Discussions of e-media for children are usually fairly predictable. People are either wringing their hands with worry or shouting hope from the rooftops. A series of new blog posts on the site run by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a research arm affiliated with Sesame Workshop in New York City, are intended to take discussions into a deeper realm in preparation for a forum in Los Angeles later this month. I offered my two cents in a blog post about my awakening to some downsides of iPhone apps.
The post, "iPhone 'Learning': A Mother's Cautionary Tale," starts like this:
I hate to admit it, but I’m the one who brought Pocket Frogs into my daughters’ lives. We were at the airport, awaiting our flight. I was loathing the idea of breaking into all the carefully packed-up pens and activity books before boarding in 20 minutes. Why not find a new gaming app on my iPhone that would satisfy my girls, 6 and 8 at the time, while also giving me something fun to fool around with once in a while? Pocket Frogs, a game by NimbleBit, fit the bill, with a “free” pricetag and relatively innocent premise: Collect little frogs in your virtual nursery, breed them when once tamed and fully grown, and await that special moment when a rare and brightly colored one might show up on your screen.
The girls loved it immediately, especially my older daughter, who gravitates toward anything that looks and feels like a science game. It wasn’t until a few days later, however, that she pointed out what should have been obvious from the beginning ...[read more]
Other posts provoke new thoughts on a range of topics. David Kleeman tackles the question of what high quality looks like in children's media and describes some new efforts by the Fred Rogers Center on interactive media for children. (Kleeman is president of the American Center for Children and Media, a non-profit organization in Chicago that works to heighten conversation among media makers about what is worthwhile for kids.) Frances Nankin, executive producer and editorial director of Cyberchase, contrasts TV media with what creators are facing today. Susan Crown, founder of SCE, an organization designed to promote social investment, talks about how good experiences will happen for young children "only if kids can find their way to engaging, enriching, wonderful content."
Ryan Blitstein, executive director for SCE, wonders whether incentives can be aligned to promote interactive media and technology that can help them learn as well as be entertained. As he points out:
It is highly profitable to create entertainment products with minimal learning value (Grand Theft Auto); and only slightly less profitable to create products that seem to be educational, but aren’t (Baby Einstein). Yet it is not very lucrative, at least in the short term, to do research and design work necessary to create high-quality digital learning media.
Let's hope this is the start of some new and fruitful conversation. But we need to hear from more of you -- especially those who are not connected to media companies and technology investments. What cautionary tales and words of advice would you offer as children, educators and producers venture into the land of interactive media?