. The Medias section also contains a shorter presentation video (which is however not as good as the “making-of” one, due to poor music and voice choices).
A consultant and former chief scientist at Palo Alto Research Center, Seely Brown spoke at a conference on technology and education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The conference was organized to mark the end next year of an eight-year partnership between Microsoft and MIT [article] to explore the use of technology in learning.
Seely Brown argued that education is going through a large-scale transformation toward a more participatory form of learning.
Rather than treat pedagogy as the transfer of knowledge from teachers who are experts to students who are receptacles, educators should consider more hands-on and informal types of learning. These methods are closer to an apprenticeship, a farther-reaching, more multilayered approach than traditional formal education, he said.
In particular, he praised situations where students who are passionate about specific topics study in groups and participate in online communities.
“We are learning in and through our interactions with others while doing real things,” Seely Brown said. “I’m not saying that knowledge is socially constructed, but our understanding of that knowledge is socially constructed.” [...]
The evolution of the Internet can facilitate this approach, he said. Web 2.0 tools, such as wikis and blogs, make information sharing and content creation easier. [...]
The Internet is also helping drive a transformation from a mass media model–where information is delivered from experts to consumers–to a situation that allows people to create content online, often by using existing content, he said.
The list, which has been compiled with trend forecasters, “takes a look at 10 of the most sought-after positions in some of the fastest growing U.S. industries”.
“Experience designer: These talented individuals work in the retail industry, creating the essence and aura of a store. Experience designers go beyond the look of a place, creating a unique experience in which shoppers can immerse themselves. From cellular boutiques to the American Girl doll store on New York’s Fifth Avenue, the shops created by an experience designer are often considered works of art; mini universes unto themselves. Experience designers are involved in every aspect of creation — from choosing accent colors on walls to slanting the windows in the right direction. The next time you go into a boutique and you feel as if you’ve just had an “experience” — you have, and someone went to a lot of trouble to make you feel at home.”
For further reading on our profession, consult this article.
In a report launched today (Thursday) the influential think tank Demos calls on schools to get past fears about children’s internet use and harness its learning potential.
The report Their Space: Education for a digital generation draws on research showing that a generation of children have made online activity a part of everyday life, with parents and schools still far behind.
The report argues that children are developing a sophisticated understanding of new technologies outside of formal schooling, gaining creative and entrepreneurial skills demanded by the global knowledge economy.
Schools are failing to develop these skills, with many attempting to limit children’s online activity to ICT ‘ghettos’ while banning the use of social networking sites like MySpace and YouTube.
The research, based on nine months of interviews, focus groups and recording children’s online activity, found that:
- A majority of children use new media tools to make their lives easier and strengthen existing friendship networks
- Almost all children are involved in creative production – e.g. uploading/editing photos and building websites
- A smaller group of ‘digital pioneers’ are engaged in more groundbreaking activities
- Children are well aware of potential risks, with many able to self regulate – contrary to popular assumptions about safety
- Many children have their own ‘hierarchy of digital activity’ and are much more conscious of the relative values of online activity than their parents and teachers
The report goes on to make a number of proposals on how formal education in the UK can adapt to the growing dominance of online culture in children’s lives, including the recommendation that children should be given the opportunity to build up a ‘creative portfolio’ alongside traditional forms of assessment, access to which would be determined by the children themselves
“A two-year, government-funded study by researchers at the University of Stirling in Scotland found that electronic toys marketed for their supposed educational benefits, such as the LeapFrog LeapPad, an interactive learning activity toy, and the Vtech V provided no obvious benefits to children. “In terms of basic literacy and number skills I don’t think they are more efficient than the more traditional approaches,| researcher Lydia Plowman told the Guardian. Although no Luddite (Ms. Plowman makes the rather perverse recommendation that parents give children their old cellphones so that they can learn to “model” adult behavior with technology).”
At a Boston University conference on language development in November, researchers from Temple University’s Infant Laboratory and the Erikson Institute in Chicago described the results of their research on electronic books. The Fisher-Price toy company, which contributed funding for the study, was not pleased. “Parents who are talking about the content [of stories] with their child while reading traditional books are encouraging early literacy,” says researcher Julia Parish-Morris, “whereas parents and children reading electronic books together are having a severely truncated experience.” Electronic books encouraged a “slightly coercive parent-child interaction,” the study found, and were not as effective in promoting early literacy skills as traditional books.”
(via Pasta and Vinegar)
“The OLPC interface is icon-based and has four levels of view: Home, Friends, Neighborhood, and Activity. Users can move outward from the Home view, where they can set preferences like color, to the Friends view, where they can chat with their friends, to the larger Neighborhood view, where they can locate other users and gather around an activity. The Activity view looks inward: children, alone or together, can focus on a project at hand. In each view, a toolbar-like frame is available that organizes navigation, people, activities and files around the four sides of the view.”
Lisa Strausfeld, Christian Marc Schmidt and Takaaki Okada of Pentagram Design are working on the design of the laptop interface in close collaboration with the OLPC development team, including president Walter Bender and designer Eben Eliason. Production on the laptops is scheduled for mid-2007.
UPDATE – 2 January 2007
- Low-cost laptop could transform learning [AP article]
- One Laptop Per Child News
- Article on the OLPC Sugar User Interface emulator
- OLPC Human Interface Guidelines
- Video demo of the OLPC Sugar User Interface
UPDATE – 11 January 2007