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.
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.