Technology: Do Kids Need More or Less?
Alan Gershenfeld, Founder and President , E"Line; Sara DeWitt, Vice President of PBS Kids Interactive; Rachel Schiff, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Interactive Entertainment; Wendy Bronfin, Director, Product Management at Barnes & Noble
Description: The ultimate questions for this Sandbox 2011 panel, posed by moderator Alan Gershenfeld, are "Where is technology not working? When is technology not the answer?" That's a bold agenda for a panel of children's media creators and a roomful of other producers in the industry, from Sesame Workshop, WGBH, 360 Kid, and elsewhere. From the panel's energetic presentations emerges an unapologetic enthusiasm for more technology engagement and richer media experiences for kids _ generally in the form of "transmedia," connecting stories and personalities across platforms. The "less" side of the panel's title comes back only briefly in a few questions at the end.
The mantra at PBS Kids, says Sara DeWitt, is that "every technology is a new opportunity for learning." Given the popular television characters in the PBS stable, that mantra translates to building online games, mobile games, and apps around well"known figures like Martha (the eponymous Speaking dog) and the Kratt Brothers. The U.S. Department of Education has funded transmedia research at PBS, so studies are underway on the impact of games such as "Prankster Planet," using assets from The Electric Company television series. PBS wants to find out how easily kids move between media platforms, and whether transmedia really contributes to learning.
With a breathless sports video, Rachel Schiff introduces Microsoft's Kinect, which harnesses body motion as the game controller. Why is more of this technology good for kids? Kinect gets couch potatoes up and moving; it can bring people together, since the system recognizes you as soon as you walk in the room; and it can spur children to undertake sports and other activities in the real world _ transmedia of a different sort.
At the other end of the activity spectrum, Wendy Bronfin shows off digital picture books created for the Barnes & Noble Nook Color. In response to parents' concerns about "empty calorie screen time," the Nook invites e"reading, along with using Android apps and the ability to view videos on the Web.
Gershenfeld's new company serves students eager to design their own games. One of the highlights here is a video showcasing the twelve 5th _ 8th grade winners of the White House"sponsored National STEM Videogame Challenge.
About the "less" side of the debate: Gershenfeld wonders when engagement becomes addiction, and whether technology can help discourage its own over"use. The burden is mostly on parents, to share media experiences with their children _ and to make sure the kids get outside sometimes.
About the Speaker(s): Alan Gershenfeld is Founder and President of E"Line Media, a publisher of digital entertainment that engages, educates and empowers. Prior to E"Line, he was CEO of netomat, a leader in mobile"web community solutions. Netomat originated as a network"based art project, and was selected as a Technology Pioneer at the 2007 World Economic Forum at Davos. Before netomat, Gershenfeld was member of the executive team that rebuilt game publisher Activision from bankruptcy into an industry leader. As Senior Vice President of Activision Studios, he oversaw titles such as Civilization: Call to Power, Asteroids, Muppet Treasure Island, Spycraft, Pitfall, Zork and Tony Hawk Skateboarding. Before Activision, Gershenfeld worked as a filmmaker and writer with credits on numerous feature films and documentaries. Gershenfeld currently serves on the Board of FilmAid International and on the Advisory Boards of Creative Capital, Global Kids, We Are Family Foundation, Startl and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center (Sesame Workshop). He is also former Chairman of Games for Change.
Host(s): School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences, The MIT Education Arcade
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