Tag Archives: PBSKids.org

Ever Heard of an Educational Technologist? Keeping Reading…

Today I had an online chat with Educational Technologist Carla Engelbrecht Fisher (of course online, this is a blog about digital technology… we couldn’t just meet in person!).  I was also fortunate enough to see Carla speak at the Sandbox Summit last September.

A true multi-tasker, Carla works as a children’s technology developer and game designer, in addition to educational researcher and author.  She is a doctoral candidate at the Columbia University Teachers College.

Just starting out in the business, Carla worked at Highlights.com and PBSKids.org.  I asked her to explain how the children’s media landscape has changed throughout her career thus far.

When she first started working, the digital conversations were about experimentation – “Should we try out this Internet-thing?”   Today, digital media is a central part of the development process… yet at the same time still a bit experimental and playful.  “That playfulness and experimenting of what to do with digital media is exactly what I love about it,” Carla said.

And I’m not talking about playful in a Wii Sports kind of way.  Learning how kids interact with certain interfaces, or whether they care about social gaming… “no one knows exactly what the right formula is,” said Carla, “but it’s a lot of fun to play with and see what works and what doesn’t.”

I put Carla on the spot and asked her to think about some of the best digital technologies out there for kids.  To help young children develop gross and fine motor skills, Carla spoke about motion-based gaming.  LeapFrog Zippity, Nick Jr. Wii games, and VTech are all products featuring motion-based play.

When it came to who wasn’t performing on the digital front, rather than pointing fingers, we discussed the more academic issues associated with children and digital technology.  “There is a fear,” says Carla, “that digital media is going to harm or delay development.”

Stay tuned for Carla’s explanation of why children’s digital media is A-OK … let’s just say I was onto something in an earlier post.

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I’ll Take a TV Show and Supersize That With a Website, Please?

Like a Happy Meal at McDonalds, kids expect more than just a TV show.  They want their Chicken McNuggets and french fries and soda and Happy Meal toy.  Who could blame them?  As technology is capable of providing kids more than television to engage with a property, why not reach kids across all touch points?  Kids are supersizing their media experiences by consuming properties on television, online, through VOD and licensed products and at events as close as your nearest shopping mall.

Look at any one of the children’s networks: Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, PBS Kids Go.  Each network site has, at the very minimum, a web page for each show on-air, if not full-blown micro-sites to immerse kids in the world of their favorite characters.  And don’t forget about the little kids, the same web experience  is true for pre-schoolers.  Programming blocks and pre-school channels like Playhouse Disney, Nick Jr., and PBS Kids Sprout feature the same web content as their grown-up siblings.

While this may seem like media overload, especially for children who don’t know any better, just remember the Weight Watchers method of dieting: Portion Control.